Prospect Ramblings: Did free agents help themselves at bargaining table?

Mark Allan

2017-06-03

The mystifying Matt Puempel did himself no favours by virtually vanishing during his contract year.

 

As if they’re not busy enough preparing for the annual entry draft and an expansion draft, 30 NHL general managers must also consider which of their free agents they wish to re-sign, and for how much.

While older players have achieved unrestricted free agent (UFA) status and can sign freely with any team, most of the prospects we write about here are restricted free agents (RFAs), and their teams still have the leverage.

With that in mind, let’s examine some select free agents whom Dobber hasn’t yet graduated from prospect status. Did they add to their bargaining power with good performances in the final seasons of their contracts – or the opposite?

This week, we look at the Eastern Conference.

Boston Bruins

C/RW Noel Acciari, 25 RFA: A bottom-six forward who accumulates six points in 48 games in his first two seasons would be lucky to be offered a contract. Outlook: Four assists in five post-season games might intrigue the Bs enough to extend a short-term deal.

D Joe Morrow, 24 RFA: Once highly regarded and a former first-round pick by Pittsburgh, Morrow has faded into a spare part. Outlook: The Bruins need help on their back end and Morrow, still only 24, might get a deal as a depth blueliner, although he’ll be lucky if it’s not a two-way contract.

Buffalo Sabres

G Linus Ullmark, 23 RFA: Although he played in just one NHL game this season, Ullmark led the AHL with 55 appearances, 3,201 minutes played and 1,678 shots faced, earning him the MVP award for the Rochester Americans. Outlook: In a perfect world for the Sabres, Vegas won’t choose Ullmark in the expansion draft, Buffalo will offer him a two- or three-year deal and he’ll back up fellow Swede Robin Lehner next season.

C Justin Kea, 23 RFA: A 2012 third-round pick, Kea has not done much to justify Buffalo’s

faith in him other than remaining a hulk at 6-4 and 225. In three seasons he’s played more times for the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL than the AHL’s Rochester Americans. Outlook: Unless the Sabres still believe they have a late-blooming power forward, Kea will be lucky to get an NHL contract offer.

Carolina Hurricanes

LW Brock McGinn, 23 RFA: A slow-developing second-round pick, the industrious winger played significantly more games with the Charlotte Checkers than the Hurricanes in his first two seasons, although he got into 57 NHL contests in his third campaign. Although he saw some icetime with Jordan Staal and Elias Lindholm, McGinn managed just seven goals and 16 points while averaging 11:59. Outlook: Teams need bottom-sixers with a bit of grit, but McGinn shouldn’t expect a long-term offer.

LW Phil Di Giuseppe, 23 RFA: Like McGinn a 2012 second-round pick, the former Michigan Wolverine has likewise played a lot in the AHL since then. His 36 games and seven points were a step back from his NHL totals a season earlier. Outlook: Di Giuseppe was drafted for his offensive creativity. Without production, he’ll be offered a show-me bridge contract at best.

D Phillip Samuelsson, 25 UFA: The former Pittsburgh second-rounder doesn’t do anything really well, including having no aptitude for or interest in offense. Outlook: He played all of this season in the AHL and, with Carolina’s enviable group of promising young blueliners, might find himself heading elsewhere.

D Trevor Carrick, 22 RFA: Not oversized at 6-2 and 184, the former fourth-rounder skates well and plays a sturdy defensive game. He’s even contributed 90 points in t