Prospect Ramblings: Free Agent Frenzy (July 4 2018)

Jokke Nevalainen


2018-07-04 Free Agent Frenzy

The big news on Sunday was obviously Tavares taking his talents to Toronto but because we care about prospects here, I’m going to write about some moves that affected them. First, let’s start with the big trade that happened on Sunday night.


St. Louis Blues acquire Ryan O’Reilly


The Sabres finally found a deal they were willing to accept. Trading away O’Reilly opens up the door for Casey Mittelstadt to take over the second-line center position, and he is very likely to be featured on the top power play unit as well. At this point, I think the Rookie of the Year race comes down to Mittelstadt and Andrei Svechnikov. They’re both super talented and will play a big role for their team. There are obviously plenty of other great options but these two are my favorites right now.


The Sabres did add an additional forward to their lineup in this deal because they acquired Sobotka and Berglund while only sending out one forward in O’Reilly. They also acquired Sheary a few days earlier. That means there’s less room for Evan Rodrigues and Daniel O’Regan now. There’s likely to be just one top-nine spot available, so one of them might end up playing on the fourth line or in the AHL.


The only prospect involved in the actual trade was Tage Thompson. He goes from a stacked forward group in St. Louis to the Sabres where there aren’t that many long-term options ahead of him. Even though he spent most of last season in the NHL, I think he would benefit from more time in the AHL. He has upside to become a strong middle-six forward. It remains to be seen if he ends up being a center or a winger but there’s always a demand for huge (6-5, 201) forwards who can skate and handle the puck. He’s just 20 years old, so give him some time.


Free agent signings


The Calgary Flames signed Austin Czarnik to a two-year contract with $1.25M cap hit. This deal likely solidifies his spot on the NHL roster. Czarnik is small (5-9, 161) but he’s been an offensive force everywhere he’s played: 46 goals and 169 points in 159 NCAA games, and then 51 goals and 155 points in 157 AHL games. This is a player who needs a real opportunity, and it looked like the Flames would provide that – but then they signed James Neal, and that opportunity may be gone now. Czarnik turns 26 in December and became a free agent as Group VI UFA which means the Bruins didn’t give him enough games in the NHL to retain his rights.


Another player who’s had great success everywhere he’s played is 26-year-old Kenny Agostino who was signed by the Montreal Canadiens. It’s only a two-way deal for one year but Agostino’s track record is sort of similar to Crarnik’s: 56 goals and 132 points in 134 NCAA games, and then 78 goals and 236 points in 261 AHL games. Agostino is worth a gamble in ultra-deep leagues.


The Canadiens also signed Matthew Peca to a two-year contract with $1.3M cap hit. Peca is small (5-9, 175) but his playing style fits nicely to a bottom-six role – sort of similar to curren