July 1st is a big day in hockey as it marks the opening bell of the Free agent Frenzy. The deals signed have a massive ripple effect through fantasy hockey leagues as well: Players on new teams in different situations, playing with different linemates, under a new Coaching system, and of course new (often inflated) cap hits.
While the majority of relevant signings in free agency tend to pertain primarily towards established NHL players and is more of a DobberHockey story line, there are some prospects on the move as well. Most significant prospects have their NHL right protected but this year it seems we have seen a significant number of RFA players fail to receive a qualifying offer from their respective NHL team and thus became UFAs on July 1st.
Of course there are other prospects signing contracts as free agents who were undrafted and are coming from College or Europe primarily
Here are the top prospects signed via free agency as of July 2nd.
The top prospect signed as a free agent has to be goalie Cal Petersen who was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres but pulled the old Jimmy Vesey and didn’t sign with the Sabres allowing him to become a free agent. The signing is a big coupe for the Kings as he instantly becomes their top goalie prospect and will be the starting goalie in the AHL while he earns his pro stripes. His fantasy value should be high as he has little competition outside of the current starter Jonathan Quick.
The Kings also added an intriguing prospect in the giant Belarussian defenseman Stepan Falkovsky, who was originally drafted only last year by the Calgary Flames. The Flames are deep in defensive prospects with Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington, Tyler Wotherspoon and now Jusso Valimaki. In LA, Falkovsky has less competition. The Belarussian is a missive 6-7 and 225 pounds. Since he started in the OHL his skating has made huge gains as he grows into his body. His fantasy upside may be less than his NHL value but he has shown signs of offensive upside making good outlet passes as opposed to defaulting to glass and out. He also owns a very heavy slap shot that can be a weapon on the power play. He is still a very raw talent and a project to be sure, but a nice free add for the Kings and a player worth putting on your watch list.
The Montreal Canadiens signed three prospects, centers Byron Froese and Peter Holland (Holland may not be considered a prospect I grant you). Both are former Toronto Maple Leafs and are likely AHL bound as they struggled to have an impact on the Leafs during their dark days. Froese is a solid AHL player, strong on both sides of the puck and cleans up on draws. Holland has more skill but struggles to find it consistently in the NHL. The Habs also signed a defenseman in Joe Morrow; the former first rounder of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2011 is now on his fourth NHL team and still only has 65 career NHL games played. Injuries last season limited him to just 20 total regular season games and he is a likely candidate to play in the AHL with Laval. I still believe he has some fantasy value if he can stay healthy and is played in a limited role in the NHL.
Speaking of injured defensemen, the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft Ryan Murphy became a free agent after Carolina gave up on him. The Minnesota wild signed the offensive defenceman in hopes that injuries have not slowed his skating down too much and with a fresh start he can maybe stay healthy and find his game. He is a long shot but a well worth while gamble in deeper leagues with a deep prospect or reserve bench if you can acquire him on the cheap. The Wild also signed forward Landon Ferraro who was claimed on waivers from Detroit last year and failed to stick in St. Louis. He is a fringe NHL player at best but with the addition of Vegas, maybe he finds a job this year.
The Edmonton Oilers were busy adding several prospects including Edward Pasquale, Grayson Downing, Keegan Lowe and most significantly Ty Rattie. The former junior sniper posted back-to-back 100+ point seasons in the WHL and has had offensive success in the AHL but can’t produce in the NHL…at least not with the Blues. Rattie did finish the season with the Carolina Hurricanes and played in five games posting two assists. This is a file I think really bears worth watching to see if he can crack the Oilers roster, and of course it goes without saying if he finds his way onto McDavids wing all bets are off.
The Oilers lost two prospects I really liked however and I think they can both play in the NHL.
Tyler Pitlick has also struggled with injuries in his career but he earned a NHL roster spot to start the season in Edmonton before another injury ended his year. Pitlick has signed with the Dallas Stars and could be a surprise player…If he can stay healthy.
Jordan Oesterle also left the Oil and was signed by the Chicago Blackhawks. Oesterle plays the modern day NHL defenseman style of game; he is an excellent skater and can transition the puck and create offense. The move to Chicago may be difficult for him as there is steep competition there in Erik Gustafsson, Ville Pokka, and Gustav Forsling.
The Hawks also signed a goalie in J-F Berube who was surprisingly not signed by the Vegas Golden Knights. The Islanders used three goalies for most of last season with Berube being one third of the rotation. He played in 14 games with the Islanders and they refused to send him to the AHL in fear he would be claimed on waivers. The job of backing up Corey Crawford will be a three-way battle between Berube, Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass.
Replacing Berube as the third goalie on Long Island will be Kristers Gudlevskis, who signed out of Tampa Bay. You may remember Gudlevskis from such memorable performances like “Stonning Team Canada in the Olympics” and “2014 NHL playoffs with Tampa” Unfortunately outside of those career highlights there is a lot of garden variety goaltending. Proceed with caution if you want to own him in Fantasy.
Two other goalies on the move with marginal fantasy value include Antoine Bibeau going from Toronto to San Jose, and Adam Wilcox going from the Florida Panthers to the Buffalo Sabres. Wilcox was previously moved from Tampa to Florida and seems to be destined to be an AHL goalie.
Other prospects on the move with limited fantasy value included
Stefan Matteau to Vegas Golden Knights
Derek Grant to Anaheim Ducks
Seth Griffith to Buffalo Sabres
For a complete list of NHL transactions I recommend EliteProspects
In case you missed it yeaterday, Hayden had a preview of prospects headed to free agency and it is a great read as well
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