The start of free agency is always a blur and this year without the tampering period before free agency it has taken a little bit longer for everything to pan out. Since Don Waddell has taken the helm, the Carolina Hurricanes have made most of their impact moves days into free agency. They were able to land Calvin de Haan and Jake Gardiner by waiting out the market and getting value players.
So far this year the Canes have only signed one UFA, Jesper Fast. Now, almost a week into free agency there are still free agents looking for contracts, but do any make sense for the Hurricanes? (previous contract value listed next to each player)
Anthony Duclair: One year, $1.650 Million AAV
Duclair is a surprising free agent. The 25-year-old was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Ottawa Senators. This is the second time that he has not been qualified and Duclair has spent time with four different organizations since the 2017-2018 season. He had a very public spat with Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella before his exit there. It has been reported that the Sens did not want to take Duclair to arbitration, fearing a deal that would have ran them north of the $4 million mark.
In the 2019-2020 season, Duclair recorded 23 goals and 17 assists for 40 points in 66 games played. This is the second time that he has eclipsed the 20-goal mark. His biggest weakness is defense. He ranks 11th among all Ottawa forwards in Corsi with 47.5% with a -0.8% relative.
At just 25 years old, he is the youngest UFA with multiple NHL seasons of experience. He is one of the lower risk players for a longer term because he is on the right side of 30. While he does have risk in fitting in with the system and being a long-term roster fit, he is not a player that is going to have three terrible years at the end of the deal. He could be a good option at $3-$4 million AAV for a middle six forward.
Evgenii Dadonov: Three years, $4 Million AAV
Dadonov is the most under-the-radar free agent of this class. The Russian winger is 31 years old and has only played six NHL seasons, all with the Florida Panthers. He went back to the KHL after the 2011-2012 season but returned to Florida for the 2017-2018 season. Dadonov can play on either wing but finished the season on the right wing playing with Matt Hoffman and Lucas Wallmark.
Dadonov has the second most points of remaining free agents, behind only Mike Hoffman. He scored 25 goals and 22 assists for 47 total points. Since returning from the KHL this is his worst season. In the previous two seasons he scored 65 points and 70 points with 28 goals in each season. The only issue with his previous contract is that it contained a full NMC and NTC.
Dadonov would be able to plug into the top six as an option to replace an underperforming Nino Niederreiter in the top six. For a contract to make sense, it would need to be another short-term 3-year deal or a longer-term deal that would allow him to be exposed in the expansion draft.
Mike Hoffman: Four years, $5.187 Million AAV
Hoffman is the highest scoring free agent available coming off a 59-point season with 69 games played. I wouldn’t normally have him in the Canes targets due to his likely high cost, but Elliotte Friedman reported that the Canes have kicked the tires on the 30-year-old forward. He is the UFA that is most likely to come in and make an immediate impact. He’s a perennial 50-point scorer who is capable to score 30 goals a season.
The only reason Hoffman is not higher on the list is that he is less likely to be signed by the Hurricanes. They would likely have to make a deal to ship out a player to be able to make enough room to sign him. It has also come out that he is willing to sign a one-year deal, but that would force the Canes to ship out a current asset for just one season of Hoffman.
Hoffman is a balanced forward who is skilled as both a puck mover and a finisher. In 493 career games he has 172 goals and 187 assists. He also brings a ton of skill to a power play unit. Over one third of his career points have come on the man advantage, which includes 60 goals. As a veteran he could also provide leadership in a window that will get interesting for the Canes in a couple of years.
Andreas Athanasiou: Two years, $3 Million AAV
Andreas Athanasiou is another young UFA who was not tendered a qualifying offer and is now a UFA. He split time between Detroit and Edmonton last season and managed 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points. His point total peaked in the 2018-2019 season, in which he recorded 54 points in 76 games. He has flown under the radar for the past few years just due to how bad the Red Wings have been, they weren’t in the business of creating highlights, so he fell to the wayside.
Athanasiou is extremely fast which would make for a hilarious possible line of Ryan Dzingel, Martin Necas and Athanasiou that would just outskate everyone on the ice. The main downside would be his deployment. He could easily fall into a Dzingel type deployment as he has a career Corsi of just 46.9% despite starting in the offensive zone 54.7% of the time. Would Rod Brind’Amour really unleash Athanasiou?
The main benefit here is that Athanasiou could come as a value signing. He is a guy that you would expect a contending team to gobble up as he brings speed to any lineup and create matchup problems. He is a candidate for a classic Don Waddell underpay.
Mikael Granlund: Three years, $5.750 Million AAV
Granlund is the only UFA on the list that is a legitimate center. While he has played the wing the past two seasons, he has had experience centering the top line of the Minnesota Wild previously. The Canes are now strong up the middle with Sebastian Aho, Jordan Staal, Vincent Trocheck and Morgan Geekie. Adding another center in Granlund just gives the Canes even more flexibility in the lineup and helps when shuffling the top-six forwards.
Granlund is 28 which means he still has traction left on the tires and could be an effective player for the next five seasons. He could also be compelled to come to Carolina on a bargain due to the Finnish connection. With three consecutive seasons of declining production he could come under his former price tag of $5.750 million which could benefit the Canes and get him in without trading a piece.
Over the past two seasons playing wing he has also been a very good two-way player with a 51.8% Corsi while also recording 84 points combined over his last two seasons. He has been a very good playmaker with 38 and 18 assists in his last two seasons. He would be somewhat redundant with Teuvo Teravainen, but who would not want another Teravainen on the team. After Trocheck’s contract is up he could slide into the second center role.