Economical Free Agent Targets: RFA Edition

For the last few years, the nature of the offer sheet as a tool in the NHL has been discussed with regularity. Given that there has only been seven of them since 2007, one of which was accepted/not matched (Penner, 2007, from the Ducks to the Oilers), it’s easy to see why. This summer will likely not be any different, and the Rangers do not have a lot to work with even if they were interested.

The above is via CapFriendly and it shows what compensation ranges the Rangers, in theory, could offer to prospective RFA’s. In an effort to identify some good low-cost options, at least in theory given the usage rate of offer sheets, I once again used the Evolving Wild Contract Projections for 2019. From there, the same RAPM data was used as in my UFA review. The pool of players that came out ended up being three forwards and five defensemen. Let’s start with the forwards:

Brett Ritichie is an interesting case because of the difference between his overall 2016-19 figures and his 2018-19 season. This past year with Dallas, he played only 53 games (mostly scratches – 7 missed games reported due to injury) at the lowest TOI of his career (less than 10 per game). While he clearly didn’t perform like past seasons, that kind of usage likely indicates an inability to find consistency. Eriksson-Ek, meanwhile, has done a decent to good job in his young NHL career of being a reliable defensive option for the Wild. At 22, we could see some more offense eventually, but it’s safe to say so far that he can at least play a checking role in the bottom six.

Josh Leivo has long been an interesting player due to his OHL and AHL scoring abilities. He finally stuck around for a full NHL season this year between Toronto and Vancouver, and put up good results as his TOI rose throughout the season. While he likely fits better into a middle six role as a supporting player, to me he’s an intriguing option to fill a skill line out given his consistently positive defensive numbers.

I’d rank the forwards, in terms of preference to sign by value, as such:

  1. Eriksson-Ek (C)
  2. Leivo (Wing)
  3. Ritchie (RW)

Given the projected cost to sign, if the Rangers could obtain Eriksson-Ek under the “no compensation” bracket, he’d be a solid 4th line or 3rd line option given his age. Leivo is likely the most talented of this bunch, however at his cost I just don’t know if he’s worth a 2nd round pick. Ritchie would be a buy-low option, but the Rangers have a few wingers that play a similar game to his as is.

How about some defense?

I kept Fredrik Claesson in this mix because there hasn’t been an indication either way what the Rangers will do with the 26-year-old, and as a benchmark for what he brought to the defense last season. In a mostly third pair role, Claesson brought some stability to the position when he was on the ice. Julius Honka, however, may be able to offer the same stability but with an added ability for puck-moving offense. With a projected salary of only 950K due to low scoring and game totals, it’d be an interesting risk because of Dallas choosing to scratch him for the majority of the season.

Joakim Ryan is a slightly lesser version of Tony DeAngelo: he has shown a knack for being able to create offense while on the ice but struggles to prevent shots and chances. That said, he would still likely be a better option than Marc Staal or Brendan Smith. Marcus Pettersson is a more expensive version of Julius Honka, as he found himself in an increased-TOI role after being traded to Pittsburgh last season.

If the Rangers really wanted to make an RFA splash, however, it would be to consider using its second rounder to pursue Will Butcher with an offer sheet. Butcher, coming off a season where he played 2nd pair TOI, is indicating he will be an NHL regular for years to come – especially with his ability to create and score on the Power Play. Unlike for Leivo previously, a 2nd round doesn’t feel like an overpay for Butcher, who can step right in and produce.

Ranking the defensemen, by value and preference:

  1. Pettersson (LD)
  2. Butcher (LD)
  3. Honka (RD)
  4. Claesson (LD)
  5. Ryan (LD)

The fact that Pettersson put up the results that he did with Pittsburgh while playing with Jack Johnson and Erik Gudbranson (who are notoriously not good) raises the eyebrows even a little bit more. While he’s between what the Rangers could offer, in theory, it’d be interesting to see if he was a trade target for some reason. Butcher would be a great addition down the left side as he continues towards his peak age (26-27), while Honka would be an intriguing project in replacement of Pionk.

In the end, the Rangers (as with the rest of the league) will likely not pursue any offer sheets. But, just like in examining inexpensive UFA options, it’s always good to know what is out there.

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  • Considering the Rangers don’t have a 2020 2nd rounder to give, I’m guessing that going after Butcher or Kapanen is just not going to happen.

    • Yeah, I realize now I misinterpreted the CapFriendly page which has 2019 picks and not 2020 (seeing as NYR only has their own first and 4th). Either way, these are still the lowest-cost names of interest out there this year.

    • It might be worth playing Fox 29 games or less next year so we can sign Kapanen to an offer sheet. Toronto is in a little cap trouble and rumor has it Marner is going to play hardball with Dubas. Before the downvotes fly I said MIGHT be worth it.

  • None of these players are ones to write home about. They are complimentary pieces for a very good team. We are not there yet. Let us try to add more young top 6 talent to our roster before we start looking at specialty players.

    That said, Butcher on the defensive side is the only name that is interesting – but we have so many young defenders, why not give our own guys a shot first?

    About 41 days until we start picking the next generation of NY Rangers. While Kakko is a given, the rest of the picks will really build the 2021 Ranger team. Gorton better be doing his homework.

    • How about send Jets’ #1 and Pionk to Winnipeg for Trouba. Maybe add DeAngelo.

      The Rangers have a problem with now too many RH D men. Shatty, DeAngelo, Pionk, and Fox. Someone has to go, as Fox is going to get a spot. I don’t know if Shatty is even tradeable without retaining significant cap space, which would defeat the purpose of the trade.

      Staal and Shatty seem like they will be here, so this is what I want to seeing assuming we’re stuck with both of them:


  • Unnecessary … and no one really stands out. Next season needs to be about growth, not trying to fill out a roster with additional support players.

  • Signing other teams RFA is a losing proposition. If the Ranger sign away other teams RFAs, other teams will provide the Rangers RFAs with offer sheets. The Rangers will have to match to keep their young players.

    This will escalate salaries and will derail the Rangers rebuild as they could lose their prospects. The Ranger organization would be well advise not to go down that road.

  • we’re better off letting young players take these spots than adding any of these guys. Butcher would be good, but we went NCAA UFA and picked the Devils, after being drafted by Colorado. So not certain he would even take a deal with the Rangers. We already have depth forwards in Namestnikov, Strome, Vesey that we eventually need/want to move out. We have too many D men now too. I think before we look to add any of these folks we need to decide who’s staying and who’s going and we need to clear out some roster spots and cap space. Once we’ve done that then we can fill in the blanks. But there are UFA’s that can add more value for no compensation.

  • Rob, this was a great article and completely educated me in an area I was illiterate. Thank you so much!
    That’s good work!

  • I think the vast majority are not really understanding what Rob is offering here. I was among you, last article, but having re-read it, he is just educating on what is out there. For me, this is great. I don’t no shit about this stuff. I don’t think he advocating anything, just showing what’s out there, and a Rangers site, showing options.

    Ok enough of the Rob is great narrative…

  • I just finished seeing the game with Finland vs Slovakia on the NHL channel, and the Kakko kid scored a hat trick. The kid is lights out good!!!!!!!!! Can’t wait to see him in Ranger Blue……….

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