Christmas is finally here! Or at least as close as we can come to Christmas in October. Last night we got a nice gift with some fun games to watch, but all that happens now is that we are looking for more.
With the start of the season, if it so happens that you have realized you are lacking in some bargain players because your rookies ended up getting sent back down, then here is the place to look. Today we go through a few undervalued veterans who may be able to help you round out your lineup.
Scott Hartnell (LW) - Nashville Predators
Cap Hit - $1,000,000 with one year remaining
Multi-category stud Scott Hartnell is back where he started his career in Nashville, albeit with lowered expectations after last season. Hartnell had his worst scoring production in a healthy season since 2002-2003. His 37 points were very disappointing, but he still manages to provide some value in the hits and PIM departments. With lower expectations coming into this season, there may be some value here before other owners see how he gets deployed.
Nashville has the forward depth so he certainly won’t be on the first line, and maybe not even on the second. However, Hartnell has the talent and mold to fill out a nice role on the third line, while chipping in as a presence down low on one of the powerplay units. A return to the 40-point plateau is very possible, and it is tough to find that on such a bargain contract while also producing above-average numbers across most (if not all) peripheral categories.
Scottie Upshall (LW) - St. Louis Blues
Cap Hit - $800,000 with one year remaining
Unlike the Scott above, the last time Scottie Upshall hit the 40-point mark was… wait, he’s never reached it! Over the course of his career, injuries are all that stopped Upshall from reaching the 40-point barrier in his prime. However, at 33 years old, Upshall doesn’t seem to have much left in the tank, so even 25 points would be exceeding expectations (and that’s if he’s healthy).
Upshall got this opportunity to sign with the Blues after they lost a handful of their regular forwards to injuries, forcing their hand to bring in a few more warm bodies. He is currently slotted on the fourth line, and he doesn’t project to move much higher than that. If you have to reach for him, then you are in a cavernous league and must be really desperate.
Roman Polak (D) - Toronto Maple Leafs
Cap Hit - Unsigned
Of the players remaining on the free agent market, Roman Polak seems like the best bet to finally sign somewhere (other than Cody Franson who is likely just sorting out paperwork in Chicago). NHL teams are always able to use more depth on defence, and injuries do pop up. It won’t be long into the season before we see a team lose one or two key guys, and Polak can be the reliable stop-gap to fix that hole in the short term.
Expect a contract between one and two million for one year when this comes to be. Once Polak has a contract in this range, he becomes one of the better bargain deals for peripheral categories, which is a great thing to get out of a depth defenceman. At minimum Polak paces himself between 200-300 hits on a season, and usually above 150 blocks. Those are gaudy numbers at his smaller price tag. So if you have room on your bench to spare, and can be patient with him, then this is a good flier to take a chance on, even at this early stage in the season.
Radim Vrbata - Florida Panthers
Cap Hit - $2,500,000 with one year remaining (AAV of $3.5 million)
There was a point on July first where Radim Vrbata was the first line RW on the Florida Panthers. That lasted all of a few hours before Evgeni Dadonov was signed, pushing Vrbata down to second line duties. Now, second line on Florida means playing with Vincent Trochek, who is a very good consolation prize. Having bounced around the last few years between a few different centres, we have seen many different levels of production. Generally however, Vrbata seems to amass some solid shot totals, while pacing himself towards the 50-point mark on a full season.
There is also some added incentive this year with the performance bonuses built into his contract, mostly for goal/point totals. Depending on what kind of cap league you are in, and how your league tracks the salaries, Vrbata may be costing you $3.75 million this season, or $2.5 million. Ideally it is at the lower end, however even at the higher end Vrbata would be a bargain if he can get anywhere close to his typical 50 points.
Jaromir Jagr (RW) - Calgary Flames (That felt weird to type…)
Cap Hit - $1,000,000 with one year remaining (AAV of $2 million)
We get at least one more year of the ageless wonder! Back to what I said about Christmas in October, this has to be up there with the beginning of the NHL season. Jagr is such a fun player to watch, and it makes it even better knowing that he is 45 years old (46 in February) – he is a year away from being the combined age of his two possible linemates: Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
Jagr would do very well fitting in with those two to round out the top line, and should see more time there than any other right wing this season. Jagr will also very likely have a spot reserved for him on the top power play, meaning that he should be able to land somewhere between his 46 points from last season, and the 66 points from the year before. He is also above average in most peripheral stats, and should be a fantasy relevant player in most leagues, even before his bargain contract is factored in.
Thanks for reading. As always, you can find me on twitter @alexdmaclean where I post some of my other smaller musings that don’t make it into the articles.
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