The 2021 NHL free agency period is set to be the most significant in recent memory. There are a number of players who could make an impact on fantasy hockey, but it will take time for their new teams to gel and for them to acclimate themselves with their new teammates.
The nhl free agents are players that are not currently under contract with any NHL team. They will be able to sign with any team in 2021.
Let’s take a look at some new faces in new locations via the fantasy lens now that the dust has cleared on a frenetic stretch of free-agent signings and steady flurry of offseason deals. That’s a terrific place to start, especially with the goalkeeper carousel in overdrive this week.
Check out ESPN’s complete coverage of free-agent signings and other transactions for a more in-depth look. In the following weeks, look for more in-depth fantasy material.
Seattle Kraken, Philipp Grubauer, G: Please move over. The Kraken have decided on a different No. 1 goaltender than Chris Driedger. Grubauer decided to leave a legitimate Stanley Cup contender for Seattle’s fresh new club after leading the Avalanche to the second most victories in 2020-21 and placing himself in contention for the Vezina Trophy. While taking on the task of constructing from the ground up has its attraction, his dream stock is likely to plummet. Grubauer, who won 77 percent of the games he started for Colorado in 2020-21, isn’t even close to matching that mark in his new digs. While the team is constructed defensively to be difficult to score against, there isn’t enough offensive skill to put the puck in the goal. Some believe the Kraken, as they presently stand, are a postseason bubble club. I’m not persuaded. As a result, Grubauer is no longer in the fantasy top-15. He’ll play a lot, but the wins will be few and far between.
Carolina Hurricanes’ G Frederik Andersen: He’s well and healthy, and he’s no longer in the limelight in Toronto. Andersen is once again deserving significant fantasy consideration as a No. 1 goaltender for those reasons alone. This is a strong Hurricanes squad with one of the league’s best defensive corps (they’ll lose Dougie Hamilton’s puck-moving abilities but will gain from Ethan Bear and Ian Cole’s acquisitions). Andersen is expected to play a lot more than backup Antti Raanta (also new), and he’ll stop a lot of pucks and win a lot of games. This previous season was unusually injury-plagued and strange. Don’t worry about it.
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Petr Mrazek (G): In Toronto, the former Carolina/Detroit goaltender takes up Andersen’s old position of collaborating with Jack Campbell. It takes a particular kind of individual to stand up to the absurd pressures of being a Maple Leaf. (This is where I reside.) It’s ridiculous. (Believe me.) Mrazek may be that guy, but I’m not sure. Campbell seems to be doing well. So, of the two, I have more confidence in the man who, only months ago, stood on his head wearing the Blue and White and withstood media attention. Unless one of them takes the job and runs with it, which isn’t impossible. On fantasy draft day, though, I’ll be searching elsewhere, at least until the latter rounds.
Detroit Red Wings’ Alex Nedeljkovic (G): This is a difficult one. Despite the small sample size, Nedeljkovic seems to be a talented and competent NHL goalie capable of handling a hard workload. In 2020-21, no player with more than 20 games played bettered his league-leading 1.90 GAA and.932 SV% for Carolina. The rebuilt Red Wings, on the other hand, are still a long way from winning more games than they lose. Thomas Greiss is no slouch, either, despite winning just eight of his 34 outings last season. In fantasy leagues where wins are important, anybody starting in Detroit’s crease should be avoided. For the time being.
G, Chicago Blackhawks’ Marc-Andre Fleury: If he doesn’t retire, the current Vezina Trophy winner will be the starting netminder for an upgraded Chicago team (which now has Seth Jones and others). However, after receiving a harsh and unexpected ejection from Vegas, the 36-year-old may opt to retire from the game. Kevin Lankinen, a fellow Blackhawks goalkeeper, is perhaps more concerned in the outcome than anyone else. Keep an eye out for updates.
In other news, Darcy Kuemper has been named the Colorado Avalanche’s new starting goaltender, which is excellent news for dynasty managers. The former Coyote is a legitimate top-tier fantasy goalie. Carter Hutton takes over the job in Arizona, which has a lot less fantasy potential. The Boston Bruins currently have Linus Ullmark as their main goaltender, with Jeremy Swayman as their backup. At least until Tuukka Rask returns for a last shot at the Stanley Cup midway through the season. There’s no certainty this will happen, but the potential lowers Ullmark’s fantasy worth…. Jaroslav Halak has the ability to take starts from Thatcher Demko in Vancouver if the latter has any problems. Halak had been fantastic in Boston for the previous two seasons until taking a step back early this year. Since 2006, he’s also proved himself with four different NHL clubs… After shining in just eight games in 2016, James Reimer is getting another chance in San Jose. Make a list of your dream wildcards and discuss them. We’ll finally learn if Martin Jones was really terrible or just a victim of the crowd in front of the crease. Jones is expected to serve as a backup to starter Carter Hart, who is expected to return well in 2021-22. Juuse Saros has David Rittich lined up to back him up in Nashville, which may be crucial if Saros falters.
Edmonton Oilers’ Zach Hyman (F): Over the last two seasons, the popular ex-Leaf has scored 70 points in 94 games, including 36 goals, while mostly playing on Auston Matthews’ side. In the big scheme of things, Hyman is about to win a spot on a line alongside Connor McDavid, which is hardly a demotion. If everything goes according to plan – and the Oilers are spending $38.5 million over the next seven years that it will – the tough, heavy-playing forward should have his finest season ever. Especially if he gets a chance to play on the league’s best powerplay unit. Don’t dismiss the possibility. And even if he doesn’t, the perpetually undervalued fantasy asset will continue to be a reliable scoring commodity in deeper leagues.
Seattle Kraken’s Jaden Schwartz (F): The Kraken, who were previously formed as a difficult-to-play-again consortium with no apparent producing flare, now have someone to score! That is critical. Schwartz was always buried on a Blues’ roster plagued with depth, and he never realized his full potential of reaching the 30-goal or point/game threshold (despite coming somewhat close). However, many believe he has it in him and is now able to flourish as the person. The Kraken aren’t going to score a lot in their first season, but Schwartz will get plenty of ice time on a top line and power play with Jordan Eberle and maybe Yanni Gourde or fellow signee Alex Wennberg – who might need a new start as well. In most fantasy drafts, the 29-year-old seems to be a mid-round steal.
Florida Panthers’ Sam Reinhart, F: For the Panthers, Reinhart’s invested keeper-league managers, and the player himself, I think this is a great decision. Whether he plays on a line with Aleksander Barkov or Jonathan Huberdeau, Reinhart, who was traded from the Sabres to the Panthers, may be on the verge of a breakout year. Reinhart had a career-high 25 goals and 15 assists with an underwhelming Buffalo team last season. Imagine what he could do if he were 25 years old and surrounded by a much-improved supporting cast. Thirty goals and 40 assists aren’t difficult to get by.
Mike Hoffman of the Montreal Canadiens is a defenseman. In the former Senator/Panther (forget about the recent turn in St. Louis when things didn’t go as planned), the Canadiens have a new top-scoring winger to slot in on their No. 1 line and power play. Hoffman, who ranks sixth in power-play output with 35 points in just two years, will improve Montreal’s top unit, which includes Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, and defender Jeff Petry. At even strength, I’d want to see him line up alongside Jonathan Drouin, but we’ll have to see how coach Dominique Ducharme moves guys about in training camp. Hoffman is a 70-point scorer who pays out additional fantasy rewards in leagues that reward productivity with the extra skater when he’s at his best.
Philadelphia Flyers’ Cam Atkinson, F: It’ll be fascinating to watch where the long-time Blue Jacket ends up in the Flyers’ lineup, but he’ll almost certainly be in the top six. With those quality minutes and a position on the power play, Atkinson could again flirt with the 30-goal mark with a team that is more prone to scoring than the one he left in Columbus – 3.10 goals per game over the last two seasons against 2.49 – (the 41 scored in 2018-19 is too much for the asking). After slipping off many fantasy managers’ radars over the last two years, this player should be a late-round bargain for those who aren’t paying attention. Especially in leagues that place a premium on goals.
F/D, Vancouver Canucks, Conor Garland/Oliver Ekman-Larsson: Garland, who was acquired in a trade with Ekman-Larsson, is expected to start his pro career on the wing next to center Bo Horvat – or possibly top pivot Elias Pettersson if Brock Boeser or J.T. Miller go injured. Since his NHL debut in 2018-19, the Massachusetts native has been on a roll, averaging 0.8 points per game this season, the best rate of any Coyote. Garland’s pace may somewhat increase with such a steady presence as Horvat, who will undoubtedly benefit from his new linemate’s companionship. Ekman-Larsson will play second-pair/secondary power-play duties behind Quinn Hughes and is expected to score 35-40 points over the course of an 82-game season. In most leagues, he’s still fantasy-worthy.
Phillip Danault, a former Montreal center, has left his top-line job for a depth position in Los Angeles, and has dropped off the fantasy map. Playing behind Anze Kopitar, Quinton Byfield, Gabriel Vilardi, and others, he won’t score much. However, this is a fantastic signing for the Kings. Expect Evgenii Dadonov to compete for a top-six position in Vegas, and keep an eye on him if he succeeds. In the 2018-19 season, Dadonov scored 70 points in Florida. With the Golden Knights, Nolan Patrick is also getting a new start. On the topic of fresh starts, Viktor Arvidsson is getting one in Los Angeles, and I’m interested to see where he fits into the lineup. He could skate in the top six, unlike Danault. Following a string of strong campaigns in Nashville, his output has dwindled in the last two seasons. As a top-six forward in St. Louis, Pavel Buchnevich should get about 65 points. It wasn’t a fluke when he scored 48 points in 54 games with the Rangers. Jakub Voracek, a winger, has returned to Columbus, which should result in a little decrease in personal output. If David Krejci isn’t re-signed by the Bruins, newcomer Nick Foligno may step in as the team’s second-line center. If things go as planned, Brandon Saad may be a moderate fantasy asset in a top-six position with the Blues. The perpetually unreliable winger, though, has yet to reach the 60-point plateau, whether he is scorching hot or freezing cold. Unless he suddenly snags a super-juicy part in camp, look elsewhere.
Dougie Hamilton, New Jersey Devils defenseman: Hamilton is going to shoot a lot and score a lot no matter where he plays, but that isn’t my greatest fantasy takeaway from this deal. What intrigues me the most is if he can improve a dreadful New Jersey power play, which includes forwards Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes. With 18 power-play points in 2020-21, Hamilton matched Vincent Trocheck and Sebastian Aho for the most. At even strength, the puck-moving D-man will offer an all-around scoring boost. This signing should please dynasty managers who have invested in any Devils forwards.
Seth Jones, D, Chicago Blackhawks: One of the finest all-around blueliners in the game recently finished fourth in scoring on a Blue Jackets team that ended 29th overall in the league. Now he gets to share the ice with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat at even strength and with the additional skater. Jones may finish in the top ten in blue-line scoring this season, averaging more than 25 minutes each game. There aren’t many defenders I’d choose ahead of the new Blackhawks member in this fantasy season.
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Arizona Coyotes’ D Shayne Gostisbehere: After six complete seasons in Philadelphia, Gostisbehere is looking for a new start. The offensive-minded defender is entrusted with moving the puck and creating scoring from the back end in Arizona, where he is in his peak at the age of 28. Following an injury-plagued season in 2019-20, Gostisbehere looked more like himself during the pandemic-shortened season. The 65-point performance of three years ago is unlikely to repeat, but a 40-point campaign is definitely within sight. A significant amount of points were scored on the power play. As a result, draft him appropriately.
Philadelphia Flyers’ Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen, both defensemen: Thanks to trades for Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolainen, as well as the addition of Keith Yandle, the Flyers’ blue line has taken on a bold new appearance. The former long-time Predator has the greatest fantasy appeal of the three newcomers as a projected top-pair teammate to Ivan Provorov and player on the power play. Despite the fact that Provorov and Ellis seem to be strong A and B choices if Philly continues to use the 4-1 formation with the additional skater, Ristolainen can’t be counted out. Until two seasons ago, the ex-Sabre was a consistent 40-point scorer. Take a peek at how things go down during camp. Also, make sure Ellis is feeling healthy and fit, since he has been plagued by ailments in previous years.
Dallas Stars defenseman Ryan Suter: While the veteran defender is certain to rack up points as a top-pair teammate to Miro Heiskanen, his overall production potential is restricted. Suter’s fantasy days are over now that Heiskanen and John Klingberg are in charge of the Stars’ power play. At this point, the 600-point blueliner should only be rostered in deeper traditional fantasy leagues.
In other news, veteran Alex Edler may get some power-play action in Los Angeles behind Drew Doughty, making him somewhat useful in deep fantasy competition. Friend, greybeard Alex Goligoski is worth keeping an eye on, depending on how he fits into Minnesota’s plan. A top-four position with Jared Spurgeon and tours on the secondary power play might provide a lot of points. But, with Spurgeon and Matt Dumba on the scene, I’m not sure the special teams are involved.
The nhl restricted free agent is a player that has been qualified to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021. These players are eligible to sign with any team in the NHL, and can be signed for a maximum of 7 years.
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