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NHL Free Agent Targets: Former RFAs

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For Wild fans, a quick lesson. This is called "shooting the puck." You haven't seen it much.
For Wild fans, a quick lesson. This is called "shooting the puck." You haven't seen it much.

When restricted free agents are not qualified by their former teams, it raises red flags. For some, like Benoit Pouliot, it was probably a long time coming. For others, it is a bit of a question mark. Why give up the rights to a promising young player if you do not have to, especially if a trade was available, or if you could possibly get any return for them.

The players we look at today were all RFAs, but were not qualified by their respective franchises. For whatever reason, their teams felt the desire to allow them to become UFAs and possibly let them walk despite drafting and developing them. Could be to avoid arbitration, could be because they don;t feel they can afford them, or maybe they just don't feel they fit the team any longer.

Whatever it is, the four players discussed after the jump are who we consider the best of the bunch of unqualified RFAs. No, Benny isn't on it.

Matt D`Agostini

#36 / Right Wing / St. Louis Blues



Oct 23, 1986

2010 - Matt D`Agostini 82 21 25 46 8 40 6 0 5 163

Current Cap Hit: $550K
Age: 24

JS: D'Agostini: What a surprise breakout season for this guy. After years of toiling in Montreal's system, never given a proper chance, he shone in St. Louis. Even if he's not been tendered an offer, I can't imagine the Blues just letting him walk, but if he does walk away, it'll be because he thinks he deserves a raise. I believe he should be given a Latendresse-type contract: 2 years, not too expensive to let him prove he's the real deal. He did have one decent 21 point season in Montreal, which means he just may be on the rise. If Fletch has an opportunity to sign this guy at a Latendresse-type contract, it could be worth a shot, since he can play anywhere. He could take Latendresse's spot if he doesn't work out, he could take Brodziak's spot if they look to have a more offensive punch, or maybe he could be put on the 3rd line, with some powerplay time. I doubt he would want to sign as a 3rd liner though, but if the opportunity arises, this guy is still young and could hit his prime. He could also fail miserably and be a one-hit wonder.
Verdict: 1-2 years, around 2 million, but close to impossible this would happen.

Bryan: This is the most intriguing of the bunch to me. He is going to get a significant pay raise from $550K, and looks to be on an upswing in his career. If it lasts, that is. He has NHL size, puts points on the board, and shoots the puck. I can certainly see Chuck Fletcher at least making an offer. 
Verdict: 2 years, $1.8 million

Nathan: Can anyone explain what St. Louis is thinking not tendering an offer to D'Agostini? It makes no sense. Decent size, likes to shoot the puck, plays in the Western conference. I'm just flummoxed as to what St. Louis was thinking here. Well, no matter what they were thinking, good for D'Agostini, he became one of the more interesting free agents in the NHL. Note: This potential sale is absolutely hosing the Blues. No offer to D'Agostini, TJ Oshie's deal not done? Pathetic.
Verdict: 2 years, $2 million

Tyler Kennedy

#48 / Center / Pittsburgh Penguins



Jul 15, 1986

2010 - Tyler Kennedy 80 21 24 45 1 37 7 0 2 234

Current Cap Hit: $725K
Age: 24

JS: Kennedy: Pens fans are going berserk about this non-qualifying, but when you look at it from an objective point of view, the main reason his numbers are inflated is because he played a much bigger role than what was intended for him because of all the injuries in Pittsburgh. Don't get me wrong, he's good, but he's an energy player, a 3rd-4th liner, and shouldn't be anything else. This is another situation of a player I'd be amazed to see let go from his team, but it could happen. A Kennedy-Powe-Clutterbuck line could be quite appealing, but one of Clutterbuck or Kennedy would have to switch to LW for that to happen, and I wouldn't imagine Kennedy signing on for a 4th line role. I'm guessing he'll ask for money a second liner would ask for because many people will believe that's what he worth, but he's likely to be too expensive and probably wouldn't fit because he's a bit too similar to Clutterbuck, unless one changes to LW. That third line would be pure MAYHEM. Like I said though, those numbers are quite deceiving, as he often found himself on the second line, sometimes even the first because of the lack of wing depth in Pittsburgh, and he would be an expensive 3rd-4th liner here. Don't panic Pens fans, we won't steal him away. 
Verdict: Pass.

Bryan: Kennedy was not qualified to avoid arbitration. The Penguins are hot on re-signing him, so this may be futility at its best. However, he would be a welcome addition to the Wild. Look at the SOG. Guess where that would have ranked him on the Wild? Go ahead, just take a freakin' guess. If the Pens don't get Kennedy re-signed by Friday, he is going to get a pay day. He will go right to the top five for available free agents. He is a middle six player, fringe second, mostly third line. Don't doubt the Wild make take a run at him, but the money might get ridiculous.
Verdict: 3 years, $2.0 mil

Nathan: Pittsburgh wants to keep him. Kennedy wants to stay in Pittsburgh. This was done to avoid arbitration and he'll make big cash if the deal isn't done (see: TJ Oshie) which will price him out of the Wild's range, though teams like the Islanders and Panthers have a crapload of cash they need to spend to reach the floor. Kennedy is the kind of player who could see a major jump in salary. I wouldn't be surprised to see him hit $3-$3.25M/year for 3-4 years.
Verdict: No chance.

Niclas Bergfors

#11 / Right Wing / Florida Panthers



Mar 07, 1987

2010 - Niclas Bergfors 72 12 24 36 -9 8 3 0 1 152

Current Cap Hit: $900K
Age: 24

JS: Wow, he fell quite fast didn't he? He went from potential Calder winner in New Jersey to trade cog in the Kovalchuk deal to outcast and now, he looks to be on the move again. He's become the prototypical skilled, but unbalanced player. Doesn't play defense, doesn't play physical, but he can contribute offensively. However, he's wildly inconsistent and probably wouldn't fit very well in a checking line role, which is where the Wild would likely sign a player, if any. Maybe he could be an option to try and motivate G-Lat to keep his spot on the second line, since he clearly needs it. If G-Lat does keep his spot, Bergfors could still be an injury replacement for a top 6 spot, or, at the very least, trade fodder. If G-Lat can't keep his spot, it will mean that Bergfors was good enough to keep on the 2nd line. One wonders how much money a player like Bergfors would command though. Seeing as he's becoming a UFA, I'd think it'll be a bit too inflated and/or lengthy to try the plan I worked out, so it may be better to pass. It could be a low-risk, high-reward situation if the price is right, but then again, that's what we said about Patrick O'Sullivan, and that worked out beautifully didn't it? Oh wait...
Verdict: If at all possible, 1 year, 1.75-2.25, but I would prefer they pass.

Bryan: This kid was supposed to be something special, and never really did much. Although, no one really gave him much to work with, either. I have a feeling Bergfors is going to be hired on somewhere, but I don;t think he is in the mood to be a checker. He has good size, maybe he fits on that hybrid third line the Wild seem to be building. 
Verdict: 2 years, $1.2 million

Nathan: Is it possible that Bergfors' career has already peaked and flamed out? Such a huge talent, made waves when he entered the league and now can't even get a QO for just under $1M from a team that is forced to spend money? Jesus kid. This is high risk-high reward. Someone could get a kid with a newly found passion for the game, or they could get Patrick O'Sullivan. I'm guessing it's POS.
Verdict: No thanks.

Anton Stralman

#6 / Defenseman / Columbus Blue Jackets



Aug 01, 1986

2010 - Anton Stralman 51 1 17 18 -11 22 1 0 1 80

Current Cap Hit: $1.95 million
Age: 24

JS: After a breakout season last year, Stralman slowed down a notch this year. He has had injury problems and seems to be sick a lot. That being said, he's a young offensive d-man with no physical aspect to his game that Columbus chose not to qualify. He probably wouldn't be all that expensive, but would he be worth it? Right now, the Wild seem to want to sign a 6th-7th d-man, but with a guy like Stralman, would it be worth it to sign him just for one year? He would seem to be the kind of situation in which he would probably look for around a 3 year contract. He would fit with the youth movement going on, but I feel that during this UFA period, the Wild will be looking for a short-term commitment on D, a stop-gap if you will. 
Verdict: Pass.

Bryan: He really strikes me as a slightly less disappointing version of Cam Barker. Not so much because he is better, but because his expectations were never all that high. Could be a solid third pairing d-man for the right price. I don't know if I like it, but I don't really hate it. He has single handedly ruined a couple fantasy hockey teams for me, so there is that. 
Verdict: One year, $2 million, tops. 

Nathan: Screw it. This kid slid like a stone and we need a borderline defenseman like we need a hole in the head.
Verdict: Pass.