5 UFAs set to be overpaid this offseason
Free agency is the most popular way for NHL teams to try to improve their teams, but general managers often overpay and create salary-cap issues in the process.
There are appropriate deals out there for all the players listed below, but these five unrestricted free agents appear prime candidates to be overpaid when the frenzy begins on July 28.
Previous cap hit: $2.25 million
Including Hyman on this list is sort of cheating since his destination and the terms of his new deal are common knowledge. The forward is expected to leave the Toronto Maple Leafs and sign a seven-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers for around $5.5 million per season. He and Edmonton can finalize the pact once free agency opens.
Hyman is a great get for the Oilers. He's a relentless forechecker and has proven he can play top-six minutes with a substantial uptick in his offensive production over the past two seasons. He's unlikely to see his numbers take a hit playing alongside Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.
That said, the term of this deal is risky. Hyman should be effective for his first few years with the Oilers, but paying him more than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins until he's 36 sets Edmonton up for a financial bind once Hyman begins to decline. It's impossible to predict when that decline will hit, but given Hyman's hard-nosed style and history of knee injuries, it could be sudden.
This deal makes the Oilers better right now. Down the road, though, they may regret it.
Previous cap hit: $1.8 million
Coleman ticks all the boxes for a classic free-agency overpay. He's a playoff hero. He's strong at both ends of the ice. He kills penalties. He brings speed and tenacity to the lineup. And he has 20-goal upside. General managers are likely salivating at the chance to plug Coleman into their rosters.
Like Hyman, Coleman will make his new team better and provide immediate value. But is a nearly 30-year-old winger with a career 0.42 points-per-game rate worth over $5 million per season? Coleman's Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Barclay Goodrow landed a whopping six-year contract worth $3.6 million per season with the New York Rangers, largely because of his championship pedigree. It's fair to assume Coleman will easily surpass that number as a superior offensive player.
But Goodrow and Coleman were especially crucial to the Lightning's Stanley Cup runs because of their affordable cap hits. Rostering players below market value behind elite forwards is a proven recipe for success. Once depth players eat up too much money, teams run into cap issues.
Coleman undoubtedly deserves a raise, but general managers should be wary of paying him like a top-line winger.
Previous cap hit: $3.75 million
Barrie bet on himself last offseason by inking a one-year deal with Edmonton, and it paid great dividends. He led all NHL defensemen with 48 points, setting up a more lucrative contract in free agency this summer.
It's a great scenario for the player, but there are some red flags for interested teams. Barrie notched nearly half his points on Edmonton's lethal power play, and he remains a defensive liability, as illustrated by Evolving-Hockey's regularized adjusted plus-minus metrics:
Barrie also shared most of his five-on-five minutes with McDavid, Draisaitl, or both, boosting his underlying metrics and production. In 229 minutes without one of Edmonton's superstar forwards, Barrie controlled just 48.17% of shot attempts, 34.78% of goals, and 48.05% of expected goals, according to Natural Stat Trick. Those numbers were 56.15%, 62.86%, and 53.53%, respectively, with all three on the ice.
If he's not surrounded by elite talent, Barrie is unlikely to bring offense to a new team. His skill set remains valuable, but it's not worth breaking the bank.
Previous cap hit: $3.33M
Grubauer's appearance on this list may come as a surprise; he's fresh off backstopping the Avalanche to the Presidents' Trophy and finished the season as a Vezina Trophy finalist. But Colorado is currently negotiating with Grubauer and captain Gabriel Landeskog, and it's unlikely the team can pay both players at market value with a massive extension for Nathan MacKinnon in the not-so-distant future.
Grubauer posted sterling numbers this season with a 30-9-1 record, a .922 save percentage, and 1.45 goals saved above average, but he had a fairly light workload on most nights thanks to the Avalanche's stifling defense. Colorado led the NHL in expected goals against per 60 minutes at five-on-five (1.76) and shots against per game (25.9) - and it provided Grubauer the most support by pacing the league with 3.52 goals per contest.
Is it worth spending $5 million or $6 million on a goalie for a team with such a strong roster? In contrast, is it worth spending that much on a still-unproven netminder for an outside team with a shallower supporting cast?
Previous cap hit: $3.083 million
Danault had a brilliant postseason, anchoring the Canadiens down the middle of the ice throughout a Cinderella playoff run. His skills as a shutdown center were integral to Montreal's stingy style, but he's likely to hit the open market. And front offices across the NHL are bound to be all over a player with Danault's defensive prowess.
Though he boosted his reputation this past spring, Danault's true value on the open market is murky. He shut other teams down, but he only had four points in 22 playoff games. He clearly thinks he's worth a raise, as he reportedly turned down a six-year, $30-million contract offer from the Canadiens in January.
But $5 million a season for a bottom-six center is steep, and adding Danault to play in a top-six role is unlikely to yield significant offensive returns. Danault has always been a strong play-driver, but he lacks finishing skills. He's also long been attached to Brendan Gallagher, analytically one of the best wingers in the NHL.
Danault's best fit seems to be Montreal, but the two sides appear set to part ways. The uncertainty of what he brings to the table for another team makes him a risky buy this summer.