The difficult subtext about NHL free agency is that given what we know about age curves and what we have learned from life in the salary cap era, it is well-established that the vast majority of contracts signed on July 13 will likely turn out very poorly over time. The rules of the game almost mandate it.
UFA status kicks in at 26 or so, and players peak from 23 to 26. By the time a player actually gets to the open market, odds are that his best years (the ones he’s getting paid for) are behind him. This is especially true for players in their 30s, typically a large cohort of the big names on the board.
This dismal reminder shouldn’t stop us from enjoying one of the busiest and most chaotic days on the NHL calendar though. Lots of players will be changing addresses and there are plenty of legitimately interesting candidates for contracts on the board.
I will be previewing three categories of player: the big names, the buyer-beware candidates, and the bargains. Using statistics drawn from TopDownHockey and AllThreeZones, I’ll analyze their recent performance and play styles, suggesting whether they might provide strong value to a signing team and where they might fit.