NHL Free Agency: 5 Underrated Available Unrestricted Free Agents

Vincent Trocheck, Carolina Hurricanes (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Vincent Trocheck, Carolina Hurricanes (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The NHL Free Agency period is upon us.With the window for current free agents to sign with other teams officially opening up Wednesday afternoon at noon EST, there are going to be a lot of deals that are signed and a lot of money to be handed out.

This free agency group is one of the most intriguing and star-studded groups we have seen in recent years.

With the focus in free agency on the stars, these pending UFA’s can make an immediate impact.

All eyes will be on established top-tier players like forward Johnny Gaudreau, forward Nazem Kadri, and defenseman John Klingberg, but when you take a closer and deeper look at this crop of free agents, there is a lot of talent to be had in this class of players.

From savvy veteran players to players coming off a breakout season, this group of free agents has it all. Here is a closer look at five names that have flown under the radar this off-season and could have a major impact on the teams that signs them.

Vincent Trocheck

Former Carolina Hurricane Vincent Trocheck has found himself flying significantly under the radar during this free agency period.

With all attention going towards former Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri, and former Panther Claude Giroux, Trocheck has found himself as one of the least talked about centers available this off-season, but he is somebody that could see himself getting a decent payday.

Trocheck is coming off of a season where he played in 81 of the 82 regular season games and tallied a 51-point regular season that included 21 goals. Trocheck also totaled 10 points during the Hurricanes’ post-season run.

Throughout his career, when healthy, Trocheck has consistently been a 40-50 point player, who can play a pivotal second or third-line center role for a contending team.

The Hurricanes are rumored to want to bring Trocheck back and have the salary cap space available to do so, but keep an eye out on the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, and Detroit Red Wings as potential landing spots for Trocheck if he does not re-sign with Carolina.

Washington and New York were both rumored to be in on Evgeni Malkin before he re-signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins late Tuesday night, and both have significant holes at their second-line center spot.

Detroit also has a gaping hole in the second line, and Trocheck would be a veteran presence for a very young team.

Andrew Copp

Speaking of the New York Rangers, one of their trade deadline acquisitions, Andrew Copp, is set to test free agency, as it doesn’t look like the Rangers will be bringing him back.

Copp, 28, who was one of the Rangers’ bright spots during their post-season run, was brought in from the Winnipeg Jets in March to try and bolster the Rangers’ top-9. Copp went on to total 18 points in 16 regular season games with the Rangers as well as 14 points in 20 playoff games.

The Rangers wanted to bring Andrew Copp back but talks reportedly stalled when the Rangers were unable to give Copp the salary he desired.

Copp is a versatile forward that can play both second and third-line minutes at both wing and center as well as help out on both the power play and penalty kill.

He is certainly one of the better players available in the second tier of this free agency class and will be sought out by teams needing middle-six center help.

Teams that come to mind are the New York Islanders, who have been in on current Vancouver Canucks forward JT Miller, as well as the Washington Capitals if they fail to land Miller or Trocheck.

Josh Manson

One of the most underrated trade deadline moves this past season was the Colorado Avalanche trading for Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson. He was able to help solidify the Avalanche defensive core that led them to a Stanley Cup run.

Manson, who spent the previous seven full seasons with the Anaheim Ducks before being traded at the deadline to Colorado, has established himself as a steady in-zone defensive defenseman and it showed during the postseason run for the Avalanche.

Manson likely won’t have a big market in free agency, and likely will not be returning to Colorado due to the number of players they have to try and re-sign, but there will be a handful of suitors that will want to bring the veteran in to help sure up their blue line.

A reunion with Anaheim has also been rumored and is not out of the question for Manson.

Nick Leddy

Another player that was acquired at the trade deadline that is set to hit the open market Wednesday afternoon is St. Louis Blues defenseman, Nick Leddy.

Leddy was acquired to help give the Blues a more steady top 4 defensive unit alongside Colton Parayko and give the team some much-needed puck movement in the offensive zone.

Leddy was very solid with the Blues, giving them high-level IQ play on the back end that had its fair share of inconsistent play throughout the season.

Leddy, after struggling mightily with the Detroit Red Wings early on in the season, saw significant improvement in his skating and ability to defend in front of the net when he arrived in St. Louis.

Similar to Josh Manson with Colorado, Nick Leddy will have a tough time returning to the team that traded for him due to salary cap space but should have a fair share of teams interested in bringing him on as a puck-moving defenseman with a 200-foot game.

Evan Rodrigues

With all the talk surrounding the futures of Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin, there is another pending Penguins free agent that earned himself a decent-sized contract this past season, and that was Evan Rodrigues.

Rodrigues, 28, totaled 43 points in 82 games last season and stepped up massively for the Penguins when Malkin went down due to injury throughout the season.

Rodrigues offered high-level playmaking and shot-creating ability for the Penguins and was a consistent two-way defender in the middle of the ice.

With the re-signings of Rickard Rakell, Kris Letang, and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins will have to be smart with their remaining cap space to fill out their roster.

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Doing this could cause Evan Rodrigues to leave for another opportunity elsewhere and could give some viable ice time and production to a team willing to shell out significant top-middle 6 minutes for him after a career-best 19-goal season.