Steve Yzerman made a funny little comment in one of his post-draft interviews that any player they took with the 6th overall pick would have fit a positional need. Reading between the lines, Yzerman is saying that they need help at every position. The draft is about filling those holes three or four years down the line. If a team wants to fill them immediately, they must dip their toes either in the trade market or free agency.
Normally in free agency, you’re not going to land a super star player. It’s where you go for depth signings that can add secondary scoring and help your team down the stretch. When it comes to left-wingers this year, though, there is a super star available. Yes, that’s Artemi Panarin.
But even after Panarin, the UFA talent at left wing in this year’s crop isn’t half bad. They are mostly mid-6 talent who can take on top-6 responsibility if needed. So without further ado, here are the top-5 left-wingers set to hit the UFA market on Monday.
There’s no doubt that Panarin is the stud of this year’s free agency class. Of every position, he’s the best remaining. After only four seasons in the NHL, Panarin has cemented himself as one of the best wingers in the league. Coming off of a 28 goal, 87 point season, every team should be calling to see if he’d be willing to go to their city. After all, he’s 27-years-old and could easily score 30 goals and 90 points if put in the right position.
Unfortunately for the Red Wings, Panarin’s services may be out of their reach. He decided early on that he wanted out of Columbus, mostly because he didn’t like the city. It sounds like bright lights and big cities are in his future, whether it’s New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. He’s also been connected to Florida, where teammate Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to sign. The Panthers have cleared up all the space to make the double-signing, but those rumors really cooled down towards the end of the season.
While I would love for the Wings to nab Panarin, they are still a couple of years away from sniffing the playoffs. Pairing him with Dylan Larkin would certainly give the team an offensive boost, but they would still sorely lack depth talent and need a fully improved defensive corps. So yes, going after the best free agent in his class is always a good idea, but I don’t think Panarin would be interested in coming to Detroit, nor would he lift this team to being a contender.
Ryan Dzingel is an interesting case. He had a really good season, putting up 26 goals and 56 points with both Ottawa and Columbus, but was a frequent healthy scratch through the playoffs. I’m not sure what Torts wasn’t seeing in him, but when he did play I thought he looked good. He’s listed as a center on NHL.com (but a LW on CapFriendly, hence his presence on this list) and is clearly a top-6 talent when you sort by points. He’s a defensive-minded player who can kill penalties.
I actually kind of like this fit for Detroit. Dzingel is coming off of a $1.8-million AAV contract and is deserving of a raise, but nothing over the $5-million mark. That is an affordable deal that the Red Wings can take on and he could be productive for them in the offensive and defensive zones. Of course, these deals need to be desired by both parties and I have no idea if Dzingel has any interest in the Red Wings organization, but hey, it’s gotta be a better situation than Ottawa, right?
The New York Islanders stand to lose their captain for a second year in a row as Anders Lee decides on his future. The seven year NHL vet has been an Islander the whole time and has had a surprisingly healthy career. His last three seasons, he’s consistently put up 50+ points, with his career-high in goals and points coming in 2017-18 with 40 and 62 respectively.
Lee clearly demonstrates leadership and a sense of competitiveness. His 40-goal season wasn’t necessarily a fluke, but he hasn’t really come that close to it at any other time in his career. On average, Lee can be counted on for 25 goals and 50 points.
Similar to Dzingel, the Wings could use that kind of secondary scoring. They also have Lee’s former teammate Frans Nielsen who may be able to get on a call and convince him to come on up to Detroit. He’s not a terrible fit for the team, but his cap hit will probably come in higher than Dzingel’s. My gut here is telling me Lee is going to end up back in Long Island, and that’s not a bad thing for Detroit. I can’t help but think a long-term deal for him will not be good in the long run.
The Carolina Hurricanes had a deep playoff run this year, but Micheal Ferland only played in seven games and recorded one point. It wasn’t a great outing after a 40-point regular season for the 27-year-old winger. This past season was only one point shy of his career-high and it feels like that’s where Ferland is going to top out. Good for 20-goals and 40-points. It’s not bad for a 3rd line winger.
Ferland’s possession stats are also positive, though he did play for the Corsi-Kings Carolina Hurricanes. I doubt that he could maintain a +50% shot attempt percentage in Detroit’s system. Still, if he can contribute 20 goals, he’d be useful. From a contract standpoint, he shouldn’t command too much money. Certainly not as much as Dzingel or Lee, but maybe something in the $4-million range if he sings mid- to long-term.
He doesn’t feel like a good fit for the Wings, though. Yes, he’d contribute to secondary scoring, but this is the kind of generic depth talent the Wings should be avoiding in my opinion. Pass on him, especially if you’re going to swing for one of the guys listed above him.
Richard Panik scored more than 20 goals and 40 points once in his career, when he was on Patrick Kane‘s line. Since then, his totals have dropped by about 10 points, which is totally fine for a depth winger. The situation in Arizona isn’t ideal for him, but they started to find their legs towards the end of last season. He’s a consistently even possession player who can play on both ends of the ice.
As far as the Red Wings go, I feel the same way about Panik as I do Ferland: good depth scoring, but not what the Red Wings need to lift them out of their rebuild. I would steer clear of the +$4-million cap hit that he’s going to demand and focus that cash on other parts of the lineup that are more desperate.
Detroit’s in a weird spot with depth wingers. They have a lot of them, but they’re not very good. I’d hesitate to add another Panik or Lee or Ferland to that mix, but I really like the idea of Dzingel. Now, whether or not I think that will happen is a different story. I think that Dzingel will have lots of opportunities with lots of teams and Detroit isn’t really a palatable market right now. I still think they just need to stand pat, fill their holes with internal talent, and wait out some of the bad contracts before pulling the trigger on any more long-term free agency deals.
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