While he has bounced around a lot in recent years, Kris Versteeg has been a productive forward wherever he has been. Despite that, he hasn’t received a whole lot of attention in free agency so far. Here is a closer look at his situation.
Versteeg has been a hockey nomad lately, having played for six different teams since 2010. Part of the reason for that has been his contract; he’s coming off a deal that paid him an average of $4.4MM per season, which, at the time the deal was signed, was higher end second line money. Also Versteeg has long been viewed as an extra complementary piece and not part of a core that a team can build around. Those players tend to bounce from team to team over the years.
Despite being on a different squad almost annually, Versteeg has been pretty steady when it comes to production. Injuries and the lockout cost him most of 2012-13 but aside from that, he has put up at least 34 points every year since 2008-09. Last season, he played in 77 games split between Carolina and Los Angeles, collecting 15 goals and 23 assists while averaging 15:23 per game. Basically, lower end second line production.
So why hasn’t the 30 year old garnered much interest so far? At just 5’11, he’s on the smaller side which can scare off teams and has slowed down a bit in recent years. He’s also only a year removed from being scratched for nearly half of Chicago’s Stanley Cup run. The fact he’s coming off a pricey contract doesn’t help either; while a pay cut was to be expected (he made $4.7MM in salary in 2015-16), how much of one was he willing to take in the early going? Evidently, not enough to pique the interest of GM’s.
So far, there hasn’t been much in the way of publicized interest. There are Swiss League teams that would like to sign him (HC Biel in particular has been linked to him) but Versteeg is prioritizing an NHL deal. We predicted he would sign with Nashville and they remain a potential fit in a higher end third line role. Boston and Anaheim still have openings up front as do the Hurricanes, where Versteeg spent most of last season. Chicago has a bit of cap space to potentially play with if he wants to return there although he’d have to take a below-market deal like Brian Campbell did for that to happen.
Versteeg ranked 34th on our Top 50 UFA list and had a projected contract of two years and $6.4MM before free agency opened up. While that would still represent a sizable pay cut, it seems likely at this point that he will need to take more of one to get something done. A one year contract that would allow him to take another run at the market next season may be the best way to go and a deal like that should come in closer to the $2MM – $2.5MM range.