When PHR set out to rank the top 50 unrestricted free agents, Jiri Hudler was ranked 18th and expected to be snapped up at a reasonable price. Though some reports have him possibly talking to the Vancouver Canucks, the interest for the 32-year-old forward is tepid.
So what gives?
Hudler came up with the Detroit Red Wings, and was a strong contributor to their Stanley Cup winning season in 2007-08, and then again in 2008-09 when they fell short of a repeat championship. After a one-year hiatus in the KHL during the 2009-10 season, Hudler returned to the Red Wings until the 2011-12 season. At a glance, his numbers looked like this:
- 2007-08: 42 points (13-29)
- 2008-09: 57 points (23-34)
- 2010-11: 37 points (10-27)
- 2011-12: 50 points (25-25)
Though the Red Wings didn’t offer him another contract following the 2011-12 season, Calgary did at a tune of four years, $16MM. Hudler remained a solid contributor, hitting his career high in 2014-15 with 76 points (31-45). A season prior, he registered 54 points (17-37).
Hudler’s performance fell off in 2015-16, notching 35 points (10-25) in 53 games with Calgary before being traded to Florida. There, Hudler had 11 points (6-5) in 19 games before only adding an assist in six playoff games. He had 46 points in 72 games but it was a far cry from his previous season. Florida chose to let him walk.
So why, despite boasting better numbers than several free agents already signed, does Hudler remain unemployed?
Is it Inconsistency?
Back in 2013, several writers debated whether the Red Wings should have re-signed Hudler instead of letting him go to Calgary, where he would go on to have some steady seasons. The offer from Detroit was less than what Calgary offered by $800K per season.
With Florida, he was never even offered a chance back. Despite producing well, and apparently fitting in well with the Panthers following their acquisition, there wasn’t even a hint of an extension.
Some of the problem might be his lack of defensive responsibility. Hudler was paid to put up points, so when the scoring decreased, so did the interest. Back in June, CSN Philly’s Greg Paone wrote that Hudler would have struggled in Dave Hakstol’s system should he have signed with the Flyers. Two weeks ago, Tal Pinchevsky argued in an ESPN article that he would provide production at a discount, and his playoff struggle in Florida shouldn’t be an indictment on his overall postseason performance, pointing out that Hudler had 8 points in 11 playoff games with Calgary in 2015.
Perhaps Kevin Allen summed up what most teams debated before free agency: Would they be getting the 76 point Hudler or the 46 point Hudler?
Summarizing the theories, it appears that Hudler’s decrease in production, his defensive deficiencies, and an underwhelming playoff performance with Florida all had a hand in his current predicament.
The Czech winger should find a landing spot somewhere, especially since Sam Gagner is close to a deal with the Blue Jackets. Gagner’s deal will certainly gauge what Hudler could expect. The only certainty is that it won’t come close to what he made a season ago.