On Tuesday, another group of collegiate prospects will become unrestricted free agents. These are players that have played out their NCAA eligibility (or at least have gone four years since being drafted) but have not signed an NHL contract. Those teams hold their exclusive rights up to and including August 15th.
For more details about the criteria to qualify to become an August 16th UFA, take a look at our Capology 101 series.
By now, pretty much everyone knows the biggest name on this list, former Nashville 2012 third round draft pick (66th overall) Jimmy Vesey, whose negotiation rights were dealt to Buffalo in June. There are a handful of other notables among what is a very small group of players who will become unrestricted on Monday. Here is a closer look at the top five available August 16th free agents.
(This list excludes players who have inked a minor league contract with their drafting team such as Tony Cameranesi with Toronto.)
1) LW Jimmy Vesey (Buffalo) – He’s far and away the best player available as he’s expected to be able to step into a middle six role right away with whoever signs him. Vesey collected 104 points in 70 games over the last two seasons with Harvard and earned the Hobey Baker Award for the top NCAA player in 2016. He also acquitted himself well at the World Championships last May for Team USA, picking up three assists in nine games.
Unlike most August 15th free agents, Vesey is here because he chose to decline offers up to this point, not because he wasn’t tendered one which is the more common reason. It’s expected that pretty much every team will express an interest although his agent noted they have already come up with a short list of six teams to talk to. On Sunday, we took a closer look at who may be on that list. Wherever he signs, he’s expected to receive a maximum entry level contract.
2) C Thomas Di Pauli (Washington) – The Capitals fourth rounder in 2012 (100th overall) made big strides in his play over his last two seasons at Notre Dame, capping off his collegiate career with 32 points in 37 games last season. Despite the uptick in his production, he profiles as more of a bottom six forward at the NHL level and unlike Vesey, he won’t be able to step in and play right away. We took a closer look at Di Pauli last month.
One thing he has in common with Vesey is that he too spurned an offer from Washington to get to free agency although he hasn’t ruled out signing with the Caps either. He’s not going to garner anywhere near the hype or interest that Vesey will but he is still expected to have several suitors.
3) D John Gilmour (Calgary) – Gilmour has long been thought of as a blueliner with some offensive punch but before last season, hadn’t really shown it. That changed in 2016-17 as the Flames’ seventh rounder in 2013 (198th overall) had a career year with Providence, picking up 23 points in 34 games. At 5’11, he’s a bit undersized for his position which will scare some teams off but the league is trending towards more mobility and puck movement on the back end and Gilmour is strong in those areas.
4) C Quentin Shore (Ottawa) – The 2013 sixth round pick (168th overall) of the Sens has put up consistent numbers in each of the last three seasons. While at first glance that sounds nice, it also raises some concerns about his development potentially stagnating, at least at the offensive end. Shore, the younger brother of Los Angeles forward Nick Shore, likely doesn’t have the offensive skills to stick as a top six forward at the professional level but will need to work on his defensive game if he wants to make the jump to the NHL.
5) D Brian Cooper (Anaheim) – Cooper, a fifth rounder in 2012 (127th overall), didn’t have the greatest of senior seasons with Nebraska-Omaha but the Ducks saw enough in him to sign him to a tryout deal to finish last year at the AHL level. He got into five regular season games as well as eight of nine postseason contests and held his own on a third pairing role but it wasn’t enough to warrant a contract with Anaheim though. Cooper profiles as an undersized two-way bottom pairing defenseman but may have to take a minor league deal first and hope for a strong first full pro season to help him earn an NHL deal next summer.