Technically, the free agent market has only changed by one player, with college free agent and the summer’s most talked about player, Jimmy Vesey, signing with the New York Rangers on Friday. However, the demand for players on the market has now taken a big swing, with seven teams leaving the Vesey sweepstakes disappointed. That could finally mean new homes for many long-standing free agent forwards, as well as some more attention given to a few college free agents.
No available free agent is more of a surprise than former 30-goal scorer Jiri Hudler, and almost immediately after the Vesey signing, Hudler’s name began to garner a bit more attention than it had in the last couple of weeks. The Chicago Blackhawks in particular have been mentioned as a possible fit for Hudler, and the New Jersey Devils had previously looked into Hudler this off-season. Both teams missed out on Vesey, but still are in need of a top six scorer before the season starts. Chicago has also been mentioned in connection with Tomas Fleischmann, and New Jersey may need to take a harder look at the practicality of bringing back lifelong Devil Patrik Elias.
For teams that were looking at Vesey as just a depth player for 2016-17, veterans like Alex Tanguay, Brad Boyes, and David Legwand remain available, and all three have enough in the tank to contribute next season. However, missing out on a young player may not inspire teams to begin looking at alternatives on the wrong side of 30. This could pay off for another free agent surprise, Brandon Pirri, and potentially for the likes of Jiri Tlusty or Cody Hodgson as well.
Vesey’s brethren from the college ranks will be get a little more focus now that he’s off the market, along with Notre Dame forward Thomas DiPauli (Penguins) and Providence defenseman John Gilmour (Rangers). Quentin Shore, a two-way center with sticking ability as an NHL bottom six forward, leads the way. He’s proved to be very reliable during his time in Denver, and would be a nice depth addition for some team. Winger Hunter Fejes of Colorado College is also going to get his fair share of looks, as he has an uncanny ability to find the back of the net when cleaning up rebounds.
Luckily for teams like the Bruins and Maple Leafs, missing out on Jimmy Vesey isn’t the end of the world when you consider the young talent they already have in the system. As for teams like the Blackhawks and Islanders, they were playoff-bound with or without Vesey. However, all of these teams and even those not in the Vesey conversation have some holes in their depth, and the last couple weeks of August could see the NHL free agent market come back to life to fill a few needs across the league.