It wasn’t all that long ago that Riley Sheahan was considered to be part of the next wave of young forwards in Detroit. However, since the Red Wings salary cap concerns forced them to trade the center two seasons ago, his value around the league has dipped considerably. Nonetheless, he could still be an intriguing option for teams looking for depth down the middle this summer.
The 27-year-old was only briefly a UFA last summer as although Pittsburgh opted to non-tender him to avoid the risk of salary arbitration but quickly re-signed him to a one-year, $2.1MM deal. Unfortunately for Sheahan and the Penguins, he didn’t exactly live up to it.
After a rough start that saw him record just nine points in 49 games, the Pens dealt him to Florida as part of a four-player swap designed to shake up their roster. The change of scenery did Sheahan some good as his ice time jumped by two minutes per game and his offense also ticked up as he picked up 10 points in 33 games down the stretch. That’s still not a great return on that contract but it was at least a small step in the right direction.
However, it hasn’t been enough to get him a contract so far this summer. While he’s slightly above average at the faceoff dot, Sheahan isn’t the best penalty killer around which limits his effectiveness in a bottom-six role. That likely has played a big factor in his limited market through the first five weeks of free agency.
There are two types of teams that should have some interest in Sheahan. Teams that need more depth down the middle could view him as an affordable option. Also, rebuilding teams that believe their prospects need more development time in the minors could look at him as a capable stopgap option with an eye on trying to move him to a team looking for depth at the trade deadline.
In terms of teams looking for depth down the middle, the Oilers could have a spot for him depending on what the plans are for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl. If one of them plays on Connor McDavid’s wing, they’d be looking at depth pieces to fill the last two spots. Sheahan would provide them with an offensive complement to the more defensive-minded players that currently project to fill those roles. Winnipeg could have an opening if they opt to keep Jack Roslovic on the wing and they will need to add some players on the cheap to round out their roster once they re-sign their restricted free agents.
As for the second group, the Kings have largely been quiet this summer. Adding Sheahan would allow them to give someone like Blake Lizotte some extra development time while he should be able to beat out Mario Kempe for a spot. Minnesota likes what they have in Nico Sturm but he could certainly benefit from some time in the minors to start which would open up at least a short-term role for Sheahan.
At this point, it’s hard to imagine Sheahan getting more than half of his previous deal and a one-year, $1MM pact wouldn’t be too surprising. Considering he’s still fairly young, there’s some potential for a deal like this to be a bit of a bargain as well. If he can’t get that, he’s a safe bet to land somewhere on a training camp PTO but that would be quite the fall from grace for someone that looked to be part of Detroit’s young core just a few years ago.
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