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Top Non-Qualified RFAs the Devils Could Sign

Many RFAs were not given QOs this year and some of them may be able to help the Devils. I give a couple names worth investigating and analyze their potential.

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

In the NHL, Players who are young and/or inexperienced do not go straight into unrestricted free agency. Instead, they become restricted free agents. In this status, their team has a greater ability to sign them. The team can make (or not make) a “qualifying offer” — the guidelines for which are enumerated in the link above. Players can file for arbitration if they wish for a better deal, and there are also “offer sheets” which is when another team makes a claim that needs to be matched, but if a player is not given a QO, they are now eligible to be signed as a UFA for any other team.

Every year, there are RFAs that go unqualified, but this year there are quite a few intriguing names available. You can see the full list of qualified and non-qualified players here. John highlighted the Devils news on this front (Lucia and Appleby not QO’d) as well as a couple big names from other teams as soon as it broke. Here I’ll give a little more analysis of some potential targets that may not have been on your list originally as they were not UFAs until now.

For each player, I will show their 2-year Game Score per 60 in all situations with Corsica’s adjustments. Game score is explained here and Corsica’s adjustments apply to score, venue, zone, and strength-state. I will also show what Devil is closest to that number for reference as well as the projected contract from Matt Cane’s model.

Anthony Duclair (LW, Chicago)

Game Score/60: 2.07
Closest Devil: Patrick Maroon (2.12)
Predicted Contract: 2-years/$2.36M (1.18M AAV)

Duclair had a 20-goal rookie season buoyed by a Sh% of around 19%. In the following two seasons, he’s registered just 38 points 114 games. With positive relative corsi and expected goal numbers, he’s impacting play very positively.

He’s been scoring at a 2nd-line rate, his a heavy positive positive inpact on goals and a moderate positive impact on shots. His on-ice defensive heat chart is problematic, but for a young guy who’s demonstrated the skill he has, that’s certainly a risk worth taking for the pricetag.

Derrick Pouliot (LD, Vancouver)

GS/60: 1.03
Closest Devil: Damon Severson (1.05)
Predicted Contract: 2-years/$2.36M (1.18M AAV)

Pouliot is a former 8th overall pick who never cut it in Pittsburgh, then put up a respectable 22-point, 17:51 ATOI, +3.7 CF%Rel year with the Canucks. He is younger, better, and cheaper than pending Devils UFA LD, John Moore.

Pouliot’s conventional analytics speak for themselves, but his microstats also indicate some skill margin between the players. Not a huge sample for Pouliot, but after 20 games, the passing difference is clear, as is entry efficiency and entry defense. Moore’s only edge is in shot volume, which, I’d argue, is not necessarily good news for a defender — shots from the point are not dangerous.

Pouliot ended up re-signing. Original non-qualification reported by TSN as was the subsequent signing.

Tobias Rieder (LW, Los Angeles)

GS/60: 1.14
Closest Devil: Pavel Zacha (1.22)
Predicted Contract: 2-years/$3.8M ($1.9M AAV)

Until last year — a year where his team, Arizona, was historically bad early then he was traded to the Kings — Rieder was very effective at what he did. Through the past two years, Rieder has logged over 1500 minutes, and only been given 6 penalties, but has drawn 24. And it’s not as though he provides nothing on offense — he’s scored at least 12 goals every year of his career. He’s also logged 280 penalty minutes in the past two years. He’s the perfect example of a player with “quiet” value. Very few Devils fans would advocate for NOT bringing back Stefan Noesen, but on Manny Perry’s WAR model, the sum total of Rieder’s game over the past two years is worth 0.13 goals per 60 minutes — Noesen’s is at 0.10.

You can see the anatomy of Rieder’s game adds up to a valuable player by virtue of him doing nothing poorly. Also, can we take a moment to admire whatever the hell happened in his U16 German league in 2008. No that wasn’t the record, but it was close.

Other Names

Some other guys that might be worth exploring that were also unqualified are.

Dylan DeMelo (RD, San Jose)

GS/60: 1.28
Closest Devil: Damon Severson (1.05)
Predicted Contract: 2-years/$2.36M (1.18M AAV)

Good NHL defender, scored even strength points at a higher rate than Vatanen last year, isn’t getting qualified because Sharks are likely swinging for the fences this offseason with UFAs.

Devante Smith-Pelly (RW, Washington)

GS/60: 0.72
Closest Devil: Jimmy Hayes (0.76)
Predicted Contract: 2-years/$1.76M ($883K AAV)

A recent former Devil, DSP is not a strong player in analytics, but with acquisitions such as Maroon and Boyle, Shero has shown a desire to have the big-bodied forward that can be a force around the net, which DSP showed he can be with a strong postseason (7 goals, 2 game-winners, 1 Stanley Cup).

Ended up signing a 1-year deal to return to Washington.

Frederik Claesson (LD, Ottawa)

GS/60: 0.84
Closest Devil: John Moore (0.84)
Predicted Contract: 1-year/$1.06M

Claesson played some time across Erik Karlsson and it’s difficult to extract much information from the dumpster fire that has been the Senators this past year. For that reason, getting a young LD on the cheap who had 11 points in 33 games and a +5.3 CF% Rel only a year ago may be worth a shot.

Other Names You May Know That Weren’t Qualified

Riley Sheahan (C, Pittsburgh), Nick Shore (C, Calgary), Petr Mrazek (G, Philadelphia), Robin Lehner (G, Buffalo), Joakim Nordstrom (C, Carolina), Nail Yakupov (RW, Colorado)

Your Thoughts

Who do you think might be worth approaching? What did you think of the Devils decisions on this front? Is DSP worth bringing back after his playoff success and familiarity with the team? Is it worth taking a shot on big talent guys that haven’t worked out like Yakupov or a guy that has a lot to offer like Rieder?

Leave your thoughts below, and thanks for reading!