The July 2020 class of unsigned scoring wingers will not be the same bumper crop of sidecars looking for a contract which captured imaginations and fueled NHL trade rumors last July. Beyond Taylor Hall, there isn’t a superstar on the list nor is there is a large gathering of 20-goal scorers. Some high-priced veteran grinders will be on the market, such as Wayne Simmonds, which does not bode well for teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins who don’t need more heaviness in the lineup.
PHN compiled the Top-7 watch list of the wingers whose contracts are expiring and who fit the criteria of a scoring winger. It was to be a Top-10 list, but we quickly realized there aren’t 10 scoring wingers who will be on the rental market. We’ve excluded Hall because New Jersey already dealt him to Arizona for a pack of draft picks and prospects. Edmonton winger Zach Kassian, 27, who has 22 points (11g, 11a) is also excluded because the consensus is he will re-sign in Edmonton.
There are some other names on the free-agent-to-be list who are playing for playoff teams and earn a small salary, such as Josh Leivo in Vancouver and Mattias Janmark in Dallas. They too are not on the Watch List.
The left side of the market has a few big names for Penguins GM Jim Rutherford to peruse which may excite fans. The bulk of the talent is on the left side, but there are a couple of intriguing right-wingers, too.
Chris Kreider: LW, New York Rangers. $4.625 million, Modified No-Movement Clause
The 28-year-old New York winger is familiar to Penguins fans as one of the scoring wingers of the Metro Division and a player who has inflicted some damage upon the Penguins in his career. The Boxford, Mass native is in the final year of a four-year, $18.5 million contract and New York is rebuilding.
Kreider is a speedy, but streaky scorer who can also play a power forward role. This season, his stats are down. Kreider has only 11 goals and 13 assists in 38 games.
Mike Hoffman: LW, Florida Panthers. $5.187 million. Modified No-Trade Clause
The Florida winger is a scorer. Hoffman has a good shot and goes to the net. And, he can also skate like the wind.
Hoffman, 30, has 12 goals and 12 assists in 34 games. His minus-5 rating does highlight his lackluster defensive game, but he’s a pure-bread scorer, who will be the next big name on the market if Florida chooses to make him available. Florida currently trails the Penguins by five points for the final Eastern Conference Wild-Card spot.
Vladislav Namestnikov: RW/LW, Ottawa Senators. $4 million ($3.25 million cap hit, NYR paying 18.75% of salary)
Namestnikov is a playmaker who also knows how to play behind his own blue line. The Russian born winger is one of those players who elevates his line more than he pads his stats. The New York Rangers traded Namestnikov to Ottawa just two games into this season. In 33 games with Ottawa, Namestnikov has 18 points, including 10 goals.
Conor Sheary: LW/RW Buffalo Sabres. $3 million
The Penguins traded Sheary to Buffalo before last season. He was the sweetener for Buffalo GM Jason Botterill to accept defenseman Matt Hunwick, too. Sheary exploded onto the NHL scene with 53 points in 61 games while playing beside Sidney Crosby in 2015-16. However, Sheary’s stats have not reached those heights again. The diminutive winger (5-foot-8, 175-pounds) is sometimes too easily knocked off the puck.
However, he could be a depth scoring option for the Penguins if they deal Alex Galchenyuk. Lately, Sheary has been a healthy scratch in Buffalo. He has five goals and four assists in 27 games.
Jimmy Vesey: LW/RW Buffalo Sabres. $2.275 million
Vesey, 26, was the hot college free agent when he signed with the New York Rangers out of Harvard in 2016. He is a power forward with some scoring upside and a nose for the dirty areas, but his numbers are pedestrian. This season Vesey has 11 points (7g, 4a) in 35 games.
He tied a career-high with 17 goals last season with New York.
Evgeni Dadonov: RW, Florida Panthers. $4 million. Modified No-Trade-Clause, No-Movement Clause
Dadonov, 30, is currently the third line RW in Florida playing beside Brian Boyle and Frank Vatrano. Dadonov is a playmaker with a good shot. He’s not physical and isn’t strong, so there would be some similarity to Galchenyuk, but Dadonov is producing.
The Russian winger has 26 points (13g, 13a) in 36 games.
Tyler Toffoli: RW, LA Kings. $4.6 million
Toffoli, 27, has been in the NHL trade rumors all season. The streaky scorer has nine goals and 21 points in 38 games. Toffoli does have a Stanley Cup ring from 2014. The winger skates well and has a decent wrister. He is also prone to ice-cold offensive spells and isn’t the best puck retriever.
His career highs were in 2015-16 when he scored 31 goals and 58 points. He has scored 20 goals only once in the last three seasons.