If New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello goes spelunking in the free-agent market, who are some targets that could bring good value to the team?
Dipping into the bargain bin of the free-agent market is not the ideal strategy to build up the New York Islanders roster in 2020-21. But for two years now, we’ve seen GM Lou Lamoriello pull free agents in on low-end deals in the hopes of extracting some previously unseen value.
In 2018-19 he picked up Robin Lehner, Valtteri Filppula, Jan Kovar, and Tom Kuhnhackl. In 2019-20 it was Derick Brassard. All had very different impacts on the Islanders. What is clear is that Lou likes to find hidden value in the free agency market.
Ideally, Lamoriello will target UFAs like Taylor Hall, Mike Hoffman, or Evgenii Dadonov. But that seems unlikely with the little amount of cap space they’ll have leftover once they sign their big RFAs.
If Lou has any money left over it’s not going to be enough to bring in a big fish. So if he dips his toes in the free agency market, he’s going to follow the same playbook from the last two years. Looking at the 2020 unrestricted free agency market, who could Lou Lamoriello target?
2020 UFA Targets
Jimmy Vesey | Buffalo Sabres
The Hobey Baker winner from 2016 hasn’t exactly been lighting up the league since going pro. After a much-publicized courting process after college, Jimmy Vesey chose the New York Rangers. In three years of pro-hockey, Vesey hasn’t exceeded 35 points in a single season.
Vesey is a good skater with some offensive upside. But it’s hard to see Vesey getting an upgrade on his $2.275 million cap hit today based on how he’s played since going pro.
On an Islanders third line where he’d playing 50-50 between offense and defense could bring out the best of him for cheap
Alex Galchenyuk | Minnesota Wild
How things have fallen since Alex Galchenyuk was drafted third overall in the 2012 NHL draft. There’s a good player buried there. He’s hit 20+ goals twice and 30 goals once already in his eight-year NHL career.
He’s not the best defensive player, but with the right set of hands guiding the way like Barry Trotz, he could be passable in his own end.
There’s no way he gets anywhere near the $4.9 million cap hit he carries now. Galchenyuk seems like a low-risk high reward type of player for Lou in 2020-21.
Tyler Ennis | Edmonton Oilers
Picked up for a fifth-round pick in 2021 at the most recent trade deadline by the Oilers, Tyler Ennis put up four points in nine games in his new surroundings. Add that to the 33 points in 61 games with the Senators and Ennis was on pace for 40+ points. Something he hasn’t done since 2014-15
Ennis is small at 5’9″, but he’s tenacious and has a good shot. He’s put up 20 goals in three separate seasons and had 16 in 2019-20 playing and average 14:43 minutes.
He’s currently on an $800,000 cap hit, so you know he’s not going to cost a lot in the free agency market.
Jesper Fast | New York Rangers
Current New York Rangers forward Jesper Fast is perhaps the best name on this list in my books. Fast is a great bottom-six player who’s great in his own end. He’s been given more PK responsibilities this year logging 163:04 minutes on the Rangers PK.
With a $1.85 million cap hit today, I’d be surprised if anything more than $2 million per year pulls Fast across the east river to Long Island.