Eastern Conference Free Agents Who Are Trending Up

It is time to start getting into the more intricate aspects of free agency. Gauging who is trending up or down can be an informative tool. This can be helpful when looking at those who are performing in their “free agency seasons”.

This spans forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders as well. Typically, we will start our focus on unrestricted free agents. Down the road, restricted free agents may come along for the ride.

Anyway, let’s begin

Claude Giroux (C, RW) – Philadelphia Flyers

There is little doubt that Claude Giroux boosted his value tremendously ahead of the trade deadline. He won the MVP during the All-Star Game for the Metropolitan Division. Giroux also is enjoying his best year from the face-off dot – winning 60.9% of his face-offs.

He has 36 points in 43 games on the season as the Philadelphia Flyers continue to struggle. Giroux has thrived as if he knows what may come by March 21st – the trade deadline. The forward has 11 power-play points in 43 games. It took him 54 contests to get there last year. Expect Giroux to keep trending up throughout February.

Ryan Strome (C) – New York Rangers

Again, someone is going to pay Ryan Strome. The question becomes who. For better or for worse, the Rangers’ forward produces at a nice rate. He enjoys excellent chemistry whether it is with Chris Kreider or Artemi Panarin. Strome has nine goals and 34 points in 43 games.

While his special team numbers have dipped (just nine power-play points so far), Strome is still on about a 60-point pace over an 82-game season. That is still somewhat hard to come by from a player in his late 20’s. With the Rangers well on their way to a playoff berth, Strome should get more chances to up his free-agent value.

Bryan Rust (RW) – Pittsburgh Penguins

The forward keeps rolling for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Bryan Rust has 34 points in 25 games. His season has been cut short a bit due to COVID and injury. However, as Rust approaches 30, his production keeps trending upward. He was at a point-per-game two years ago. Now, healthy, that has only improved this season.

Rust has five goals and two assists in his last five games. That spans back about two weeks because of the All-Star Break. Like other Pittsburgh free agents, it is a bit surprising that there have not been more extension talks. Either way, Rust is going to see a solid raise over his $3.5 million AAV.

Kris LetangPittsburgh Penguins

One of the biggest reasons for the resurgence of the Pittsburgh Penguins is the 34-year old Kris Letang. The defenseman has finished in the top ten in the Norris Trophy voting seven times in his career. This year could make eight. Letang has 41 points in 43 games with an impressive 36 assists for defensemen.

Letang looks the healthiest he has been in several years. His peripheral numbers are up. Hits and blocked shots are ahead of last year already. Also, the blueliner has 15 power-play assists in 43 games. Even with Letang heading toward his 35+ seasons, the defenseman expects to see another pay raise come free agency or before perhaps.

Justin BraunPhiladelphia Flyers

It is amazing that Justin Braun is anywhere near on a list like this. This is partially because the bar for Eastern Conference free-agent defenseman is that low. Braun has played pretty steady on a team that bleeds shots and scoring chances per 60 allowed. His AAV is also attractive at just $1.8 million.

Year three has seen Braun look probably his best in Philadelphia. What that will mean come free agency is anyone’s guess. However, he has been stable in a defense full of instability. His minutes have been managed well (right around 20 a night). He turned 35 today so his next contract is probably a one or two-year deal for slightly more than what he makes now.

Jack CampbellToronto Maple Leafs

Now, Jack Campbell could be staple gunned into this position. He has 21 wins in 32 starts for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Furthermore, Campbell has posted a 2.30 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. This is on a more offensive-heavy team. He has stopped 14.3 goals above average this year and posted a quality start 67.7% of the time.

Overall, Campbell is going to get paid. How much is still the question? His cap hit is just a mere $1.65 million but he is 30 years old. What is clear is that Campbell has earned the big payday. He has elevated Toronto’s play and allowed them to play even more on the offensive end.

Next up, will be the Eastern Conference free-agents that are trending down. Thanks for reading.