The 2021 NHL Free Agent class for this group of wingers features a few high-end players but most players of a complementary caliber.
The quality in this class is more of the short-term realm sprinkled with some good two-way wingers that might take the next step. There is some debate as to dollar amounts and terms. Anyway, let’s dive in!
NHL Unrestricted Free Agent Wingers
10. Alex Iafallo (Los Angeles Kings)
Iafallo benefits from playing on the top line in Los Angeles with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. However, Iafallo manages to not only hold his own but has improved greatly offensively. The result has been three goals and four assists in 11 games.
One has to ask if this start is a fluke. The winger is on a 50-plus point pace and the feeling is maybe the offensive burst is possible to be somewhat sustained. Plus, that may be able to happen in other locations than Los Angeles.
There was some debate as to include others as an honorable mention. With Iafallo at the age of 27 years, his dollar amount could go up a little at least AAV-wise. He belongs as one of the top wingers of attention.
9. Zach Hyman (Toronto Maple Leafs)
The only potential problem with Hyman’s value may be Joe Thornton. How long can Thornton hold on to the top spot on the top line? While Jumbo Joe was out, Hyman showed he can hold his own whether on the power play or at even strength. Toronto’s winger scored four goals and ten points in 16 games as of press time.
What can he do on a second line remains to be seen? However, his ability to create space is very valuable. The likelihood is that Hyman sees a substantial raise from his $2.25 million AAV.
8. Scott Laughton (Philadelphia Flyers)
Again, Laughton remains an intriguing dilemma for the Philadelphia Flyers. The question boils down to what do you pay the talented forward with Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux in the mix. Plus, there are several other contracts to consider. Is Laughton a top-six forward or one of those middle-six wingers with plug-in ability?
Laughton makes just $2.3 million on the final year of his contract. Now, what could he garner on the open market? The winger does have four goals and nine points in 13 games. Granted, it is early in the season but could this be a breakout season? That looms as a possibility.
Does Chuck Fletcher try to extend Laughton before free agency? That has to be considered heavily. If Laughton keeps playing like he is now, the price will only keep going up.
7. Mike Hoffman (Florida Panthers)
Gulp! The St. Louis Blues’ forward has found the magic elixir of wingers once more and now has five goals and ten points in 15 games. Here is the funny part. For those clamoring that Hoffman is a power-play specialist, he has just two assists on the man advantage. That’s right. All five goals have been at even strength. Now, that is pretty crazy.
Here is what may be crazier. At even strength, Hoffman maintains a positive differential when it comes to possession relative to teammates. The myth at even strength is that Hoffman turns into a pumpkin. That is not true. Is he sheltered? Absolutely. St. Louis deploys him nearly 69% of the time in the offensive zone (a career-high in full seasons).
The winger plays like an offensive specialist more than a power-play specialist. This makes him an intriguing forward for this summer. Does he get that longer-termed deal? If he keeps this up, Hoffman might.
6. Jaden Schwartz (St. Louis Blues)
Now, Schwartz pushes some free-agency buttons. He enjoyed a couple of deep playoff runs including winning a Stanley Cup. In those 2019 playoffs, Schwartz scored a league-leading ten even-strength goals. That carries an impact on his next contract. He has been excellent in all phases this season and only a minor injury has slowed him down.
Overall, he has nine points in 14 games in 2021. Yes, that $5.35 million price tag will go up but by how much? With the flat cap, St. Louis has some issues and even this year, they do. The impending return of Vladimir Tarasenko may cause a little lineup shuffling. Also, it may drive up Schwartz’s price if Tarasenko is healthy and producing.
The next couple of months will definitely shed light more on this developing situation among the St. Louis wingers.