Wrapping Up the 2021 UFA Winger Market: 10 Players Worth Exploring

There's no shortage of options for NHL GMs who are looking for help along the wings this off-season. Here are 10 players who could help with that quest in the summer of 2021.
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Over the past few days, I’ve written blogs examining just a few of the numerous winger options available to NHL GMs on the 2021 UFA market, breaking the 13 players highlighted into one of two categories. The first blog detailed 2021 first-time UFAs, the second, players who previously played for the Ottawa Senators. 

This list sweeps up the rest of the top 2021 UFA wingers – plus two guys who fit one of the other two blogs’ criteria. Montreal’s Joel Armia just missed mention as a top first-time UFA, and Detroit’s Bobby Ryan, who spent seven years in Ottawa, was just an inadvertent omission. So they’ll both appear here. 

Note: This list’s members are sorted 2020-21-point total and not necessarily their efficacy as 2021 UFA options. 

Taylor Hall – Boston Bruins

The first overall pick in the 2010 draft, Taylor Hall is the top free-agent winger likely to be available. Hall placed himself among the NHL’s elite in 2017-18 when he earned Hart Trophy honors but has since struggled to maintain that form; he missed 49 games with lower-body injuries the proceeding season and hasn't replicated his MVP offensive output since.

Despite a torrid first half in 2020-21, Hall ended auspiciously after going from Buffalo to Boston at the trade deadline. He had eight goals and 14 points in 16 regular-season games for the B’s, and then three goals and five points in 11 playoff games.

The 29-year-old left winger has made more than $50 million in his 11-year career but has played in only 25 post-season contests, so he may want to stay somewhere he can win, even if it costs him financially.

For a deep-dive on the 6-foot-1, 206-pound left winger, check out our Free Agency Preview edition, where Matt Kalman evaluated Hall’s off-season prospects.

Mattias Janmark – Vegas Golden Knights

Originally drafted 79th overall by Detroit in 2013, Janmark found himself on the move before ever stepping foot in the NHL, as then-Wings GM Ken Holland sent him to Dallas at the 2015 trade deadline in a package for Erik Cole.

Janmark then spent the first four seasons of his NHL career with the Stars.

Like Hall, he became a first-time UFA last off-season, signed a one-year deal with a non-contender and found himself on the move by the trade deadline. In Janmark’s case, he agreed to a one-year, $2.25-million pact with Chicago before Vegas acquired him for its playoff push. That was familiar territory for the 28-year-old Swede, who got to within two wins of the Stanley Cup with the Stars in the 2020 bubble tournament.

Janmark missed the entire 2016-17 season with a knee injury but has been otherwise healthy in his five-season NHL career. He plays at a 13-goal, 31-point pace for his career and has produced solid possession numbers aside from a 41-game blip with the Blackhawks this season. Janmark has signed three consecutive one-year contracts in the $2.3-million range. That's probably the benchmark this summer.

Corey Perry – Montreal Canadiens

Another member of the 2019-20 Western Conference champions, Corey Perry also signed a one-year deal ahead of the 2020-21 season.

The 36-year-old agitator from Peterborough, Ont., isn’t quite the player he was when he won league MVP honors (and the Rocket Richard) in 2011 but he still has gas in the tank.

Perry managed 21 points in each of the past two seasons, averaging just under 14 minutes a night with Dallas and Montreal. He also went to the past two Cup finals, scoring a total of nine goals and 19 points in 49 playoff games. Not bad for a guy who looked like he was on the precipice of being out of the league after Anaheim bought him out in 2019.

Perry earned a base salary of $1.5 million in 2020-21 and hit $1.1 million of a potential $1.75 million in bonuses. He may have to continue with the incentive-laden deals, but Perry won’t have trouble finding a home.

Perry’s journey is explored in-depth by Ken Campbell in Free Agency Preview.

Mathieu Perreault – Winnipeg Jets

The offense went dry for Mathieu Perreault during the four-year, $16.5-million deal he just played out with Winnipeg. But getting away from the expectations that accompanied the contract should be good for the 33-year-old left winger.

Perreault – originally a Washington Capital and then a one-year member of the Anaheim Ducks – came to the Jets as a UFA in the summer of 2014, when he signed a three-year, $9-million pact to join the squad. Despite missing 31 games with various ailments over his first two seasons with the Jets, Perreault had a great start in Winnipeg, with 27 goals and 82 points in his first 133 games.

So in the summer of 2016 – a full season before his original deal ended – Winnipeg re-upped with Perreault for four more seasons at $4.125 million per year.

He had a career-high 45 points in 65 games in 2015-16 but has gradually seen his offensive output fall away since. And the injury woes have continued to be a pernicious influence, as he’s missed double-digit games two of the past four seasons. Perreault did skate in all 82 games in 2018-19 and all 56 games this season.

Perreault has also seen his ice time reduced significantly over the past couple of seasons but has still produced generally positive results in limited opportunities. His 2019-20 season was a possession-game nightmare – something in no way unique to Perreault on the Jets that year – but apart from that one bogey season, his chance-creation numbers have been great in The Peg.

Perreault isn't more than a down-the-lineup player, but he can contribute offensively in a pinch (28-point pace the past three seasons), and he’s not a liability in the bottom six. That's all some teams can ask for.

Alex Chiasson – Edmonton Oilers

Case and point, the Edmonton Oilers. Alex Chiasson’s 5-on-5 game hasn’t cleared the “not a liability” bar during his tenure in the City of Champions, though the 30-year-old right winger has been a serviceable net-front power-play presence in three seasons in Edmonton. Thirty-five of Chiasson’s 78 points in Oiler silks came on the power play.

The 6-foot-4, 208-pounder’s power-play efficacy may now be redundant with the emergence of the similarly sized, right-shooting Jesse Puljujarvi. Chiasson made $2.15 million each of the past two seasons in Edmonton. It’s hard to imagine he doesn’t take a haircut wherever he goes this summer.

Sam Gagner – Detroit Red Wings

Gagner has transitioned to a role on the wing after entering the NHL as a center way back in 2007-08 during his first stint with Edmonton. He’s bounced around a lot since that first Oilers stint ended; he’s called Arizona, Philadelphia, Columbus, Vancouver, Edmonton (again) and Detroit home since then. He turns 32 in August and scored 15 points in 42 games this season.

Bobby Ryan – Detroit Red Wings

Bought out by Ottawa in September 2020, Ryan bounced back decently despite missing 23 games in 2020-21. He played to a 35-point pace on a punchless Detroit squad. The 2020 Masterton winner is 34, with a history of hand injuries, but a team could do worse at the $1-million figure he earned in 2020-21.

Joel Armia – Montreal Canadiens

Armia perfectly matched Ryan's seven goals and seven assists in 2020-21, though he took an extra eight games to do it. He’s a big body and produces solid possession numbers. Armia is no offensive dynamo but is a nice third-liner to have. He made $2.6 million each of the past two seasons.

Andrew Cogliano – Dallas Stars

Gagner’s one-time roommate in Edmonton, Cogliano is the owner of the NHL’s seventh-longest consecutive games streak in history (830 games). He’s missed a handful since a suspension ended that streak in 2018. Cogliano is 34 and coming off a three-year, $9.75-million contract. The Michigan product is still a capable bottom-sixer.

Nikita Gusev – Florida Panthers

Gusev arrived to much fanfare when he came over from Russia ahead of 2019-20. He scored 44 points in 66 games for the Devils that year but fell out of favor and agreed to a contract termination midway through 2020-21. He later signed with Florida but was a healthy scratch in the playoffs. Time to return to the KHL? If not, his skill is tantalizing. 

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