Dominic Tiano returns for a pre-2021 look at undrafted free agents and the NHL teams who have made hay outside of the traditional entry draft process, and those who, well, haven’t. – KL
Every season as the National Hockey League’s trade deadline approaches, teams sacrifice future draft picks and prospects in the hopes they can make a run at the Holy Grail.
But how do those NHL squads replenish a prospect pool when they’ve dealt away those prospects and picks? Well, one way is to sign undrafted free agents and hope that you can find capable NHL players in that pool.
Several NHL teams have gone on to find great success, others have failed and there’s a few that shy away from the undrafted free agent market.
Today, we take a look at NHL teams that have signed undrafted free agents from 2010 through 2020. We define a player having success as those that went on to play in a minimum of 100 NHL games. We’ll also hand out four awards named after the 4 Amigos here at The Scouting Post just for some humor on a cold winter day.
Kirk Luedeke Award: Awarded to the team deemed most successful. The nominees are: Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa Bay Lightning
And the winner is: Chicago
Although Tampa has been more successful in signing players to go on to reach 100 games with 45.5% reaching the mark compared to Chicago at 40.9%, we give the nod to the Hawks because they’ve signed twice as many players and have won 3 Stanley Cups in that period.
Anthony Kwetkowski Award: Awarded to the team that tries the hardest. The nominees are: San Jose Sharks, and really no one else.
No team comes close to signing undrafted free agents like the Sharks with their 32 players. The Hawks come in second with 22. Problem for the Sharks is that Chicago has found more success while signing 10 fewer players.
Reed Duthie Award: Awarded to the runner up. The nominees are: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets.
And the winner is: Boston
Winnipeg is on the list because of their success rate at 33.3%, but like Tampa, don’t use the free agent market all that often. Buffalo (36.4%) finished with a higher percentage then Boston (35.5%) but here’s why we chose the Bruins: In 2017 they signed Kyle Keyser as an undrafted free agent. Keyser went on to play another season in the OHL and even if he played in every game in 2019-20, he couldn’t possibly play 100 games. If we had left Keyser off the list, the Bruins percentage would be 38.5%
Dominic Tiano Award: Awarded to the team that falls asleep at the wheel. The nominees are: Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders, St Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets.
And the winner is: St Louis
The Blues have won a Stanley Cup in this period. But they have only signed 4 undrafted free agents in that time and none of them have reached the benchmark.
In a cap world, when teams are forced to move on from players because of the cap, or are trading picks and prospects to make a playoff run, you need to find these types of players under an entry level contract to help you fill out your roster while also remaining competitive.
Below you will see a chart showing each team and the number of signings they’ve made by year along with how many went on to play in 100 or more NHL games. You’ll also see the total signed and the total that meet the benchmark as well as the team’s success rate in percentage. Note that I have included 2019 and 2020, but they are not included in the totals as it was impossible for them to have played in 100 games. They are a reference for you to use in the future.
While we take great care in accumulating the numbers, this is not an official source. Your best source for contract information is CapFriendly.