Free Agent College Signings in the Post-Lockout NHL (updated)

I looked at the success of college free agents awhile ago and enough time has passed to re-visit the issue.  The original article was spurred on by the Ottawa Senators buying out Bobby Butler–it posed the question: how much merit does the free agent frenzy for undrafted college players have?  There’s a large number of players signed from the NCAA, but no comprehensive list of them exists, so I’ve limited myself to those players who have played at least one game in NHL.  I’ve also excluded players like Cory Conacher who signed AHL deals coming out of college and subsequently earned a deal with an NHL team–their step forward was forged in the minors, not college.  My list begins the season after the lockout ended (2006-07) when it became clear how the style of play in the league had changed and what the impact the cap would have on rosters (for the 2010-12 seasons I have included Red Line Report‘s estimation of the caliber of these players).  Key: D is for defenseman, G is for goalie; the numbers in brackets are their final college season’s stats before signing; players are listed in order of NHL games played.

2006 (7)
Andy Greene (D, 39-9-22-31, NJ) – 395 NHL games; going into the third season of a four-year deal
Ryan Carter (39-19-16-35, Ana) – 298 NHL games; in the final year of a one-way deal with the Devils
Rod Pelley (39-7-7-14, NJ) – 256 NHL games; spent last season in the AHL where he remains this year
Tim Wallace (36-11-12-23, Pit) – 101 NHL games; re-signed to a two-way deal with Carolina
Bill Thomas
(41-27-23-50, Phx) – 87 NHL games; spent last season in the AHL, now signed to a KHL deal
Junior Lessard (45-32-31-63, Dal) – 27 NHL games; a UFA after spending last year in the LNAH
Jamie Hunt (D, 33-12-33-45, Wsh) – 1 NHL game; retired

2007 (14)
Darroll Powe (34-13-15-28, Phi) – 328 NHL games; final year of a three-year deal (now with the Rangers)
Teddy Purcell (40-16-27-43, TB) – 320 NHL games; is signed through the next three years with Tampa
Ryan Shannon (38-14-31-45, Ana) – 305 NHL games; beginning his second season in Switzerland
Mark Letestu (37-24-22-46, Pit) – 182 NHL games; two more years (one-way) with Columbus
Chris Conner
(38-17-12-29, Dal) – 159 NHL games; has a two-way deal with Pittsburgh
Kevin Westgarth (33-8-16-24, LA) – 121 NHL games; in the final year of a one-way deal (now with Carolina)
Derek Smith (D, 43-10-20-30, Ott) – 80 NHL games; final year of a one-way deal with Calgary
Trevor Smith (38-21-22-43, NYI) – 24 NHL games; Capgeek has him on a one-way deal with Toronto (this could be in error)
Sean Collins (D, 37-9-19-28, Wsh) – 21 NHL games; a UFA after playing in the AHL last season
Gabe Gauthier (38-15-24-39, LA) – 8 NHL games; a UFA after spending last season in the CHL
Kyle Greentree (39-21-21-42, Phi) – 4 NHL games; signed with the Swiss tier-2 league after playing in Austria last season
John Curry (G, 2.01, .928, Pit) – 4 NHL games; a UFA who spent last year in the ECHL
Sean Bentivoglio (37-16-30-46, NYI) – 1 NHL game; currently a UFA
Darcy Campbell (D, 39-4-20-24, Clb) – 1 NHL game; now playing tier-2 hockey in Germany

2008 (8)
Jack Hillen (D, 41-6-31-37, NYI) – 253 NHL games; signed a two year, one-way deal with Washington
Jesse Winchester
(40-8-29-37, Ott) – 233 NHL games; spent last year in Finland, signed a two-way deal with Florida
Davis Drewiske (D, 40-5-16-21, LA) – 135 NHL games; signed a two year, one-way deal with Montreal
Mike Moore (D, 34-7-17-24, SJ) – 6 NHL games; signed a two-way deal with Boston
Peter Mannino (G, 2.26, .917, NYI) – 6 NHL games; signed an AHL deal with Wilkes-Barre
Matt Climie (G, 2.15, .913, Dal) – 5 NHL games; signed an AHL deal with Chicago
Brock Trotter (24-13-18-31, Mtl) – 2 NHL games; retired
Jeff Penner (35-5-7-12, Bos) – 2 NHL games; retired

2009 (9)
Tyler Bozak (19-8-15-23, Tor) – 238 NHL games; signed a five year deal with Toronto
Matt Gilroy
(D, 45-8-29-37, NYR) – 209 NHL games; signed a two-way deal with Florida
Dan Sexton (38-17-22-39, Ana) – 88 NHL games; spent last year in the AHL and will play in Finland in the upcoming season
Matt Taormina (35-5-15-20, NJ) – 49 NHL games; on a one year, two-way deal with Tampa
Christian Hanson (37-16-15-31, Tor) – 42 NHL games; signed a two-way deal with St. Louis
MacGregor Sharp (43-26-24-50, Ana) – 8 NHL games; playing in Austria after two seasons in Italy
Evan Oberg (D, 43-7-20-27, Van) – 7 NHL games; signed an AHL deal with Chicago
Brad Thiessen (G, 2.11, .931, Pit) – 5 NHL games; played in the AHL last season, signed in Finland for the upcoming season
Corey Elkins (42-18-23-41, LA) – 3 NHL games; split his time between three leagues last year, signed in Finland for this season

2010 (13)
Bobby Butler (39-29-24-53, Ott) – 128 NHL games; RLR listed him as the 9th best college free agent; signed a two-way deal with Florida
Chris Tanev (D, 41-10-18-28, Van) – 92 NHL games; unlisted by RLR; signed a one year, one-way deal with Vancouver
Tommy Wingels (44-17-25-42, SJ) – 80 NHL games, RLR listed him 16th; in the second year of a one-way contract with the Sharks
Nate Prosser (D, 39-4-24-28, Min) – 73 NHL games; unlisted by RLR; in the final year of a one-way contract with the Wild
Aaron Volpatti (37-15-17-32, Van) – 71 NHL games; unlisted by RLR; signed a two year, one-way deal with Washington
Erik Gustafsson (D, 39-3-29-32, Phi) – 60 NHL games, RLR listed him 7th; signed a one year, one-way deal with Philadelphia
Casey Wellman (36-23-22-45, Min) – 41 NHL games; RLR listed him 11th; signed a two year, two-way deal with Washington
Ben Scrivens (G, 1.87, 0.934, Tor) – 32 NHL games; RLR listed him 29th; in the second year of a deal that is one-way this season (now with LA)
Ben Holmstrom (39-9-14-23, Phi) – 7 NHL games; unlisted by RLR; signed a one year, two-way deal with Philadelphia
Jarod Palmer (44-18-27-45, Min) – 6 NHL games; RLR listed him 1st; retired
Brayden Irwin (39-15-19-34, Tor) – 2 NHL games; RLR listed him 13th; a UFA after splitting last season between the AHL/ECHL
Eric Selleck (28-21-33-54, Flo) – 2 NHL games; unlisted by RLR; signed a new one year, two-way deal with Florida
Carter Hutton (G, 2.04, .928, Phi) – 1 NHL game; unlisted by RLR; signed a one year, two-way deal with Nashville

2011 (9)
Matt Read (37-22-13-35, Phi) – 121 NHL games; RLR ranked him 13th; in the final year of a three year, one-way deal with Philadelphia
Harry Zolnierczyk (30-16-15-31, Phi) – 44 NHL games; RLR ranked him 2nd; signed a one year, two-way deal with Pittsburgh
Stephane Da Costa (33-14-31-45, Ott) – 35 NHL games; RLR ranked him 1st; signed a one year, two-way deal with Ottawa
Andy Miele
(39-24-47-71, Phx) – 8 NHL games; RLR ranked him 8th; signed a one year, two-way deal with Phoenix
Torey Krug (D, 38-12-22-34, Bos) – 3 NHL games; unlisted by RLR; in the final year of his ELC with Boston
Carter Camper (39-19-38-57, Bos) – 3 NHL games; RLR ranked him 10th; signed a one year, two-way deal with Boston
Mike Connolly (42-28-26-54, Col) – 2 NHL games; RLR ranked him 4th; signed in Germany after spending last season  in the AHL
Chay Genoway (D, 36-6-31-37, Min) – 1 NHL game; RLR ranked him 9th; in the second year of a two-way deal with Washington
Keith Kinkaid (G, 2.58, .916, NJ) – 1 NHL game; RLR ranked him 3rd; signed a one year, two-way contract with the Devils

2012 (6)
Brian Flynn (40-18-30-48, Buf) – 26 NHL games; RLR ranked him 6th; in the second year of a deal that is one-way this season
Chad Ruhwedel (D, 41-7-16-23, Buf) – 7 NHL games; not ranked by RLR; entering the second year of his ELC
Jeremy Welsh (40-27-17-44, Car) – 6 NHL games; RLR ranked him 3rd; in the second year of a deal that is one-way this season
J. T. Brown (29-24-23-47, TB) – 5 NHL games; RLR ranked him 5th; signed a one year, two-way deal with Tampa
Matt Tennyson (D, 41-11-13-24, SJ) – 4 NHL games; not ranked by RLR; entering the second year of his ELC
Cameron Schilling (D, 39-1-13-14, Wsh) – 1 NHL game; not ranked by RLR; entering the second year of his ELC

Over this period sixty-five collegiate free agents have suited up for at least one NHL game.  This dwarfs the number of free agents in other undrafted categories (Europe, CHL, CIS).  Two-thirds of teams in the league have had at least one such a player appear over the timeframe (with the exceptions of Atlanta/Winnipeg, Calgary, Chicago, Detroit, Edmonton, Nashville, and St. Louis).  Philadelphia has signed the most players with seven, while Ottawa is among seven teams with four.

What value have these players had?  We can’t judge the players from the last two seasons (15 of the 66), but of the remaining players 34 (of 51) have played fewer than 100 games and the vast majority are depth/complimentary additions to their organisations (it’s worth noting another 6 players should reach 100 games when this season is over).  These are useful players, but very few are diamonds in the rough (the best players gleaned from the sample are Andy Greene, Teddy Purcell, and Tyler Bozak).  This isn’t to diminish the contribution of other regulars or the risk/reward associated with signing such players (they don’t cost a draft pick, merely hitting a team’s contract limit), but it calls into question the expectations fans (and the media) have when NCAA free agents are signed.  In general, when they pan out these players are all solid citizens who can fill out roles in their lineups.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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3 Comments

  1. […] Free Agent College Signings in the Post-Lockout NHL (updated) […]

  2. […] Free Agent College Signings in the Post-Lockout NHL (updated) […]

  3. […] into the NHL.  There remains a wide variety of roads fr those not selected in the draft, from college, Europe, the CHL, the CIS, AHL, and ECHL.  Given the way I defined the various categories there […]


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