September is here and hockey is fast approaching. In the next two weeks, boot camps will start and roster adjustments will begin. Pre-season matches will be here at the end of the month and we’ll be taking a first look at what specific teams and players will look like. With that in mind, there are still some high-quality talent available in the free agency. The players on this list are the ones a lot of teams have to take serious notes about and grab their pilot. All of these guys bring a lot of experience and talent to the table and probably won’t come at a huge cost. So, here are the top free NHL proxies that are still available.
A seasoned defensive man who still has a lot to bring to the table. The 33-year-old was no younger but still a very strong defensive addition. There is no doubt that it is on the older side of the coin. Subban didn’t have the influence in New Jersey many thought he would, but he found a good role during his time there. Last season, Subban began showing bits and pieces of his former character while delivering respectable stats and advanced stats. He can easily get stuck in the top four as a third or fourth man of defense. While Suban hasn’t been the scoring machine he’s been in the past, he can still contribute on the ice. The 33-year-old scored 22 points (five goals and 17 assists) in 77 games last season. In his career, Suban had 467 points (115 goals, 352 assists) in 834 games with the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators and Devils and 62 points (18 goals, 44 assists) in 96 playoffs. He’s the most attractive player to add given his nine million dollar cap has been hit, but now it’s a lot different. His icy time has fallen by nearly four minutes per game on average this season for the Devils, but his core numbers have been solid. He’s been overlooked for the mediocrity of the New Jersey season, yet he’s ready to make a difference.
With 22 starts for Dallas, he set a record 10-10-1, with his best statistical year since his start in 2016-17. Scoring 0.913 savings and 2.78 goals against average, that’s all you could ask of a veteran goalkeeper. Holtby can be a starting player on a bad team, a solid 1B, or a backup for any team that needs an anchor in the tuck. Truthfully, I think it should have been Jake Oettinger’s backup instead of Anton Khudobin. Yes, Holtby’s numbers are exaggerated due to his low sample size, but over the course of his career he has shown a higher level of Khodobin. Any team that needs extra goalkeeping should get it.
Yandle has a reputation for reliability and availability to stay on the ice. Nobody questions his power, as Yandel played a record 989 NHL games in a row before being a healthy scratcher last season, when he had 19 points (1 goal, 18 assists) in 77 games. An NHL iron worker who can handle pregnancy. The 35-year-old has 619 points (103 goals, 516 assists) in 1,109 regular season games for the Flyers, Panthers, Rangers and Coyotes and 36 points (six goals, 30 assists) in 58 playoffs. 2022 saw Yandel score just one goal, but he added 18 assists and nearly 14 minutes of average time on the ice for the bad Flyers. Another defensive man much older, but his talent and experience shouldn’t be overlooked. Many know that he is able to install a game of strength and offensive support from a defensive position. In a more talented team, Yandle can thrive in the second or third defensive duo in a strong offensive team.
Sonny Milano is the younger player on this list, and a good, sneaky player is now available. The name Milano is a big surprise that can be seen in the collection of free agencies. The former Duck striker put his name on the map last season on both ends of the ice, with 34 points in 66 games. The Anaheim Ducks did not give the 26-year-old a qualifying bid, sending Milan into being a restricted free agent to join the unrestricted free customer crowd. The younger striker who is a Swiss Army knife in terms of his kit, Milan can strengthen the top nine groups of nearly every team. Each of the 31 NHL teams must compete for his services, at what must be a very reasonable rate.
Honorable mentions: Johan Larson, Tyler Mott
Both forwards aren’t the most popular players on the market, but they do have a place on many NHL rosters. In the Offensive Heavy League, many people forget how important defensive specialists are in the game today. Larson and Mott don’t have much of a rising offensive side, but they are two of the most elite talents in terms of their defensive impact. Both are in the highest levels of Power Defense percentages (Larsson 99%, Motte 70%) and both are known for their ability to lock in against tough competition. Either of them could be great additions to any tail-six attacking group due to their ability to be on the defensive end.
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