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NHL Notebook: Detroit Red Wings sign Klim Kostin to two-year deal, 113 NHL players don’t receive qualifying offers as free agent class changes, and more

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
10 months ago
Happy Canada Day and happy free agency frenzy day.
Lots to talk about to day but let’s kick things off with the latest ahead of free agency opening at 10 am.
The Detroit Red Wings signed Klim Kostin to a two-year, $2-million AAV deal Saturday morning. Kostin is one of 113 NHL’ers who didn’t receive qualifying offers, but it’s clear the two sides continued to work away at it.
Detroit, who acquired Kostin and Yamamoto buying out the later, clearly liked what they saw from the rugged winger. Especially after the qualifying offer wasn’t issued, it was tough to see what the Red Wings were doing here but it turns out they managed to get it done.

Market flipped?

A total of 113 restricted free agents weren’t issued qualifying offers from their teams ahead of today.
It’s the largest I can remember and includes names like Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, Daniel Sprong, Michael McLeod, Kale Clague, Sam Steel, Max Comtois, Morgan Geekie, Noah Gregor and Dennis Gurianov. The list is long. 
Couple that with buyouts of big name players like Matt Duchene and Blake Wheeler, and things are all of a sudden interesting. Here’s some of what Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli wrote about what has changed for this free agent class:
And after preparing for an unusually thin free agent Class of 2023, a sudden influx of younger talent in the last 24 hours by way of buyouts and qualifying offers that were not tendered has spiced up Saturday.
Matt Duchene and Blake Wheeler were both bought out and they joined the Top 10 on our latest Free Agent rankings. Daniel Sprong, Mackenzie Blackwood, Tyson Jost, Noah Gregor, Morgan Geekie and Michael McLeod were all not issued qualifying offers by their respective clubs, allowing them to hit the open market early.
While the Class of 2023 may lack in sizzle, there is plenty of steak. In fact, ahead of a fourth straight season with a frozen salary cap, this might be one of the best years to go bargain bin hunting on the market to find ways to improve teams on the margins. There are smart, interesting buys – from Garnet Hathaway or Ryan Donato to one of the previously bought out players such as Oliver Ekman-Larsson – all over the board. Beauty will be in the eye of the beholder.

Bargain bin shopping

The Edmonton Oilers will be one of the teams shopping in the bargain bins today. It’s a necessity given their tight cap situation.
Over at Daily Faceoff, Scott Maxwell took a look at some of the best value options on the market:

Connor Brown

Brown was dealt to the Washington Capitals for the 2022-23 season and was looking to join an intriguing offense on that team despite the early-season injuries to some of their forwards. Unfortunately, Brown played all of four games before his season was over, and now he heads into unrestricted free agency with some uncertainty to his play. There will always be questions about how well he’ll recover from his ACL injury, and if he can bring the same level of play next season, but at 29 years old, it’s not like his body was one bad injury away from his game falling off.
So it should be obvious why he could be a bargain for some teams. 2022-23 isn’t the season Brown wants to cash in on, so he’ll likely want to find a team to play with on a one-year show-me deal for cheap to get a full season under his belt again and remind teams how much he’s actually worth. Based on the chatter so far, that team could be the Edmonton Oilers, which is even smarter for Brown, as he could play next to Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl for a year, likely put up career-highs, and get a big pay raise next offseason. Regardless, this is a guy who at is his best as a top-six scorer, so if he’s looking for a cheap, short-term deal, it’s in most teams’ best interest to bring him in to beef up their offensive depth.

Danton Heinen

Need a scrappy, versatile bottom-six forward that isn’t a possession blackhole? Danton Heinen is your guy. He’s good at both ends of the ice, has some really solid scoring rates, and he’ll only be 28 by the time next season starts. The scoring rates are particularly important, because it means he can also be somewhat productive in big minutes with big teammates, and while he wouldn’t be carrying the line, he wouldn’t be holding them back either.
So if you’re the Edmonton Oilers, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Colorado Avalanche, or some other team looking for a cheap complementary piece for your top players to join in on the production, Heinen wouldn’t be a bad option. He put up 33 points in 2021-22 playing a good amount of time with Evgeni Malkin when he wasn’t hurt, and also got some time with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak in his 47-point rookie season with the Boston Bruins, so he’d be a solid bet to do well with a top-end player if you need a cheap option, and if not, he’ll certainly do some damage in a bottom-six role.

Matthew Phillips

Phillips may be the best player not to have played much in the NHL. Oh right, Connor Bedard exists. Well regardless, Phillips has been incredible in the AHL these past two seasons, finishing in the top 10 in scoring in both seasons and totalling 67 goals, 77 assists, and 144 points in 131 games. He probably would have gotten more than just the two NHL games and 18 minutes he did in 2022-23 if not for the fact that Darryl Sutter was allergic to players with no NHL experience. Even with the new coaching and management, it seems like they won’t be qualifying him and he’ll be a free agent.
That lack of NHL experience is where a team can really capitalize on his value. With only three NHL games, it’s going to be hard for Phillips to try and ask for a ton of money, maybe even as much as seven digits in his salary. If you can nab him at that price on a one or even two-year deal, you could potentially have a really cheap player with the potential to be a solid NHL scorer if finally given a shot. AHL success doesn’t always translate to NHL success, but it doesn’t hurt to try, especially when it likely won’t count against the cap all that much. And if it doesn’t work, it’s super easy to bury and he just dominates on your AHL team. Even if the reward ends up being low, the risk is almost non-existent.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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