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A lot has been made about how the Restricted Free Agents that weren’t qualified by their teams were going to create a secondary free agent market worth exploring. While to some extent that’s true, it’s equally worth noting that the players it produced are a couple of sheltered scorers and primarily bottom six forwards, or bottom pairing defensemen. There may be some role players and a couple of guys who could use a change of scenery, but not a list that should alter any plans of attack for first thing Friday.

When looking at the list of unqualified RFAs on PuckPedia and filtering by players who played at least 10 games in the NHL last season, there were 24 players left (excluding those recently let go from the Leafs)

Player Cap Hit Age Pos Shoots GP G A P DFF% CF% P60
Andreas Athanasiou $3,000,000 26 LW L 55 11 15 26 44.81 45.08 0.34
Troy Stecher $2,325,000 26 D R 69 5 12 17 47.3 48.1 1.01
Devin Shore $2,300,000 26 LW L 45 5 7 12 45.32 46.55 2.13
Matt Benning $1,900,000 26 D R 43 1 7 8 49.5 48.2 0.89
Mark Jankowski $1,675,000 26 C L 56 5 2 7 50.4 49.4 0.87
Anthony Duclair $1,650,000 25 LW L 66 23 17 40 48.7 47.4 2.05
Vinnie Hinostroza $1,500,000 26 RW R 68 5 17 22 46.8 49.6 1.48
Mirco Mueller $1,400,000 25 D L 50 2 5 7 43.5 43.7 0.4
Nick Cousins $1,000,000 27 C L 65 10 15 25 55.98 54.75 2.58
Brett Ritchie $1,000,000 27 RW R 27 2 4 6 47.3 51 0.92
Madison Bowey $1,000,000 25 D R 53 3 14 17 43.6 44.4 1.11
Dominik Kahun $925,000 25 LW L 56 12 19 31 49.45 50.15 3.61
Jayce Hawryluk $874,125 24 RW R 26 3 7 10 53.14 53.43 3.05
Brendan Perlini $874,125 24 LW L 40 1 3 4 36.98 41.74 1.42
Travis Boyd $800,000 27 C R 24 3 7 10 52 53.9 2.16
Jakob Lilja $792,500 27 LW L 37 2 3 5 44.5 41.8 0.84
Dominic Toninato $775,000 26 C L 46 4 7 11 46.7 46.3 1.37
Christoffer Ehn $759,167 24 C L 54 2 2 4 38.6 41.2 0.37
Dominik Simon $750,000 26 RW L 64 7 15 22 50.5 52.2 1.47
John Hayden $750,000 25 RW R 43 3 1 4 38.7 38 0.6
Dryden Hunt $715,000 24 LW L 21 0 4 4 52.89 51.3 1.12
Carter Verhaeghe $700,000 25 LW L 52 9 4 13 55 55.1 1.42
Andreas Englund $700,000 24 D L 24 0 3 3 43.7 46.79 0.78
Lucas Wallmark $675,000 25 C L 67 12 13 25 50.9 51.81 2.26

Some of these players are easily ignored. Madison Bowey has struggled consistently, the Leafs aren’t that far removed from letting Toninato go, and John Hayden is straight up bad. It’s not too difficult to start chipping away at this list, but there are some notables on there.

Brett Ritchie

Ritchie isn’t a notable in the traditional sense for the Leafs. He plays fourth line minutes, doesn’t offer much in the way of offence, and his shot differential metrics are passable at best. He’s not really a fit with what the Leafs typically bring in, but that could be the point.

While it’s not something you’d generally want expect the Leafs to recruit around, Ritchie’s 89 hits in 27 games speaks to the potential for Ritchie to be affordable 4th line grit. He lacks the upside of his brother, but he is 6’4 and hits, and if options with upside aren’t there in free agency for the Leafs, a pure hitter might be an option as a 4th line/13th forward option.

Troy Stecher

If there’s a name worth keeping an eye on during free agency from this list of RFAs, it’s probably Stecher, who played two seasons for the Leafs Assistant Coach Dave Hakstol at the University of North Dakota.

Stecher is undersized at 5’10, and while adequately skilled for some spot duty on the second pairing, would be much more of a third pairing acquisition. He took a step backward last season and saw his ice time reduced, but it’s entirely possible the 26 year can get back on track.

Matt Benning

While Stecher is the most likely target for defensemen out of this list, Benning is probably the best. Suspiciously underutilized in Edmonton, Benning seems to be the next in the series of Oilers defensemen who blossoms the second he relocates.

He’s got a surprisingly good physical element to his game, but can contribute offense as well. There’s some consistency issues to be concerned about, but like Stecher he’s a solid third pairing guy, and on his best days you don’t mind him on your second pairing.

Anthony Duclair or Andreas Athanasiou

Certainly a one or the other but not both situation. If the Leafs do wish to follow through on shedding the salaries of Andreas Johnsson and Alex Kerfoot, one of these two wingers might be options at a bit more of an affordable price. Although, I’m not sure why other teams are looking at Andreas Johnsson if they can grab one of these players instead. It might actually slow down what the Leafs are trying to accomplish, even if Johnsson is the better player.

Some secondary scoring could benefit the Leafs, although there are a lot of similarities between Athanasiou’s play and that of Kapanen, who was no longer a fit for the organization. Perhaps Duclair is the better fit, but adding on the wing is a low priority move, even if these are the most recognizable names on the list.

Jayce Hawryluk

One of things the site had to agree to by bringing me on was that I would be given permission to force Brandon Wheat Kings content into Leafs articles as much as I could reasonably do so. That’s partially why Hawryluk is on my short list. The other part is he checks a lot of boxes for what the Leafs could use.

Hawryluk uses his body. It may only be a 5’11 body, but his a player that realizes to hold onto a bottom six role in the NHL, some physicality will be required. He’s a center, and with the departure of Freddie Gauthier, and the uncertainty over whether Pierre Engvall or Adam Brooks is ready for 4C duty, Hawryluk could add some insurance to that conversation.

Hawryluk doesn’t have a lengthy NHL resume, and in fact, the time he spent in the Florida speaks to him being more of an AHL depth option, but instead of looking at all of that, I’d suggest looking at the incredibly small 11 game sample of Hawryluk in Ottawa, where he was given a bit more of a chance. Playing 13 minutes a night instead of ten led him to putting up 7 points in 11 games. He was sheltered more there, and put in better offensive situations, but some promise remains, and at the very least he is a depth option behind Engvall.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway here is that for all the hype surrounding this potentially glorious secondary free agent market opening up, it’s at best featuring some sheltered scorers, physical fourth liners, and third pairing defensemen. None of these players will likely be the first calls Dubas will make Friday at noon, but some of them have the potential to be cheap, low risk adds.