NHL Free Agent signings: Gurianov a bargain for Stars; Canucks ink Virtanen

James O'Brien
·4 min read

While we’re deep enough into 2020 NHL Free Agency that movement can be slow, people are getting signed. That’s especially true for RFAs, particularly if there was a threat of salary arbitration. Let’s look at the Stars locking down Denis Gurianov, the Canucks signing Jake Virtanen, and Connor Brown sticking with the Senators.

In each case, there’s some room for debate about value. Let’s take a look.

Stars get a potential steal with Gurianov at $2.55M

OK, that was at least my gut reaction from the Stars signing Gurianov, 23, to a two-year, $5.1 million contract ($2.55M AAV).

Over 64 games during the 2019-20 regular season, Gurianov scored 20 goals; the one thing that puts a damper on that — a bit — is that he was limited to nine assists. Yet, one thing that intrigued me about Gurianov (and another Stars RFA, Roope Hintz) is the possibility of a heightened role. Gurianov found a way to score those 20 goals despite only averaging 12:59 TOI.

During the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Gurianov enjoyed an even bigger breakthrough. Gurianov scored nine goals and 17 points in 27 games, placing him sixth on the Stars. Even then, Gurianov had to make the most of his time on ice, as he averaged less than 14 minutes per playoff contest (13:53).

So, to me, it seems like he could strongly outperform that $2.55M AAV. But maybe I’m a little too excited, at least if Gurianov is a touch one-dimensional? Generally speaking, Gurianov’s possession stats have been solid, yet unspectacular.

Eh, honestly? Still seems quite favorable for the Stars.

From what Rick Bowness told The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro (sub required), it sounds like we’ll find out if Gurianov can handle bigger minutes soon enough:

“They are coming into the team next year knowing they are a big part of it,” Bowness said of Gurianov and Hintz. “They are go-to guys now …”

Mixed reactions to Canucks signing Virtanen for Gurianov money

Amusingly, the reactions were quite different for Jake Virtanen’s contract from the Canucks. The amusing part comes from Virtanen receiving the same two-year, $5.5M total, according to The Athletic’s Thomas Drance.

Some view Virtanen, 24, as a pretty good all-around player, which would probably make him worth $2.55M per year.

Meanwhile, others aren’t quite as convinced.

Maybe some of that boils down to the Canucks facing such a salary cap crunch?

What we do know is that Virtanen set career-highs in goals (18), assists (18) and points (36) in 2019-20. Like Gurianov, Virtanen produced while receiving limited minutes (13:05). Interestingly, Virtanen saw his role diminished, as he averaged 14:49 per game in 2018-19.

While Gurianov flourished during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Virtanen floundered. He only averaged 11:16 TOI, and was limited to three points (2G, 1A) in 16 playoff games.

Perhaps there’s quite a bit more to be excited about with Gurianov, but Virtanen can deliver value, too? We’ll see.

Senators commit three years to Connor Brown

In their official announcement, the Senators confirmed a three-year deal for Connor Brown with a $3.66M cap hit. The deal carries a $2.8M salary in 2020-21, and then $4M in the final two seasons of the contract.

Brown, 26, has had an interesting career path so far. That could make it difficult to gauge if this is a smart deal, an alright one, or a minor blunder by Ottawa:

Clearly, the Senators like Brown quite a bit. Considering the dough they dropped on Matt Murray, Ottawa hasn’t been shy about investing in the players they believe in.

During 2019-20, Brown averaged a whopping 20:07 TOI, more than any other Senators forward. Brown finished second in team scoring with 43 points (16 G, 27 A) behind Brady Tkachuk‘s 44.

It should be interesting to see how this contract looks over the next three seasons.

While Brown, Gurianov, and Virtanen round out the most noteworthy recent signings, there are plenty of others. Check out the 2020 NHL Free Agent Tracker to stay up to date.

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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Free Agent signings: Gurianov a bargain for Stars; Canucks ink Virtanen originally appeared on NBCSports.com