2019 Best Free Agent Signings: The Pacific Division

Over the next couple of weeks, we will shine the spotlight on some of the best and worst free-agent contracts. Now, some are sure to stir up some good debate. These deals focus not just on unrestricted but restricted free-agents as well. First up, is the Pacific Division.

When combing through the signings, this was the division that was the most clear-cut. Let’s take a look at two players — Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier of the San Jose Sharks.

Kevin Labanc — RW — Re-signed RFA (1 year, $1 million)

That is not a misprint! After a 56 point season and a playoff where he scored four points on one power play, Labanc re-signed with San Jose. The new deal pays him far less than his projection ($1.893 million AAV for one year). Originally, most pundits expected a bridge deal of around three years and $3.5-$3.75 million AAV.

Per @KKurzNHL, the #SJSharks sign 23 y/o RW Kevin Labanc to 1 yr $1M Contract. Was RFA after ELC. Will be RFA after deal.

17G 56P in 82GP
On ice 50% 5v5 GF, 50.6% Expected GF, 55.6% Corsi. Scored 2.12 P/60.

Rep’d by Michael Curran of Orr/Wassermanhttps://t.co/j4XqZCZWth

— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) July 8, 2019

Again, it boggles the mind that any player would bet on himself this hard without some kind of wink-wink “extension” looming. Yes, San Jose was in a bit of a cap crunch following the Erik Karlsson signing but it is what it is.

Labanc’s numbers do get driven up because of utilization (plays 14 minutes a night, mostly on the man advantage, and line three with Joe Thornton). Thornton creates at a masterful level even at 40-years old. However, the soon to be 24-year-old winger deserves some credit here.

First, it is not easy to play with a Hall-Of-Fame center — especially one who is not as fleet of foot as he used to be. Labanc improved nicely from his 40 point campaign last year (many forget this). He has potential to be a 25-goal scorer in this league with upside in the 60-70 point range.

Those are awfully good numbers to go with that 2.12 points per 60 at even-strength. When one combines all these details, it is no wonder why the likelihood of an extension is very high for Labanc. Don’t worry! He will get paid.

Timo Meier — RW — Re-signed RFA (4 years, $6 million AAV)

While Labanc’s rise was a bit more gradual, Timo Meier broke out last season for San Jose in a huge way. The scary part was a month plus stretch where Meier did not even score a goal. It was not from a lack of trying as Meier fired 250 shots on net for the entire season.

His minutes went up to nearly 17 a night and Meier saw more extensive ice time on the man advantage. The result was a 30-30 season and 66 points overall in 78 games. Also, he tacked on five goals and 15 points in 20 playoff contests. Meier turns 23 over the summer and signed a contract that compensates nicely.

PuckPedia has a little more on the right-winger here.

Meier averages 2.53 points per 60 playing tougher minutes than most forwards his age. His low center of gravity and body strength makes him difficult to play against. Now, his acceleration and speed is deceptive and can lull defenders into a false sense of security.

It is not a surprise that two of the best signings came from the Pacific Division as Meier is another young forward who fulfilled his promise.

The upside on the forward slots him into a top-line role either 2019-20 or 2020-21. Honestly, it is why San Jose signed him to the deal they did now. The quirky thing is that Meier is still an RFA (for now) at the end of this contract.