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NHL Free Agency: Top 5 UFAs 27 and Under

The UFA market isn't that strong right now, but there's still some quality young talent that remain unsigned. Let's take a look at the best NHL free agents still available under the age of 27.
Sonny Milano

The calendar is now deep into August, and a number of key free agents are still out there for the taking -- some of whom happen to still be in the middle of their primes. 

A good chunk of them seems capable of being had for pennies on the dollar, too.

In a league with very little cap space left to work with, it's peculiar to see so many names without homes this deep into the summer. Who are the best remaining options and where could they land?

Let's take a look at the best free agents still available under the age of 27. 

Sonny Milano
Age: 26
2021-22 Stat Line: 55 GP, 14 goals, 20 assists, 34 points, 15:50 TOI

It took Sonny Milano a while to truly carve himself out a spot in the NHL. Longer than most expected of him, really.

But the little guy finally broke through last season as a consistent big-league producer, pairing particularly well with rookie phenom Trevor Zegras to give the Ducks some exciting offensive punch on an otherwise depleted roster.

Financials played the primary factor in the Ducks' decision to decline to extend Milano a qualifying offer and banish him to the free agent market. The 26-year-old made $1.7 million last season, had arbitration rights heading into the summer, and was coming off a year in which he scored 34 points in 66 games on a bad team. In the eyes of an arbitrator, his case was solid. And if both sides elected to head down that route, the Ducks could've been saddled with a far higher number than they'd be comfortable paying him.

So, they cut him loose. And for some reason, no one has bitten yet.

Milano is too good to be without a home this late into the summer. Something's going on here. Perhaps it means the door isn't closed on a reunion in Anaheim. Milano finally found some consistency with the Ducks after bouncing around early in his career and could potentially circle back around come training camp.

But if that's not the case, 31 NHL teams should be vying for his services, at what should be a very reasonable rate. 

Jonathan Dahlen 
Age: 24
2021-22 Stat Line: 61 GP, 12 goals, 10 assists, 22 points, 13:53 TOI

Sure, Dahlen didn't set the world on fire during his first NHL season in 2021-22, but he definitely seemed to do enough to warrant a qualifying offer. And yet the Sharks, who are in desperate need of cheap young talent, opted to let him go, thrusting Dahlen into the uncharted waters of the UFA pool where he's remained ever since. 

The 24-year-old struggled to produce offense as a rookie last season, finishing with just 12 goals and 22 points in 61 games. The Sharks, of course, were among the worst teams in the entire NHL last season, which assuredly didn't help Dahlen thrive while stuck on a sinking ship. But they did put him in a decent position for success at even strength, however, as Dahlen spent the bulk of his time alongside Logan Couture and Timo Meier. 

It just didn't seem to click. But for a young player with plenty of developmental runway left and who has also thrived at every professional level he's played at to this point, there's clearly something in there. 

Perhaps another team will be able to coax it out of him -- for what should be a reasonable price. 

Daniel Sprong 
Age: 25
2021-22 Stat Line: 63 GP, 14 goals, 6 assists, 20 points, 12:59 TOI

There was a time when Daniel Sprong looked like a future middle-six contributor at the NHL level. 

That time has long since passed. 

Sprong has bounced around for the past few years after beginning his career in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, spending stints with the Anaheim Ducks, Washington Capitals, and, most recently, the Seattle Kraken. Neither stop saw the former second-round pick establish himself as the player he was pegged to be, but Sprong did always find a way to chip in 10-15 goals whenever he managed to play over 45 games. 

For a low, low price, that's not terrible production -- especially given that he managed to do it with very little ice time. Sprong isn't a flashy addition by any stretch. But he does come cheap, has a nose for the net, and could be a fine worker bee on a contending team's depth line. 

Sam Steel 
Age: 24
2021-22 Stat Line: 68 GP, 6 goals, 14 assists, 20 points, 12:18 TOI

It's never easy for a team to cut bait with a former first-round pick. But that's exactly what the Ducks did with Sam Steel this summer, opting not to qualify the 24-year-old after he failed to find a role on the club's NHL roster. 

Steel logged just barely over 12 minutes in nightly ice time last season. He was not a productive player, finding the back of the net just six times and clearly never being trusted with any significant responsibility by the Ducks coaching staff. 

Then again, Steel didn't exactly have the best supporting cast to work with, spending the bulk of his even-strength minutes alongside the likes of Vinny Lettieri, Jakob Silfverberg, and Maxime Comtois, all of whom are either over-the-hill veterans or struggling youngsters like himself. 

Perhaps in a better organization with a clear and defined role, Steel can be an effective depth contributor. He didn't get picked in the first round by accident, after all. There are some tools to work with in there, they just need the right situation in which to be coaxed out. 

At a league-minimum price tag, that's a savvy bet for a contender to take. 

Evgeni Svechnikov
Age: 25
2021-22 Stat Line: 72 GP, 7 goals, 12 assists, 19 points, 10:45 TOI

On the surface, Svechnikov's numbers do not inspire confidence. A mere seven goals and 19 points in 72 games do not leap off the page in any way shape or form. But the former top-10 pick has some intriguing tools to work with and looked quite good last season as a possession-driving, defensively responsible winger who could do more with some added ice time.

Perhaps the Jets were scared of his potential arbitration reward, which could explain why they chose to let him go rather than tender him a qualifying offer. But given Svechnikov's lackluster box score stats last season, it's doubtful his number would've been egregious.

Well, their loss will be another team's gain. Someone will take a chance on Svechnikov this summer as a bargain basement add and could be rewarded in spades if they manage to use him right. 


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