As a little refresher on NHL capology and contractology - restricted free agents' rights are retained by extending them a qualifying offer. A qualifying offer (or QO hereafter) must be a 10% raise on the previous contract if that contract is below the NHL average. As a result of the bad economy and salary cap ceiling, teams are choosing now not to give a QO to players who fail to live up to expectations, choosing instead to look elsewhere. Many of them also have handshake agreements to re-sign with their previous team, as Andy Greene, Erik Christensen, and Chris Thorburn have already done. But let's look at the best of the best unqualified players - these players may be coming off the scrapheap to help your team:
Steve Eminger, D - Steve Eminger was inexplicably promoted into the NHL by the Washington Capitals in 2002 as an 18 year old. From there, he languished in Washington, never quite living up to the promise of a player promoted to the NHL as a teenager. Eminger was traded 3 times last season, but his numbers are not terrible - his GA/60M are certainly good for a terrible team like Tampa, where he spent most of his time (averaging 23 minutes a game). Florida has to be interested in retaining Eminger, but teams in need of defense could and have been doing far worse than Eminger.
Brendan Bell, D - Plucked from the Leafs, Bell scored 6 goals in 53 games for the Senators, including 5 power play goals. He will be UFA next year, but Bell has some minor upside as a PP QB. Again, teams can and will do worse.
Jeremy Williams, RW - Williams scored 27 goals in 46 games in the AHL this past season. The knock on him is that he is small and slow, but he certainly has a scoring touch. Some teams insist on spending money on veteran scorers - Williams could provide 15 goals for very cheap.
Joakim Lindstrom, C - Lindstrom had 20 points in 44 games for the Coyotes averaging 15 minutes per game - this after being a point-a-game player in the AHL. One never knows when they will find the next Rich Peverley - he could be a good pickup for a team like Nashville looking to save some $.
Jeff Woywitka, D - Woywitka arrived in St. Louis in the Pronger deal and never quite established himself. He's been a +12 player in the last 3 years, with decent offensive numbers as well - 29 assists in 152 NHL games. With how much money depth defenders are signing for, around $1 million for a gamble on Jeff Woywitka could be a prudent move.
Dan Fritsche RW/C - Fritsche was traded twice last year and never really established himself on either squad. He is still only 23 years old, and while he likely doesn't have any upside as a 2nd line player, he scored 12 goals in 59 games as a 21 year old.
Non-tendered players aren't likely to put a team over the hump for the playoffs or a Stanley Cup - most of them have obvious flaws and there's a reason why they weren't given a QO. They can, however, offer better solutions to some problems than normal UFAs, and teams should be a little more willing to gamble on something that isn't a sure thing.