NHL free agency begins July 1, as teams begin to wine and dine players hitting the market in hopes of filling holes and landing the guy they think can get them closer to the Stanley Cup.
Below, we rank the Top 50 unrestricted free agents available. Restricted free agents weren’t included because their movement is rare. After the first five or six players there’s a pretty significant drop in terms of impact players. It’s a shallow pool for forwards, and a bit deeper for defensemen. Shot-blocking, stay-at-home defensemen appear to be the strength.
Also note that this list would have included Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne, two unrestricted free agents, but both players are expected to either re-sign with their current team, the Ducks, or retire. Another team seems very unlikely for both
1. ILYA KOVALCHUK, F
26 | Experience:
8 years | ’09-10 Team:
2009-10 Stats: 41 g | 44 a | 85 pt
There’s only a small handful of quality wingers available in this year’s free agent market, and Kovalchuk is the easily the best of the bunch. One of the most explosive goal-scorers in the NHL, Kovalchuk is coming off his sixth-straight 40-goal season and is going to command top dollar on the open market. It’s not often that a player this talented, this young, becomes available on the open market to the highest bidder.
3. ANTON VOLCHENKOV, D
28 | Experience:
7 years | ’09-10 Team:
2009-10 Stats: 4 g | 10 a | 14 pt
One of the best shutdown defensemen in the NHL and still on the right side of 30, Volchenkov is set to strike it rich on the free agent market, perhaps commanding a deal north of $5 million per season. After seeing the success of players like Hal Gill and Josh Gorges in the postseason, why wouldn’t a team want to invest in one of the best defensive-defenseman in the NHL?
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