Ranking the Top NHL Players to Hit Free Agency This Summer

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2013

Ranking the Top NHL Players to Hit Free Agency This Summer

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    The new collective bargaining agreement will come into play at the end of the season when the 2013 crop of free agents hits the market.

    There doesn't appear to be the same kind of 1-2 punch at the top of the list of available players that surfaced last year when Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils and Ryan Suter of the Nashville Predators made themselves available.

    Both signed with the Minnesota Wild and that team could be significantly improved this season.

    Jarome Iginla has been with the Calgary Flames throughout his career but he will be a free agent at the end of the season unless he can come to a new deal with the Flames during the season. His scoring ability will make him a valuable addition to a team that considers itself a contender.

    Here's a look at the top free agents who will be available this offseason. Contract status has been supplied by CapGeek.com.

Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames

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    Jarome Iginla has been a star in the NHL since he played his first game in the 1996-97 season.

    He roared past the 500-goal mark for his career last season and he has scored 30 goals or more in 11 straight seasons. He has also been past the 50-goal mark twice in his career.

    Iginla, 35, may no longer be in the prime of his career, but the success of players like Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne and Ray Whitney should be encouraging.

    Those three players are all over 40 and still have high-caliber NHL skills.

    Iginla is probably no longer the right fit for the Flames, who appear to be stuck in a holding pattern. But any playoff team that wants to upgrade its status by adding one of the best goal scorers of his generation should be thrilled by the opportunity to sign Iginla.

Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Kimmo Timonen may be one of the most underrated players available through free agency next summer.

    At first glance, Timonen, 37, may appear too old to fit into many teams' plans.

    His skill and conditioning level makes his chronological age a non-issue, however.

    As a defenseman, Timonen is superb. He is a skilled defender who can make plays in his own defensive zone, carry the puck, pass it accurately and shoot when he has the opportunity.

    Timonen is not a big man at 5'10" and 194 pounds, but he makes up for his lack of size with agility and confidence.

    Barring injuries, Timonen should have at least three years left in his career. He should be able to get close to the $6.3 million he is earning this season.

Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks

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    Corey Perry may be the most sought-after free agent during the summer. While he may not be as accomplished or consistent as the older free agents, he is moving into the prime of his career.

    Perry, 27, scored 50 goals in 2010-11 for the Ducks and he followed that up with 37 goals last year in a very down season in Anaheim.

    Unless the Ducks shock the hockey world and follow up on their opening game win over the Vancouver Canucks with a shocking season, Perry could be moved prior to the trade deadline. He's unlikely to pass up on his free agency by signing a contract prior to the end of the season, however.

    The salary cap will play a key role in determining which team he can sign with and how much he will be able to earn. Perry is set to make $5.325 million this season.

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

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    It will be a very tough offseason for the Ducks if they lose both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

    Getzlaf, 27, is one of the best passers in the NHL and excels at setting up Perry and Bobby Ryan.

    Getzlaf did not have the kind of season in 2011-12 that he did the year before, but he sees the ice extremely well and simply understands where he needs to put the puck so his teammates can score regularly.

    Getzlaf is earning $5.325 million with the Ducks this season.

Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

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    Tim Thomas is clearly an offbeat hockey player.

    He refused to go to the White House with his teammates last year when President Barack Obama celebrated the Boston Bruins' 2011 Stanley Cup triumph. Then he decided to take a year off for personal reasons.

    Thomas had to fight and claw his way to the NHL after years in the minor league and playing in Europe.

    He has established himself as an unconventional goaltender who will do anything he can to help his team win. He has picked up two Vezina Trophies and one Conn Smythe Trophy in the process.

    Brand him "undependable" if you want, but Thomas is a winner. He says he wants to play in 2013-14 and it seems obvious the Bruins have moved past him (per NHL.com). Any team that is a goaltender short of contending for the Stanley Cup would be wise to consider him.

    Are you listening, Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers?

    Thomas would have received $5 million this year in salary had he decided to remain in Boston.

Nathan Horton, Boston Bruins

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    The Boston Bruins are paying more than $66 million in prorated salary this season.

    During the lockout, they had more salary on their books than any other team in the NHL. They currently rank seventh, just behind the Chicago Blackhawks and just ahead of the Calgary Flames.

    One of the big issues that general manager Peter Chiarelli will have to face is what to do with Nathan Horton.

    The former Florida Panther was a huge part of the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011, scoring two overtime goals against the Montreal Canadiens and then scoring the series-clinching goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

    However, he has been hurt badly by two concussions in the last two years. Horton earns $4 million, is a big power forward who can score the dirty goals and also has a big shot.

    He's a game-changing player, but he's also a gamble.

Derek Roy, Dallas Stars

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    Derek Roy is a highly skilled player who performed at a high level between 2006 and 2010.

    However, he has struggled the last two years and the Buffalo Sabres traded him to the Dallas Stars in the offseason.

    Roy may not be the most physical player, but he has been a valuable playmaker and still has those skills.

    That should make him a very attractive free agent in 2013. Roy is earning $4 million this season and it doesn't seem likely that he will earn more than that next year.

Ryane Clowe, San Jose Sharks

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    Ryane Clowe is a gritty player who can score the dirty goals in front of the net. He is more than willing to eat an elbow just so he can get his stick on the puck and make a play.

    Clowe is also willing to drop the gloves. He had 97 penalty minutes last year after being whistled for 131 the year before.

    Clowe has scored 82 goals over the last four years. He is not a superstar, but he is an honest player who plays with the kind of effort that often results in hard-earned victories.

    Clowe is earning $3.625 million this season.