NHL Free Agents 2013: Ranking Top Available Players at Every Position

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2013

NHL Free Agents 2013: Ranking Top Available Players at Every Position

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    The break-neck pace of the NHL offseason continues. At the end of the week (July 5), teams are able to sign eligible free agents with an eye toward building a Stanley Cup contender in 2013-14 and beyond.

    Teams often like to augment their lineup with one or two key additions through free agency. The Minnesota Wild hit a home run in free agency last year when they signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. That's an unusual move because one team does not usually sign the top two names available in a given year.

    Most teams build through the draft and fine-tune with free agency and trades. Here are the top players at each position available as of July 1.


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    1. Mike Ribeiro, Washington

    Ribeiro, 33, enjoyed a reputation-building year with the Capitals, scoring 13 goals and 49 points. He is a highly skilled player who can make scintillating passes and score in clutch situations. However, he can be a selfish player who is more interested in stats than winning


    2. Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay

    Per Arpon Basu of NHL.com, Lecavalier was bought out by the Lightning last week and gets to go through the free-agency process. He scored 10-22-32 last year and is also a defensively responsible player who can become a difference-maker for a contender, as he is respected for his effort.


    3. Valtteri Filppula, Detroit

    Filppula is a solid three-zone player who is probably more effective in the defensive end and in the faceoff circle than he is as an offensive player. He scored 17 points last season.


    4. Derek Roy, Vancouver

    When you look at Roy's skating and playmaking ability, it's hard to find flaws with his game. However, he tends to stay on the outside and is not looking to go to the dirty areas. The Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars already know this, and the Canucks found this out in the final games of the regular season and during their brief four-game run in the playoffs.


    5. Stephen Weiss, Florida

    A healthy Weiss could make an average team good and a good team much better. He has struggled with injuries, though, and he played just 17 games in 2013.


    6. Patrik Elias, New Jersey

    Elias has been a dependable player for the Devils for 17 years. He scored 36 points in 2013 and has something left in the tank, but the end is clearly in sight. He could be a role player for a contender at this point in his career.


    7. Tyler Bozak, Toronto

    Bozak is a very dangerous player for any general manager to count on at this point. He has never scored more than 18 goals in a season, but he has excellent speed and can get open and make a few big plays. He lacks consistency and finish.


    8. Danny Briere, Philadelphia

    There has been a noticeable drop-off in Briere's game since the end of the 2010-11 season when he scored 34 goals. He's on the downside of his career, but a bounce-back season is not out of the question.


    9. Nik Antropov, Winnipeg

    If you want a player who looks like he should be an NHL force, but isn't, Antropov is your man. He has size, skating ability and skills with the puck, but he is more interested in protecting himself and his paycheck than playing hard.


    10. Saku Koivu, Anaheim

    The 38-year-old might just have two seasons left in the tank. He is smart, he hustles and while he has lost a step, he can play a key role as a third- or fourth-line center.

Right Wings

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    1. Jarome Iginla, Pittsburgh

    The longtime Flame made a move to a championship contender when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins last season. While that didn't work out, Iginla can still be a solid scorer during the last few years of his career.


    2. David Clarkson, New Jersey

    Clarkson scored 15 goals in 48 games last year after scoring 30 goals the year before. Clarkson, 29, is moving into the prime of his career. He plays a tough, grinding game, and he can also score key goals. He should attract a lot of interest as a free agent.


    3. Nathan Horton, Boston

    It was quite surprising when, as reported by Craig Custance of ESPN The Magazine, Horton informed Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli that he was going to exercise his free-agent rights and seek out the best deal he could find. He has been a clutch postseason performer for the Bruins, but he has not always been as consistent during the regular season.


    4. Michael Ryder, Montreal

    Ryder was a key part of the Boston Bruins' 2011 Stanley Cup run, and he followed that up with a 35-goal season in 2011-12 with the Dallas Stars. He is a true sniper who scored 16 goals for the Stars and Canadiens last season.


    5. Damien Brunner, Detroit

    Brunner could prove to be a free-agent bargain. He scored 12 regular-season goals in 2013, and he had five goals and four assists for the Red Wings in the playoffs. He appears to have a knack for scoring clutch goals.


    6. Jaromir Jagr, Boston

    Jagr, 41, showed that he will play with maximum effort on an every-night  basis. He came to the Bruins in a trade-deadline move, and while he has slowed considerably since his prime, he still has the skills to make plays and set up goals. Jagr did not score a goal for the Bruins in the playoffs.


    7. Pascal Dupuis, Pittsburgh

    Dupuis is a hard-working and moderately skilled player who has had back-to-back 20-plus goal seasons with the Penguins. He also had a seven-goal effort in the postseason and should be a fairly valued commodity.

Left Wings

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    1. Ryane Clowe, New York Rangers

    While Clowe is a hard-working player who is known for his hustle and grit, his ranking as the No. 1 left wing tells you the left wing position is weak. Clowe didn't score a goal until he was traded by the Sharks to the Rangers last year. He had 17 goals in 2011-12 for the Sharks.


    2. Clarke MacArthur, Toronto

    MacArthur had back-to-back 20-plus goal seasons in 2010-11 and 2011-12. But he is not a hard-nosed gritty player, and that could hurt him during free agency.


    3. Mason Raymond, Vancouver

    After six years with the Canucks, he is going to find out what he's worth on the free-agent market. Raymond has one 25-goal season to his credit, but his other five seasons have been ordinary.


    4. Dustin Penner, Los Angeles

    The big left winger looks impressive in a uniform because of his size and strength, but he is rarely a full-effort player in the regular season. He will turn it on in the postseason, but he is a risky signee because he will likely be expensive even though he doesn't always play hard.


    5. Viktor Stalberg, Chicago

    One of the fastest players in the league, Stalberg has a difficult time controlling the puck and making plays. He has frustrated head coach Joel Quenneville because he can't complete simple plays.


    6. Brenden Morrow, Pittsburgh

    After coming over from the Dallas Stars prior to the trade deadline, Morrow played hard, but he was not overly effective. He does not appear to be a consistent scorer at this point in his career.


    7. Matt Cooke, Pittsburgh

    Cooke is one of the most controversial players in the league. His aggressive attitude on the ice often leads to some big hits, but he has been questioned by the league for his tactics on several occasions. His skill level is ordinary.


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    1. Ian White, Detroit

    A hard-working defenseman who should be coming into the prime of his career. White, 29, had his best season in 2011-12 when he scored seven goals and 25 assists and was a plus-23.


    2. Andrew Ference, Boston

    According to Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald, the Bruins let Ference know that they were not going to keep him, even though he has been a dependable blueliner for them since the 2006-07 season. While Ference is not a superstar, he can carry the puck, shoot it, block shots and play defense. He is also a solid locker room presence.


    3. Anton Babchuk, Calgary

    The 29-year-old Babchuk has been limited to 39 games over the past two seasons. When he is in the lineup, he has a solid shot from the point and can move the puck out of his own zone.


    4. Ron Hainsey, Winnipeg

    A very smart player on and off the ice, Hainsey is an excellent communicator and has a strong understanding of positional play.


    5. Rob Scuderi, Los Angeles

    Scuderi is a dependable defenseman who played a key role for the Kings during the 2012 Stanley Cup run. But he has never scored more than two goals in any season. Still, he is a physical and hard-hitting player who has been quite dependable.


    6. Toni Lydman, Anaheim

    Lydman has been fairly reliable during his career with the Calgary Flames, Buffalo Sabres and the Ducks. His best season was 2010-11 with the Ducks, when he scored 25 points and had a plus-32 rating. He has averaged 21:19 of ice time per game throughout his career.


    7. Marek Zidlicky, New Jersey

    Another dependable veteran who can carry the puck, block shots and play solid positional defense. Zidlicky, 36, is not a star by any stretch. He has not had a positive plus-minus season since 2006-07 with the Nashville Predators.


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    1. Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia

    The Flyers decided that Bryzgalov was not dependable, and there's little doubt that he lacked consistency in his two seasons in Philadelphia. He is a streaky goaltender who can shut down opponents when he is at his best, but he will also let in easy goals at times. Bryzgalov had a 2.79 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage last season.


    2. Anton Khudobin, Boston

    He did a surprisingly good job backing up Tuukka Rask for the Bruins, and he may be able to compete for a starting job. He could certainly take on a backup position for a contender. Khudobin had a 2.32 GAA and a .920 save percentage in 2013.


    3. Ray Emery, Chicago Blackhawks

    He did not play during the postseason, but Emery was Corey Crawford's equal during the regular season. Emery was often spectacular for the Blackhawks, with a 17-1-0 record, a 1.94 GAA and a .922 save percentage.


    4. Evgeni Nabokov, New York Islanders

    He played fairly well in the regular season, and that helped the Islanders earn a playoff spot. However, when the Penguins looked beatable in the first round of the playoffs, Nabokov could not help his team take advantage, as he had a 4.44 GAA and an .842 save percentage.


    5. Tim Thomas, N.Y. Islanders

    A couple of years ago, Thomas was the best goaltender in the NHL, with two Vezina Trophies and a Conn Smythe Trophy to his credit.

    Thomas took the 2012-13 season off, was traded by the Bruins to the Islanders and is now a free agent. He has not given any indication that he will play again next season, although Pro Hockey Talk reported in June that a comeback is a possibility.