Ranking the Top 30 NHL Unrestricted Free Agents of 2014
The NHL's unrestricted free-agent period begins on July 1. In the past, it was a time of frenzied signings, usually on the opening day as teams bid for the best available talent.
Due to the salary cap, however, teams have been re-signing more of their pending free-agent stars. As a result, in recent years the depth in free-agent talent has declined. Still, while there are no superstars available in this year's market, there's sufficient veteran talent at each position to generate interest among the league's general managers.
The following lists this year's top 30 free agents. Performance, age, style of play, leadership, experience, projected salary and market value factored in determining these rankings.
30. Chad Johnson
Current contract: One year, $600,000.
Strengths: He posted solid numbers (17-4-3, 2.10 GAA, .925 save percentage, two shutouts) as the Bruins backup this season. His youth (27) and size (6'3”, 205 pounds) should be assets in this year's market.
Weaknesses: He only appeared in 37 NHL games over four seasons. He has yet to prove he's ready to become an NHL starter.
Potential asking price and destinations: He should be a very affordable signing, perhaps on a two-year deal worth $1.2 million annually. He could be added by clubs seeking a backup who could challenge an established starter. The Dallas Morning News' Mike Heika reports Johnson could be an option for the Stars. MLive.com's Ansar Khan lists him among possible free-agent options for the Red Wings.
29. Tom Gilbert
Current contract: One year, $900,000.
Strengths: He resurrected his career this season with the Panthers. An effective puck-moving defenseman, Gilbert averaged more than 21 minutes of ice time per game this season. He exceeded 26-plus points five times, including this season (28).
Weaknesses: Despite his size (6'2”, 206 pounds) Gilbert is not a physical blueliner. He's stronger on offense than defense. Injuries have become a concern for the 31-year-old in recent years.
Potential asking price and destinations: He could find a two- or three-year deal for between $1.5 and $2 million per season. MLive.com's Ansar Khan suggests Gilbert, a right-handed shot, could be among the blue-line options for the Detroit Red Wings.
28. Andrej Meszaros
Current contract: Six years, $24 million.
Strengths: He's a big (6'2”, 223 pounds), skilled puck-moving defenseman with a good point shot. Meszaros can play both defense positions. His age (28) and offensive skills could prove to be attractive free-agent qualities.
Weaknesses: Inconsistency has plagued him throughout his NHL career. He struggled with the Flyers following an early-season coaching change. He didn't noticeably improve following a trade to the Bruins.
Potential asking price and destinations: Meszaros won't get anywhere close to his current contract. He might have to accept a one-year deal worth around $2.5 million. He'll have to prove himself next season. The Denver Post's Mike Chambers lists him among the Colorado Avalanche's free-agent defense options.
27. Steve Ott
Current contract: Four years. $11.8 million.
Strengths: He's a physical, versatile forward with leadership skills. Ott can play all three forward positions. He's primarily used in defensive roles but has a decent scoring touch.
Weaknesses: His aggressive style can lead to bad penalties and questionable hits. Not a big player (6'0”, 189 pounds), he can wear down and become susceptible to injury. He'll turn 32 in August, which could further fuel concerns about his durability.
Potential asking price and destinations: He could get a two-year deal for around $2.5 million annually. Ott spent his best seasons with the Dallas Stars. The Dallas Morning News' Mike Heika lists him among possible free-agent targets for the Stars. The Buffalo News' Mike Harrington speculates the Sabres could try to bring back their former captain. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeff Gordon suggests the Blues will re-sign him.
26. Olli Jokinen
Current contract: Two years, $9 million.
Strengths: He is an experienced center and leader with good size (6'2”, 210 pounds) and scoring skills. He reached or exceeded 43 points 10 times in his career, including this season (43). He rebounded from a poor performance in 2012-13.
Weaknesses: The 35-year-old has lost a step or two. His best seasons are behind him. Consistency tends to be an issue. He's best-suited now as a third-line center.
Potential asking price and destinations: Given his age, interested teams likely won't commit beyond two years at $2.5 million per season. The Winnipeg Free Press' Gary Lawless reports there have been no talks between the Jets and Jokinen's agent. Teams seeking depth at center, like the Vancouver Canucks, could come calling.
25. Ron Hainsey
Current contract: One year, $2 million.
Strengths: An effective and experienced second-pairing defenseman, Hainsey logged more than 21 minutes per game this season for the Hurricanes, while he was second in blocked shots (124). He can play either defense position and possesses good mobility.
Weaknesses: Despite his 6'3”, 210-pound frame, Hainsey isn't a physical blueliner. At age 33, he's no long as effective a puck-moving blueliner as he was earlier in his career.
Potential asking price and destinations: He could seek a two- or three-year deal worth $3 million annually. Sportsnet.ca's Mark Spector believes the Edmonton Oilers could have interest in Hainsey. The Denver Post's Mike Chambers lists him among the Colorado Avalanche's possible defense targets.
24. David Legwand
Current contract: Six years, $27 million.
Strengths: A hardworking two-way center, Legwand tallied 51 points this season, reaching the 40-point mark for the ninth time in his career. He's also effective in the faceoff circle (50.6 percent).
Weaknesses: He struggled after being acquired by the Detroit Red Wings and finished the season as a fourth-line winger. He went pointless in this year's playoffs. After 14 NHL seasons, the 33-year-old may be wearing down.
Potential asking price and destinations: His struggles during his short tenure with the Wings could hurt his market value. He might have to accept a short-term deal worth around $3.25 million annually. The Dallas Morning News' Mike Heika lists Legwand among the third-line center options for the Stars.
23. Dave Bolland
Current contract: Five years, $16.875 million.
Strengths: An aggressive center with good two-way skills, Bolland doesn't shy away from physical play. He has plenty of postseason experience from playing on two Stanley Cup champions in Chicago. He had a promising early debut with the Leafs this season (10 points in 15 games). At 28 he's in his playing prime.
Weaknesses: Though Bolland has been employed in a second-line role, he's best-suited as a checking-line center. He suffered a serious ankle injury that sidelined him most of this season. The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle expresses concern it could hamper Bolland's performance going forward.
Potential asking price and destinations: Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reported earlier this year Bolland sought a seven- or eight-year deal worth $40 million. The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons reports the Leafs won't pay him more per season than Tyler Bozak ($4.2 million). If the Capitals fail to re-sign Mikhail Grabovski, CSNWashington.com's Chuck Gormley lists Bolland among the potential replacements.
22. Brian Gionta
Current contract: Five years, $25 million.
Strengths: An energetic, two-way right wing with good speed and offensive skills, Gionta has reached or exceeded the 40-point plateau seven times, including this season (40 points). He possesses considerable playoff experience and leads by example.
Weaknesses: Only 5'7” and 176 pounds, the 35-year-old may be wearing down from years of NHL action. He will likely have to accept a lesser role wherever he plays next season.
Potential asking price and destinations: Given his age, suitors will be leery to offer up more than a two-year deal. He could see a pay cut down to $3 million annually. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports the Canadiens are interested in re-signing Gionta.
21. Daniel Alfredsson
Current contract: One year, $3.5 million base salary, $2 million in performance bonuses.
Strengths: A respected, hardworking leader, Alfredsson can play both the power play and penalty kill. He's reached 49-plus points 15 times in his career, including this season. Despite his age (41), he's still an effective NHL player.
Weaknesses: His best seasons are in the past. Injuries have taken a toll in recent years. He went scoreless in three postseason games this spring with the Wings. He's still undecided if he'll return or retire.
Potential asking price and destinations: The Detroit Free Press' Helene St. James reports the Red Wings are waiting to hear if Alfredsson will return next season. They could offer up another bonus-laden deal but for a lesser base salary, perhaps $2.5 million.
20. Martin Brodeur
Current contract: Two years, $9 million.
Strengths: He's a goaltending legend and a future Hall of Famer who handles the puck very well. When Brodeur is on his game, he is dominant between the pipes.
Weaknesses: Brodeur is now 42 and coming to the end of his long career. He's no longer the superstar he once was. He struggled at times last season with the Devils, eventually losing the starter's job to Cory Schneider.
Potential asking price and destinations: He could get a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a base salary of $2.5 million. The Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti reports Brodeur will meet soon with his agent to discuss his options. He admits next season will probably be his last and would accept going to a contender as a No. 2 goalie. Gulitti speculates the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks could be among the goalie's options.
19. Brooks Orpik
Current contract: Six years, $22.5 million.
Strengths: An experienced, physical stay-at-home defenseman with good size (6'2”, 220 pounds) and leadership skills, Orpik averaged 21 minutes, 11 seconds in ice time per game this season. He led the Penguins in blocked shots (143) and was second in hits (221).
Weaknesses: He's strictly a defensive blueliner. At times he can take bad penalties and appears to have slowed this season. Age (he turns 34 in September) and his punishing style may be catching up to him.
Potential asking price and destinations: He could seek a four-year deal for around $4 million annually. Sun-Sentinel.com's Harvey Fialkov wonders if he would sign with the Florida Panthers should they hire former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. The Toronto Maple Leafs need an experienced shutdown defenseman and could pursue Orpik for the right price.
18. Jonas Hiller
Current contract: Four years, $18 million.
Strengths: A skilled veteran starter with a history of overcoming adversity, Hiller has a career .916 save percentage. He possesses even better career playoff stats (.932 save percentage. 2.29 GAA).
Weaknesses: He lost the starter's job this season with the Ducks, which could hurt his free-agent value. He suffered from vertigo earlier in his career but appears to have overcome it. He tends to drop into his butterfly too early, leaving him vulnerable to high shots.
Potential asking price and destinations: Teams could be reluctant to invest too long or too much in the 32-year-old. This summer's soft goalie market means he could end up accepting a lesser deal, perhaps a one-year deal worth $3 million. Sportsnet.ca's Luke Fox lists Hiller among the goalie options for the Vancouver Canucks.
17. Milan Michalek
Current contract: Six years, $26 million.
Strengths: A skilled scoring winger who is also defensively responsible, Michalek has reached 50-plus points four times in his career and 20-plus goals five times. He possesses good size (6'2", 215 pounds) and speed. At 29 he should still have some productive years ahead of him.
Weaknesses: He tends to be a streaky scorer. Michalek's aggressive style often leads to injuries. Though this season was the first time in his career he's played a full 82 games, he tallied only 17 goals and 39 points.
Potential asking price and destinations: He won't get another six-year deal but could get three years for around $3.5 million per season. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi lists Michalek among the Flyers' possible left-wing targets this summer.
16. Ales Hemsky
Current contract: Two years, $10 million.
Strengths: He is a creative playmaking winger. When healthy and with the right linemates, Hemsky is capable of good offensive numbers. He meshed well with Jason Spezza during his short tenure this season with the Ottawa Senators. He netted 43 points this season between the Senators and Edmonton Oilers.
Weaknesses: He's often injured, as this season was the first time in five years he played more than 70 games. He's not a physical winger and tends to pass first when there's an opportunity to shoot.
Potential asking price and destinations: The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators rejected Hemsky's asking price of $5.5 million per season. Garrioch claims Hemsky wants to play in an American market. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reports the Phoenix Coyotes tried to acquire Hemsky at the trade deadline and speculates they might pursue him this summer.
15. Mike Cammalleri
Current contract: Five years, $30 million.
Strengths: He possesses solid offensive skills, including a lethal one-timer. Though a left winger, Cammalleri can play center or right wing if required. This season he scored 20-plus goals for the sixth time and 40-plus points for the eighth time. He's earning a reputation as a team leader.
Weaknesses: He lacks the size (5'9”, 190 pounds) to win one-on-one battles with larger defensemen. He's been frequently injured in recent years. At 32 his best years may be behind him.
Potential asking price and destinations: He won't earn $6 million per season again. Cammalleri could land between $4.5 and $5.5 million on a two- or three-year deal. Sportsnet.ca's Mark Spector reports the Flames are interested in re-signing him. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi includes Cammalleri on his list of possible left-wing targets for the Flyers.
14. Andrei Markov
Current contract: Three years, $17.25 million.
Strengths: A reliable puck-moving defenseman, Markov skates well and is poised under pressure. He reached the 40-plus point plateau (43) this season for the fifth time in his NHL career.
Weaknesses: The 35-year-old blueliner noticeably slowed during this year's playoffs. He also has a history of knee injuries. He's not a physical defender.
Potential asking price and destinations: TVA Sports' Renaud Lavoie reports Markov wants to finish his career in Montreal. Given his age, the Habs might prefer re-signing him to a two-year deal. He might have to take a pay cut (perhaps $4.5 million annually) to stay in Montreal. MLive.com's Ansar Khan lists Markov among possible defense options for the Detroit Red Wings.
13. Mikhail Grabovski
Current contract: One year, $3 million.
Strengths: He is an aggressive second-line center who can also play wing if necessary. The 30-year-old Grabovski possesses good speed and two-way skills. He exceeded 20 goals and 48 points three times in his career.
Weaknesses: His lack of size (5'11", 183 pounds) means his physical style frequently leads to injuries. At times he can be undisciplined and take bad penalties.
Potential asking price and destinations: The Washington Post's Alex Prewitt reports Grabovski's agent claims his client is interested in re-signing with the Capitals and believes they are amenable to keeping him. Prewitt's colleague Katie Carrera reports Grabovski is seeking a four-to-five year deal worth $5 million per season. The Dallas Morning News' Mike Heika includes Grabovski among his list of potential second-line center targets for the Stars. The Tennessean's Josh Cooper includes him on a list of possible free-agent options for the Nashville Predators.
12. Radim Vrbata
Current contract: Three years, $9 million.
Strengths: An adept playmaking winger, Vrbata has exceeded the 40-point mark six times in the past seven seasons, including 51 points this season. He's an excellent skater and also a decent penalty-killer.
Weaknesses: At 6'1" and 194 pounds, Vrbata isn't a physical player. He struggles at time with consistency. At 33, his best seasons may be behind him.
Potential asking price and destinations: Vrbata could seek a three- or four-year deal worth up to $4.5 million per season. The Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan reports the Coyotes could find it difficult to re-sign him. The Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks need depth at right wing and could come calling.
11. Jussi Jokinen
Current contract: Three years, $9 million.
Strengths: A versatile two-way performer who can play all three forward positions, Jokinen is solid in the faceoff circle (53.5 percent) and excels in shootout situations. He has exceeded the 40-point mark seven times, including this season (57 points).
Weaknesses: At 5'11” and 198 pounds, Jokinen has difficulty against bigger opponents. Despite his shootout skills, he's more of a playmaker than a scorer.
Potential asking price and destinations: After playing for four teams in nine seasons, Jokinen will seek stability. He could request a four- or five-year contract worth $4 million annually. MLive.com's Ansar Khan suggests Jokinen could be a good option for the Red Wings. The Province's Jim Jamieson suggests the Canucks should take a look at him. Sun-Sentinel.com's Harvey Fialkov includes him on a list of wingers he believes the Florida Panthers need.
10. Anton Stralman
Current contract: Two years, $3.4 million.
Strengths: He's become an effective all-around defenseman with the Rangers. Stralman's improved defensive play was noticeable during the Rangers' playoff run this spring. Sportsnet.ca's Tyler Dellow considers Stralman the linchpin of the Rangers defense. His age (27) is also an asset in the free-agent market.
Weaknesses: At 5'11" and 190 pounds, Stralman lacks the size to contain larger opponents. He doesn't log big minutes, averaging only 19:24 this season.
Potential asking price and destinations: The New York Daily News' Pat Leonard reports Stralman's agent denied he rejected a three-year, $9 million offer from the Rangers. Given his solid postseason play, NHL.com's Corey Masisak speculates Stralman could command more than $5 million annually. The Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings and New York Islanders could pursue him.
9. Matt Moulson
Current contract: Three years, $9.4 million.
Strengths: He's a consistent regular-season sniper. Moulson exceeded the 30-goal mark three times in his career. He managed to score 27 goals and 51 points this season playing with the New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild.
Weaknesses: Moulson has decent size (6'1”, 200 pounds) but isn't a physical player. He's not a fast skater and didn't have a good performance with the Wild in this year's playoffs.
Potential asking price and destinations: The 30-year-old winger could land a four-to-five-year deal around $4.5 million annually. The Province's Jim Jamieson believes the Canucks should take a look at Moulson. The Tennessean's Josh Cooper includes him on his list of scoring winger targets for the Nashville Predators. Sun-Sentinel.com's Harvey Fialkov lists him among the scoring wingers he believes the Florida Panthers need.
8. Dan Boyle
Current contract: Six years, $40 million.
Strengths: An experienced puck-moving blueliner who also plays a solid defensive game, Boyle reached the 50-point mark six times in his career and had 36 points in 75 games this season. He can also provide leadership for a young defense. He possesses considerable playoff experience.
Weaknesses: At 37, Boyle is approaching the end of his NHL career. He's not a big defenseman (5'11”, 190 pounds) and can lose physical battles with larger forwards. A concussion hampered his performance this season.
Potential asking price and destinations: He won't command more than $6 million per season anymore but could seek $5 million annually on a two-year deal. The New York Islanders recently acquired his rights and hope to re-sign him. TSN's Darren Dreger reports the Toronto Maple Leafs are high on Boyle's list. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeff Gordon believes the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning could also be interested in him.
7. Ryan Callahan
Current contract: Three years, $12.825 million.
Strengths: A hardworking two-way winger and former captain of the New York Rangers, Callahan is a respected player who leads by example. He can play on both wings. He has scored 20-plus goals and 40-plus points three times in his career.
Weaknesses: He's not a big winger (5'11”, 190 pounds) and can be outmuscled by larger opponents. Callahan's energetic style often leads to injuries. He played more than 80 games in a season only once, in 2008-09.
Potential asking price and destinations: The Tampa Bay Times' Joe Smith reports contract talks between the Lightning and Callahan are ongoing. It's unclear if he's seeking a six-year, $39 million deal similar to that which led to his trade by the Rangers to the Lightning. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch believes Callahan would be a good fit with the Senators. ESPN.com's Craig Custance includes Callahan on a list of wingers that the Detroit Red Wings should consider.
6. Ryan Miller
Current contract: Five years, $31.25 million.
Strengths: He's the best available goaltender in this summer's free-agent market. Miller won the Vezina Trophy in 2010 and ranked among the NHL's top goalies for nearly a decade. He possesses considerable experience as a starting goalie.
Weaknesses: His play has been in decline in recent years. Dealt to the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline, Miller failed to carry them past the first round of the 2014 playoffs. At 34, his best years could be behind him.
Potential asking price and destinations: His playoff performance could hurt his market value. He might not get more than $5.5 million annually on a two-to-three-year deal. Sportsnet.ca's Luke Fox reports Canucks general manager Jim Benning scouted and drafted Miller to the Buffalo Sabres. ESPN.com's Craig Custance suggests the Anaheim Ducks should add a veteran like Miller. However, it appears they'll stick with their young goalies.
5. Jarome Iginla
Current contract: One year, $1.8 million base salary, $4.2 million in performance bonuses.
Strengths: One of the most respected players and leaders in the league, Iginla is very strong on his skates and possesses an accurate shot. This season he reached 30 goals for the 12th time in his career and 60 points for the 13th time. He doesn't shy away from physical play.
Weaknesses: Iginla turns 37 on July 1, and his best years are well behind him. He's slowed a step or two and is better suited as a second-line right winger. Given his age, teams could be leery of committing to more than a one-year contract.
Potential asking price and destinations: CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty reports the Bruins could be close to re-signing Iginla. He suspects they'll try to sign him to a deal similar to this season's. If Iginla hits the market, there will be considerable interest in him. At this stage of his career, however, he'll likely prefer signing with a Cup contender.
4. Matt Niskanen
Current contract: Two years, $4.6 million.
Strengths: A strong skater with solid offensive skills, Niskanen is the best defenseman available in this summer's free-agent market. He had a career-best 46 points in 81 games this season and did well filling in for an injured Kris Letang. At 27, he's entering his playing prime. His best seasons could still be ahead of him.
Weaknesses: His defensive game still needs improvement. It remains to be seen if he can continue posting up big offensive numbers, especially with a different team.
Potential asking price and destinations: His youth and performance this season make him the top available defenseman in this summer's market. Niskanen could command around $6 million annually on a seven-year deal. Sportsnet.ca's Mark Spector believes the Edmonton Oilers could have interest in Niskanen. If the Florida Panthers hire former Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, Sun-Sentinel.com's Harvey Fialkov wonders if Niskanen would consider joining the Panthers. MLive.com's Ansar Khan suggests the Red Wings could pursue him. The Denver Post's Mike Chambers believes Niskanen is what the Avalanche need on their blue line.
3. Marian Gaborik
Current contract: Five years, $37.5 million.
Strengths: When healthy Gaborik is among the best offensive players in the league. He is a former three-time 40-goal scorer. He meshed well with Anze Kopitar following his acquisition by the Kings at the trade deadline. He led all goal scorers in the 2014 playoffs with 14 goals in 26 games.
Weaknesses: He is often sidelined by injuries. He also has a history of inconsistent play. At 32 Gaborik is heading toward the downside of his career.
Potential asking price and destinations: He's unlikely to earn $7.5 million annually again, but could get up to $5.5 million on the open market. Given his chemistry with Kopitar, the Kings could re-sign him. The Pioneer Press' Tom Powers wonders if the Minnesota Wild (Gaborik's original NHL team) might consider bringing him back. ESPN.com's Craig Custance includes him on a list of wingers he believes the Detroit Red Wings should consider.
2. Thomas Vanek
Current contract: Seven years, $50 million.
Strengths: A natural goal scorer with good size (6'2”, 205 pounds) and a strong shot, Vanek tallied 27 goals and 68 points for the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens this season. He scored 20-plus goals nine times and 60-plus points six times. At 30, he's still in his playing prime.
Weaknesses: He tends to be a streaky scorer. Though Vanek had 10 points in 17 playoff games this year, his production tailed off in the Eastern Conference Final. That could affect his market value. Despite his size, he's not a particularly physical player.
Potential asking price and destinations: He could seek an expensive long-term contract. In February Newsday's Arthur Staple reported Vanek spurned a seven-year, $50 million offer from the Islanders. The Canadiens aren't expected to re-sign him. The Pioneer Press' Charley Walters recently reported the Minnesota Wild could pursue him. The Detroit Free Press' Helene St. James lists Vanek among the options for the Red Wings.
1. Paul Stastny
Current contract: Five years, $33 million.
Strengths: At 28, Stastny is in his playing prime and could become the best player available in this year's free-agent market. He is a slick playmaking center who is also solid in the faceoff circle (54.1 percent). He is tied for the Avalanche playoff scoring lead with 10 points and reached the 70-plus point mark three times in his career. He has also improved his defensive play.
Weaknesses: His 70-plus-point seasons occurred early in his career. He's struggled to play up to heightened expectations. Stastny seems better suited as a second-line center.
Potential asking price and destinations: Earlier this year The Denver Post's Terry Frei reported Stastny was willing to accept a hometown discount to stay in Colorado. Frei's colleague Adrian Dater reports the Avalanche hope to re-sign Stastny, but talks aren't expected to start until June 20. If he becomes an unrestricted free agent, the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons believes 20 teams will be interested. The Dallas Morning News' Mike Heika lists him among several options at second-line center for the Stars. Stastny tops The Tennessean's Josh Cooper's list of players the Nashville Predators should pursue this summer.
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