This year's NHL free agency is quickly approaching us. In my opinion, these are the top-10 impact players that could be available July 1.
10. Washington center Sergei Federov—The Russian center is at the tail end of his career but could provide a contender with great playmaking ability and playoff experience. Federov had 13 goals and 41 assists this season with both Columbus and Washington. There are many teams that are interested in him, but I think he stays with Washington.
9. Montreal right-winger Michael Ryder—Ryder is coming off the worst offensive year of his career with Montreal, so his asking price should be lower than otherwise expected. Montreal's right winger could be a perfect addition to a team with an offense in need of a playmaking forward. I see him signing with St. Louis or Edmonton, possibly.
8. Vancouver left-winger Markus Naslund—Naslund can bring a team playoff experience along with 20 goals a year. He is an excellent winger who has great vision and makes precise passes. Naslund has been one of my favorite NHL players for years. Naslund's asking price, however, may be too high for some teams. I see him going to Boston or maybe even his first choice, Detroit.
7. Minnesota center/winger Pavol Demitra—Demitra is a fast skater who can give a team 20 goals and 40 assists a season. He has a good amount of playoff experience with Minnesota and St. Louis. I see Demitra signing with Vancouver in an attempt to replace Naslund, if the Canucks can't re-sign him.
6. Pittsburgh left-winger Ryan Malone—Malone had an incredible year with Pittsburgh and was an important part of the Penguins' playoff run. He posted 27 goals and 24 assists for the Penguins this year. If he can't re-sign with Pittsburgh, I see him going to Columbus, as Pittsburgh and Columbus have already negotiated his rights.
5. New York Rangers right-winger Brendan Shanahan—Shanahan is the guy to have if your team is in need of playoff experience. It seems Shanahan has been to the playoffs every year of his career with Detroit and the Rangers. Many teams will be interested, but I see the Rangers re-signing him.
4. Los Angeles defenseman Rob Blake—Blake is one of the greatest active defenseman in the NHL. He can provide a young contender with terrific experience at the blue line. I think Blake would be the perfect addition for Washington, but that it's more likely he re-signs with the Kings.
3. San Jose defenseman Brian Campbell—Without a doubt the best puck-moving defenseman that is an unrestricted free agent. He can help any power-play unit at the blue line position. The Panthers hinted at acquiring him, but since they shipped out Olli Jokinen primarily for defensive help, it is highly unlikely the Panthers would try for him. I expect Campbell to re-sign with the Sharks.
2. Toronto center Mats Sundin—He would be the best free agent available, if it was not for Montreal receiving his exclusive negotiating rights from the Leafs. You can't go wrong with the 13-year NHL veteran. In my opinion I can't see Sundin in any other jersey besides Toronto. We will have to wait and see on this one.
1. Pittsburgh right-winger Marian Hossa—The best pure talent available in the free agent market, in my opinion. It seems as if talks between Pittsburgh and Hossa have completely broken down. At this point it is unclear where Hossa may end up, but I don't see it being in Pittsburgh.
July 1 will be a very exciting time for NHL fans. Free agency provides teams with impact players that are ready to play and take their new teams to the Cup.
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