The start of NHL free-agency is one of the most exciting times of the hockey season. While no games are played, many things can change between July 1 and the start of the new NHL season. Teams look to free-agency to help fill some of the voids on their roster.
Free-agent signings are not the only thing that takes place after July 1. As soon as that day hits, all of the following years' contracts come into effect, causing teams to be more cautious of their spending in the salary cap era.
Ahead we're going to look at the top free agent left wingers who could help change the fate of many teams.
Vyacheslav Kozlov is a player who is well past him prime but could potentially be a great signing for any team looking to make a run for the Stanley Cup.
Kozlov is coming off the worst season in his very prosperous career, which has seen him collect 356 goals and 853 points as well as capturing two Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings. This past season, however, Kozlov only managed to score eight goals and 26 points.
Now at the age of 38, many believe that if Kozlov does continue to play hockey it will be in Russia in the KHL. But there is a chance that he may jump at the opportunity to play for a Cup contending team for supplementary scoring at a very cheap price.
Much like Jeremy Roenick did in 2007 when he signed with the San Jose Sharks and spent most of his time playing on their third and fourth lines.
It will be interesting to see where Kozlov plays next season, especially when being known as a prolific goal scorer for most of his career. He may not be interested in signing for less and playing limited time in the NHL.
While Kozlov more than likely will play in the KHL next season, it will be interesting to see if any teams are interested in signing the aging Russian winger.
While the Ruslan Fedotenko experiment didn't really work out for the Pittsburgh Penguins the way they would have hoped, he would still be a good addition to any team.
If Fedotenko can develop chemistry with his linemates he can be a very cheap and effective player for any team.
While he may not have had much chemistry with Crosby or Malkin, he still managed to put up 11 goals and 30 points this past season. He has also proven himself in the past as a decent goal scorer scoring a career high 26 goals back in 2005-06.
He will likely be a very cheap signing for any team and be used to fill the void for a short period of time.
While many may say that Darcy Tucker is past his prime, he still has qualities that could attract many teams to acquire his services.
Tucker may no longer possess 20-goal potential anymore, but he is still one of the best agitators in the league. Before he was one of the best players at his role in the NHL. He could do all the little things to help a team as well as produce offensively. While he may no longer be an offensive threat, he can still do all the little things.
He has proven in the past that he can be a great leader on whatever team he plays for. Adding him to a team would be great for both the intangibles as well as leadership in the locker room.
Also he will no longer require as much money as he once did and will more than likely be under $2 million. Adding to a young team would help the development of their players come along nicely.
Raffi Torres can be summed up in one word: "pest."
He is one of the league's best agitators and he fills that role to perfection. Aside from Darcy Tucker, he is the only agitator at this position known to have offensive potential.
This past season, Torres scored 19 goals and 36 points while playing 74 games with both the the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Buffalo Sabers. He can bring that much-needed aggression to any team who signs him.
Torres is also a fast and physical player who can do a lot for any team. Any team willing to sign him will get a solid third line agitator and a proven 20-goal scorer.
Alexei Ponikarovsky is a very interesting case. When he played for the Toronto Maple Leafs when the team was without any sort of game breaking player, he prospered and put up decent numbers.
He was finally given an opportunity to succeed when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins and played with both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but he faltered.
Ponikarovsky is one of those player who needs minutes to produce and even then he does not give enough to be a top player for any team. This past season Ponikarovsky scored 21 goals and 50 points with both the Penguins and the Maple Leafs.
Most of his production, however, came from a lesser team in the Leafs. When he went to Pittsburgh, he only managed to score three goals in 27 games, regular season and playoffs combined.
Ponikarovsky does, however, possess the size that most teams covet for a top-six player. He is strong on the puck and hard to move off of it. While he is certainly not a top end player, he is definitely someone worth looking at.
Alex Tanguay for years was one of the league's best players. He consistently put up big numbers. However, this past season Tanguay had one of the worst seasons of his career, scoring only 10 goals and 37 points. Lots of people think that Tanguay is past his prime and will not regain his form.
I think otherwise.
Tanguay has always been a dynamic player but has not been the same player ever since leaving Calgary in 2008.
While people may think that Tanguay's career is going downhill, he actually had a good season comparatively with the Montreal Canadiens in 2008-09, scoring 16 goals and 41 points in a season that only saw him play 50 games due to injury. It was only this past season where he really was not himself.
Tanguay was brought into Tampa Bay to help Vincent Lecavalier find his game after he had his worst offensive season since the lockout. The experiment didn't work and Tanguay found himself once again on the open market.
On July 1, Tanguay signed a one-year contract worth $1.7 million with the Calgary Flames. There he will most likely play on a line with Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen. Tanguay will most likely be more productive next season and I believe that he can certainly find his game once again.
Ray Whitney, the ageless wonder.
Even though Ray Whitney has just celebrated his 38th birthday in May, he is showing no signs of slowing down. This past season, Whitney scored 21 goals and 58 points in 80 games with the Carolina Hurricanes. On top of that, he also represented Canada in the World Championships, being one of the teams top players.
Ever since the NHL lockout, Whitney has been having some of the best seasons of his career. Whitney's worst point total since the lockout was in 2005-06, when he scored 55 points with the Hurricanes. Ever since then his point totals have been steadily high.
Even though Whitney is 38 years old, he is showing no signs of slowing down. He still maintains the speed and skill to compete with the younger players in the league.
As of July 1, Whitney signed a one-year contract with the Phoenix Coyotes where he will most likely see time on either of the top two lines.
Ever since Paul Kariya entered the NHL he has been a point per game player...literally. In his career, Kariya has scored 989 points in 989 career games and still counting.
After seeing some of his worst seasons with a young St. Louis Blues team, Kariya will likely try to sign with a team he feels can compete for a Stanley Cup in the next few seasons. In 15 NHL seasons, Kariya has yet to win a Stanley Cup.
This past season saw Kariya net 18 goals and 43 points in 75 games. While he was not the go-to player, he still showed flashes of brilliance that had earned him the reputation of the game's best.
For years, Kariya has been known as one of the fastest players in the league. Even now he still maintains that title. While his skill set is not what it used to be, he is still a very dominant player and can help any team who wishes to make a run at the Stanley Cup.
While he will not see $6 million like he did the last few years, Kariya could be a nice find at around $3 million a season and can help change the fortune of one lucky team.
When Alexander Frolov entered the NHL back in 2002, he was a purely one-dimensional offensive player. Ever since then, he has managed to expand into a more complete style of hockey being a very effective two-way player.
Playing on a very young, talented, up-and-coming Los Angeles Kings team, money in the future will be hard to come by for Frolov. This past season, Frolov scored 19 goals and 51 points in 81 games while also being a minus one on the season.
While this may have been one of Frolov's less productive seasons offensively to date, this was mainly due to the vast amount on talent now present in the Los Angeles Kings organization.
Since Frolov has developed into a defensively responsible player with dynamic offensive capabilities, he will likely seek a pretty penny from whatever team tries to sign him.
Reports are linking the Russian winger to the KHL, where he will more than likely make more money there than with any team in the NHL. What remains to be seen is where Frolov's intentions stand.
No one could expect anyone other than Ilya Kovalchuk, a player who could change the fortunes of whatever team signed him, to top this list.
Aside from Alexander Ovechkin, Kovalchuk is probably the most dynamic goal scorer in the league. Ever since the lockout, only Ovechkin himself has scored more goals in the NHL. This past season, Kovalchuk scored 41 goals and 85 points. This is the least amount of goals he has scored since the lockout.
Ever since the Russian superstar was drafted first overall back in 2001, he has 338 goals and 642 points in 621 games played, making him a point per game player. He is one of the best Russian players to ever play in the NHL and is only be behind Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin as the top current player from his country.
No matter what people say, Kovalchuk has the ability to instantly change a team's fortune. Every time he touches the puck he is always a threat to score. He has one of the best shots in the league as well as one of the most accurate. Add that to his blazing speed, and a game breaker is born.
Reports are saying that Kovalchuk has decided to re-sign with the New Jersey Devils in a seven-year, $60 million contract. If this is indeed true, the Devils have instantly become a better team (again).