NHL Free Agents: Ranking the Top 20 Forwards Who Will Be Available

April WeinerCorrespondent IJune 7, 2011

NHL Free Agents: Ranking the Top 20 Forwards Who Will Be Available

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    Brad Richards is the most highly sought after free agent in this year's free agency crop.

    However, he isn't the only free-agent forward available come July 1st (even though he has received the most press coverage).

    Most of these free agents aren't superstars, but they can get the job done.

    Here are the top 20 free-agent forwards on the market.

20. Alexei Kovalev

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    Alexei Kovalev turned 38 this year. His best years are behind him at this point.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins clearly agree, as Ray Shero said the team will not look to re-sign him this offseason.

    However, Kovalev could be a good sign towards the end of the offseason for the teams who didn't get what they wanted in free agency or a trade.

19. Erik Cole

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    Carolina Hurricanes forward Erik Cole will become a free agent on July 1st.

    Cole's best season was 2006-07 with the Hurricanes, when he scored 61 points, 29 of them goals. Cole's seasons went downhill after that, but this past season he hit 52 points.

    Cole could be another good addition to a team, if he isn't re-signed by the Hurricanes.

18. Brendan Morrison

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    Brendan Morrison is a free agent again this summer.

    Morrison is 35 now, and his production has been lower in the past few years than it was at the beginning of his career.

    However, he can still add something to the team that signs him.

17. Andrew Brunette

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    Andrew Brunette is another veteran forward due to become a free agent next month.

    Brunette could add veteran presence to a young lineup. He could also come at a decreased price because of his age (37).

16. Jason Arnott

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    After being traded to the Washington Capitals before the trade deadline, it doesn't look like Jason Arnott will be in a Capitals uniform again next year.

    Arnott is a valuable asset for a team looking for veteran leadership.

    He was very beneficial for young players on the Capitals in the short time he was there, even though in the end it didn't help the Capitals get the Cup they were looking for.

15. Jussi Jokinen

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    Carolina Hurricanes forward Jussi Jokinen is set to become a free agent next month.

    At 28, Jokinen still has time to really prosper with a team, whether he remains with the Hurricanes or signs with another team.

14. Alex Tanguay

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    In the 2009-10 season, Alex Tanguay scored 37 points. This past season with the Calgary Flames, Tanguay scored 69 points.

    Tanguay could be a great addition to a team, but the Flames should look to re-sign him.

13. Simon Gagne

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    After suffering from concussions, Simon Gagne hasn't been the same player he once was.

    Towards the end of this past season with Tampa Bay, as he began to fully recover, Gagne started to play really well.

    Next year, the old Gagne could officially be back.

12. Pascal Dupuis

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    Pascal Dupuis has been a good linemate for Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh. Most people believe the success is due to Crosby, yet even without Crosby for half of this past season, Dupuis came only one point shy of the previous year's total.

    Dupuis could be a good deal for a team, his salary the past three years has been $1.4 million a year.

    He'll probably re-sign with Pittsburgh though.

11. Scottie Upshall

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    Scottie Upshall was traded from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Columbus Blue Jackets before the trade deadline this past season. Upshall was brought in to help the Blue Jackets generate scoring.

    Upshall had been among the Coyotes top scorers and could be the same for another team.

    He's also another lower cost forward.

10. John Madden

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    John Madden is 38, so he probably only has a couple more years left in the NHL.

    His point production is down considerably, but he brings the veteran presence that many teams are looking for.

    The Washington Capitals are reportedly interested in Madden for that reason.

9. Radim Vrbata

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    Radim Vrbata will become a free agent next month.

    He's been a solid forward for the Phoenix Coyotes and still can get better in the next few years.

    If he isn't re-signed by Phoenix, he could be a steal for another team.

8. Joel Ward

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    Joel Ward knew he was nearing free agency and had to prove himself. He did just that in the playoffs, scoring seven goals and 13 points before the Nashville Predators were eliminated.

    His salary the past two years has been $1.5 million, but after the playoffs, he's probably up for a raise.

    Any team would love to have him, but the Predators will probably re-sign him.

7. Sean Bergenheim

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    Sean Bergenheim also really proved himself this past postseason.

    After scoring 14 goals and 29 points in the regular season, Bergenheim followed that up with nine goals and 11 points in the playoffs.

    His salary has been under a million for that past few years, Bergenheim is definitely up for a pay raise.

6. Tomas Fleischmann

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    Tomas Fleischmann was traded to the Colorado Avalanche because he was under-producing last year. Shortly after being traded, he was out for the season after being diagnosed with a pulmonary emboli.

    If Fleischmann can return fully recovered, he could become the player he was once poised to become.

5. Teemu Selanne

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    Teemu Selanne proved last season that he may be one of the oldest players still in the league, but he's not done yet.

    He scored 80 points last season, one of the top producers on his team.

    It's likely that he will re-sign with the Anaheim Ducks, but perhaps he will be drawn back to Winnipeg?

4. Ville Leino

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    Ville Leino has been a great part of the Philadelphia Flyers. With the talks of signing a top goaltender, there's no telling if the Flyers will be able to re-sign Leino.

    Leino has been making under a million, but at 27, he should have his best years coming now.

    He would be a great addition to any team.

3. Tim Connolly

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    Tim Connolly's named was always brought up amongst trade rumors last season, but he remained with the Buffalo Sabres.

    Now that he is set to become a free agent, will he still remain a Sabre or sign elsewhere?

    After Brad Richards signs somewhere, teams that lose out will likely look to Connolly.

2. Brooks Laich

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    Brooks Laich is one of the undervalued members of the Washington Capitals. It's easy to get lost behind Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom.

    However, there is reportedly significant interest in the forward soon set to become a free agent, as there should be.

    Laich has been a significant part of the Capitals success. His work ethic is a great example to young players. He's also a versatile player, playing any position asked of him.

    He's one of the best deals in this free-agent market. Washington would be foolish to let him go.

1. Brad Richards

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    Brad Richards is the biggest and most talked about name on the free-agent market this summer.

    The Dallas Stars recently announced that given their financial situation, they would be unable to offer Richards a contract.

    Their loss is another team's gain.

    The teams supposedly in the running are the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning.

    We'll have to wait to see who this year's biggest free agent ends up with.