As the clock ticks to noon E.T. on July 1st, the entire hockey world watches as new contracts begin to pour in by the dozens. It's that special time of year: free agency.
This summer, hundreds of free agents, most of whom are UFA's (Unrestricted Free Agents), will hit the market looking for work. Only some will get that much-anticipated next contract. Fewer still will generate competition between teams. And only a very select group will make the headlines as the biggest signings of NHL Free Agency 2011.
A great number of those signed will be forwards; the goal scorers, the playmakers, the spotlight-grabbers, the bulk of any team's roster and, for many, the most important players on the club. This year, there may not be a plethora of superstars available, but the depth of the mid-line forwards out there is stunning. From Radim Vrbata to Tomas Kopecky to Cory Stillman, any team looking to fill out their second and third lines is certainly in luck.
Though the sheer quantity of free agents is always overwhelming, we've picked out 17 top forwards that seem to be the best finds and, in most cases, the top targets of 2011.
Note: Keep in mind that even though we will be estimating the upcoming contract for each player, these rankings are not based on price but simply skill only. We will also be updating this article up to and beyond July 1 with the team each mentioned player signs/re-signs with.