NHL Free Agents 2014: Top Players on Market Following Stanley Cup Final

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVJune 14, 2014

Los Angeles Kings' Marian Gaborik in action during an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Monday, March 24, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Kings are your 2014 Stanley Cup champions, which means the offseason has begun and the next step for all 30 teams is the free-agent cycle.

Plenty of star power is set to become available once July 1 comes, and some teams will be looking to make serious additions to bolster their ability to go for the Kings' crown in 2014-15. Others, however, will simply try to hold onto players who are about to hit the market.

With the salary cap set grow by more than 10 percent, according to NHL.com's Dan Rosen, teams will be dealing with more money than ever and won't be shy on signing their top targets.

Here's a look at the top NHL players set to hit the market as unrestricted free agents this summer.

Top 2014 NHL Free Agents
PlayerCurrent Team
Marian GaborikLos Angeles Kings
Ryan CallahanTampa Bay Lighting
Paul StastnyColorado Avalanche
Jerome IginlaBoston Bruins
Thomas VanekMontreal Canadiens
Matt MoulsonMinnesota Wild
Jussi JokinenPittsburgh Penguins
Brian BoyleNew York Rangers
Dan BoyleNew York Islanders
Matt NiskanenPittsburgh Penguins
Andrei MarkovMontreal Canadiens
David LegwandDetroit Red Wings
Martin BrodeurNew Jersey Devils
Ryan MillerSt. Louis Blues

Top Free Agents

Marian Gaborik, LW, Los Angeles Kings

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

If there's a textbook way to end a contract year, Marian Gaborik just put it on display in the 2014 playoffs.

Gaborik wasn't playing his best hockey in Columbus to start the season—in fact, that might be an understatement. After just nine goals in his first 35 games, the Kings traded for him in the hopes that he could be an offensive force come playoff time.

And boy, was he. Gaborik led not just the Kings but the entire league in playoff goals after scoring a whopping 13 times, many of which came with games—and in certain instances even the Kings' season—on the line. 

The 32-year-old probably won't reach that level of production during the regular season wherever he lands in 2014-15, but there's no doubting he proved his impact in these playoffs. His production was questioned after portions of two seasons with the Blue Jackets, but in a potent offensive system, he can thrive.

With just 11 goals during the regular season, Gaborik's explosion in the playoffs has allowed for him to put his best foot forward entering free agency. Teams looking to bolster their attack for a Stanley Cup run will be keen on courting Gaborik after seeing what he did in the postseason this year. 

Ryan Callahan, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

He'll be one of the most expensive purchases of the offseason, but whoever lands Ryan Callahan will end up with a valuable piece suited for playoff hockey.

The former Rangers captain was traded for Martin St. Louis at the trade deadline, and his short stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning ended with a four-game sweep in the first round to Montreal. The 29-year-old proved his worth in New York, captaining his team on multiple playoff runs.

Callahan's production is hit or miss, and that's told by his 2013-14 season in which he only amassed 17 goals and 19 assists. However, the change in scenery may have had something to do with that, and he does have three 20-goal seasons to point toward.

The speedy right wing will be an instant offensive boost for whatever team that signs him, and he will immediately make his presence felt in the leadership department wherever he lands. 

Paul Stastny, C, Colorado Avalanche

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

It's hard to find a player more integral to the Colorado Avalanche's resurgence in 2013-14 than Paul Stastny.

The 28-year-old center was third on the team in goals in the regular season with 25, but he took his game to a whole new level in the postseason. Stastny tied for the team lead in points with 10 and led the Avs in goals with five in the playoffs.

Stastny has spent his entire NHL career in Colorado up to this point, with five 20-goal seasons in the past and a quick emergence as one of the league's top stars. Now that he's proven himself as a veteran after a disappointing 2012-13 season, the sky is the limit for him.

Colorado certainly knows Stastny's importance to the team, as evident by the team's efforts to re-sign him to an extension before this season's trade deadline, according to the Denver Post's Adrian Dater.

But when July 1 hits, he'll be anyone's to sign. 

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