Stock Watch for Top 2015 NHL Free Agents: Post-Draft Edition

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2015

Stock Watch for Top 2015 NHL Free Agents: Post-Draft Edition

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    Prior to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, we ranked the stock of the NHL's top potential free agents. With the 2015 NHL draft now history, the opening date for free agency (July 1) is fast approaching. With several players (Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk, Montreal's Jeff Petry) now off the market, it's worth revisiting the list to update the rankings.

    In addition to assessing a free agent's skills, performance and contract, it's worth noting the interest he is garnering from other teams. As of June 25, pending free agents are allowed to speak with rival clubs. That could increase the market value for notables like Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green and Anaheim Ducks winger Matt Beleskey.

    Here's a refreshed stock watch of this summer's top unrestricted free agents. Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section below.

Honorable Mention

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    Brad Richards, Chicago Blackhawks: The 35-year-old Richards told ESPN.com's Scott Powers he'd like to re-sign. Even at a bargain, that might not be possible with the cap-strapped Blackhawks. His playoff performance could entice teams that are seeking veteran depth at center.

    Joel Ward, Washington Capitals: Ward, 34, enjoyed another productive season and is testing the free-agent market. CSN's Jill Sorenson (h/t Chuck Gormley) tweeted that Ward is seeking a four-year deal. Given his age, that could be a tough sell.

    Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim Ducks: The Orange County Register's Eric Stephens reported the Ducks still hope to re-sign the 35-year-old Beauchemin. His experience and leadership would prove invaluable for teams that are seeking a short-term defense addition.

    Michael Frolik, Winnipeg Jets: The Winnipeg Sun's Ken Wiebe reported the Jets remain an option for the 27-year-old Frolik. However, he's also speaking with other clubs. In a thin free-agent market, Frolik's back-to-back 42-point seasons could attract interest from offense-starved teams.

    Martin St. Louis, New York Rangers: It was apparent last season that St. Louis, who recently turned 40, is a fading star. He won't be back with the Rangers, but the New York Post's Larry Brooks speculates he could attract interest from the New Jersey Devils or Pittsburgh Penguins. 

    Eric Fehr, Washington Capitals: The Capitals and the 29-year-old Fehr haven't ruled out a new deal. For now, however, he will be testing the free-agent waters. Teams that are lacking a skilled checking-line center will definitely have interest in Fehr.

    Chris Stewart, Minnesota Wild: The Wild's limited cap space and need to re-sign Mikael Granlund mean Stewart, 27, will likely hit the free-agent market. His inconsistent offense, however, could dampen his free-agent value. 

    Shawn Matthias, Vancouver Canucks: The Vancouver Sun's Brad Ziemer reports Canucks general manager Jim Benning expects the 27-year-old Matthias to test the market. His 18 goals in 2014-15 and two-way skills should prove attractive to clubs that are seeking a defensive forward.

    Erik Condra, Ottawa Senators: The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported the Senators hope to re-sign Condra. The 28-year-old winger is a good forechecker who is strong on the penalty kill. That could make him a player of interest in this year's free-agent market. 

    Karri Ramo, Calgary Flames: It remains to be seen if the Flames will re-sign Ramo or go with another option. He's shown some promise but has yet to establish himself as a starter. He could represent some value to teams in need of goaltending depth. 

10. Cody Franson, Nashville Predators

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    Cody Franson's performance declined noticeably after the Nashville Predators acquired him in February from the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, the Montreal Canadiens' re-signing of Jeff Petry vaults the 27-year-old into the top 10 free agents. 

    The Tennessean's Adam Vingan reported the Predators intend to part ways with Franson. The rearguard completed a one-year, $3.3 million contract and will likely seek a lucrative long-term deal.

    Franson could attract interest from clubs in need of a top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot. The Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers could be among that group.

9. Antoine Vermette, Chicago Blackhawks

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    After a poor regular-season finish and slow start to the playoffs, Antoine Vermette became a key factor in the Chicago Blackhawks' 2015 Cup championship. That should bolster his stock among teams that are seeking depth at center. 

    Vermette, 32, completed a five-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $3.75 million. He's a hardworking center who is good in the faceoff circle. He won't get an expensive new contract, but his playoff performance should attract attention from teams that lack a forward with his two-way skills. 

    The Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers could use a versatile faceoff man like Vermette. Perhaps his former club, the Arizona Coyotes, will try to bring him back.

8. Drew Stafford, Winnipeg Jets

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    Winnipeg Jets right wing Drew Stafford collected 43 points in 76 games split between the Jets and Buffalo Sabres in 2014-15. However, 19 of those points came in 26 games with Winnipeg. 

    The Winnipeg Free Press' Gary Lawless cited a source claiming Stafford and Jets management were working hard toward a new contract. The 29-year-old winger is completing a four-year, $16 million deal. He could seek $5 million annually. 

    If Stafford fails to re-sign with the Jets, the former 31-goal scorer should be enticing to clubs that are seeking depth at right wing. The Calgary Flames, New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins could be among his suitors.

7. Justin Williams, Los Angeles Kings

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    Only a year after winning playoff MVP honors, right wing Justin Williams and the Los Angeles Kings appear likely to part ways. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the two sides don't appear close to a new contract. 

    Williams, 33, is coming off a four-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $3.65 million. With three Stanley Cup titles on his resume and four 41-plus-point seasons in the last five years, he should attract considerable interest as a free agent.

    Several NHL teams are in need of scoring depth on the wings. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals could be among Williams' suitors.

6. Mike Ribeiro, Nashville Predators

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    Fresh off a bounce-back, 62-point performance with the Nashville Predators, center Mike Ribeiro hopes to land a better deal. The 35-year-old is coming off a one-year, $1.05 million contract and prefers a more lucrative deal. 

    The Tennessean's Adam Vingan reported Ribeiro rejected an offer from the Predators. Both sides, however, apparently wish to continue negotiations. Vingan also noted Ribeiro will listen to pitches from other clubs.

    Ribeiro rebounded well from off-ice issues last season, which could entice teams that are seeking scoring depth. His preference to re-sign with the Predators, however, suggests he might not be available by July 1.

5. Andrej Sekera, Los Angeles Kings

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    Andrej Sekera collected 23 points in 73 games in 2014-15 split between the Los Angeles Kings and Carolina Hurricanes. The cap-strapped Kings are unlikely to re-sign the 29-year-old rearguard, who is completing a four-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $2.75 million.

    The underrated Sekera plays a solid game at both ends of the ice. He could get close to $5 million annually on a long-term deal via the open market.

    Sekera should attract interest from teams that are seeking an experienced top-four defenseman. The Denver Post's Mike Chambers speculated the Colorado Avalanche could shift their focus to him. The Edmonton Oilers are another team that might pursue him.

4. Antti Niemi, Dallas Stars

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    In a free-agent market thin on starting goaltenders, 31-year-old Antti Niemi is clearly the standout. He posted solid numbers during his five seasons with the San Jose Sharks, during which he earned an annual cap hit of $3.8 million. 

    The Dallas Stars acquired Niemi's rights during the 2015 NHL draft. The Dallas Morning News' Mike Heika reports Stars general manager Jim Nill hopes to re-sign Niemi and have him partner with Kari Lehtonen as the team's goalie tandem. 

    Should the Stars fail to re-sign Niemi, he can test the open market on July 1. Given the recent trade activity, however, he could find the pickings slim. The Calgary Flames and his former club, the San Jose Sharks, could be interested in his services.

3. Paul Martin, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Perhaps the best all-around defenseman in this summer's free-agent market, Paul Martin wrapped up a five-year, $25 million contract. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Jason Mackey reported neither Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford nor the Martin camp has ruled out a possible return.

    The Penguins' limited cap space could hurt their chances of re-signing Martin. A dearth of quality free-agent defensemen makes the 34-year-old popular among clubs in need of experienced blue-line depth. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reported six teams had interest in the veteran rearguard.

    Martin shouldn't lack for destinations if he tests the market. The Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers all need experienced defensive depth.

2. Matt Beleskey, Anaheim Ducks

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    Coming off a 22-goal tally during the regular season and eight goals in the playoffs with the Anaheim Ducks, left wing Matt Beleskey will test the free-agent market. Sportsnet's Chris Johnston reported the 27-year-old rejected the Ducks' best offer.

    Beleskey completed a two-year contract worth an annual cap hit of $1.35 million. This summer's shallow free-agent pool means he could land a multiyear deal worth over $4 million annually. Despite Beleskey's limited NHL career, the scarcity of young free-agent scorers makes him an attractive commodity. 

    Teams that are seeking an offensive left winger will be interested in Beleskey. The Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy reported the Toronto Maple Leafs spoke with his agent. The New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins could also be potential destinations for Beleskey. 

1. Mike Green, Washington Capitals

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    CSNWashington.com's Chuck Gormley reported agent Craig Oster, who represents defenseman Mike Green, said his client won't be returning with the Washington Capitals. The 29-year-old Green fulfilled a three-year contract with an annual cap hit of $6.083 million. 

    Despite struggling in the 2015 playoffs, Green tallied 45 points in 2014-15, marking the fourth time he's reached that number. He has terrific puck-moving skills and has also improved his defensive play. Green possesses a right-handed shot, which could be a valuable commodity in the free-agent market.

    Despite the lack of depth in this year's free-agent market, Green probably won't land another $6 million-plus annual salary. Still, he should get something in the $5 million range. The Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers could come calling.