NHL Free Agents 2015: Ranking the Best Players Left at Every Position

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2015

NHL Free Agents 2015: Ranking the Best Players Left at Every Position

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    Only two days into a thin NHL free-agent market, most of the best available talent is already gone. Among the notables signed were defenseman Mike Green by the Detroit Red Wings, left wing Matt Beleskey by the Boston Bruins and right wing Justin Williams by the Washington Capitals. 

    With most of the best players off the market, NHL teams will pick through the remainder in search of affordable talent to address their roster needs. Be it a backup goalie like Ray Emery, a defenseman like Cody Franson or a forward like Alexander Semin, some decent players are still out there for the bargain hunters.

    Here's a look at the best players still available at each position in the 2015 NHL free-agent market. Age, skills, recent performance and rumored suitors factored into the compilation.

Goaltenders

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    3. Dan Ellis: A once-promising netminder, Ellis had solid numbers in limited action last season with the Florida Panthers. The 35-year-old could be an affordable backup option. 

    2. Viktor Fasth: The 32-year-old Fasth struggled with consistency during his short NHL career. Still, he could be a worthwhile signing as a low-cost backup. 

    1. Ray Emery: Emery's days as a starter are long behind him, but the 32-year-old has considerable backup experience. That could give him an edge in a thin class of free-agent goalies.

Defensemen

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    5. Christian Ehrhoff: Injuries limited the skilled puck-moving defenseman to only 49 games in 2014-15. If he can stay healthy, he could prove a worthwhile bargain on a one-year deal.

    4. Marek Zidlicky: Despite his age (38), Zidlicky exceeded 30 points for the eighth time in his career last season. While he's slowed in recent years, he could be a good addition to a power-play unit. 

    3. Matt Irwin: The 6'2”, 210-pound Irwin has good size and decent all-around defensive skills. Only 27, he could be a rewarding addition for a club in need of youth on the blue line. 

    2. Johnny Oduya: The 33-year-old Oduya logged big minutes for the Chicago Blackhawks during their 2015 Stanley Cup run. He will interest teams that are seeking veteran playoff experience on defense.

    1. Cody Franson: For the second straight season, Franson exceeded 30 points, but the 27-year-old could be an expensive signing. The Dallas Morning News' Mike Heika reported Franson could be seeking $5-$6 million per season. 

Centers

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    5. Andrew Desjardins: The 28-year-old Desjardins is a solid checking-line center who can also play on the wing. NHL.com's Brian Hedger reported he is considering several options, including re-signing with the Blackhawks. 

    4. Jiri Tlusty: A creative offensive player, Tlusty has struggled to regain the level of his 23-goal campaign in 2012-13. The 27-year-old could be a reasonably priced gamble for a club in need of offensive depth.

    3. Mike Santorelli: A versatile player who can skate at every forward position, Santorelli should be enticing for teams that are pursuing checking-line depth. TSN's Darren Dreger reported several teams are interested in him.

    2. Shawn Matthias: The 6'4”, 223-pounds Matthias is coming off a career-best 18-goal season. His two-way skills should prove tempting for clubs that are seeking a quality third-line center.

    1. Eric Fehr: Fehr, 29, will interest clubs that are looking for a third-line center. He tallied 19 goals last season and is strong on the penalty kill and in the faceoff circle. He could land a four-year deal around $3.5 million annually. 

Left Wings

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    5. Scottie Upshall: An agitating energy winger, the 31-year-old Upshall is only a year removed from his career-best 37-point performance. He could be a low-cost depth addition.  

    4. David Booth: Injuries have limited Booth's effectiveness as a scorer. Now 30, he could still attract some interest as an affordable depth winger.  

    3. Sean Bergenheim: A defensive winger with some scoring ability, the 31-year-old Bergenheim has had an injury-filled career. Clubs in need of left wing depth on their checking lines could come calling.

    2. Tomas Fleischmann: Fleischmann's production has tumbled from his 61-point performance in 2011-12. Given the lack of quality depth in the free-agent pool, a club still might take a chance on him.

    1. Curtis Glencross: The 32-year-old Glencross had a brief, disappointing tenure last season with the Washington Capitals. Still, his reputation as a physical two-way forward should attract free-agent bargain hunters. 

Right Wings

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    5. Lee Stempniak: A good special-teams winger, Stempniak collected 10 points in 18 games during his short stay with the Winnipeg Jets. Teams in need of checking-line depth will seek him out.  

    4. Brad Boyes: Boyes collected 38 points with the offensively anemic Florida Panthers last season. The 33-year-old could attract interest from teams that are pursuing low-cost scoring depth. 

    3. Chris Stewart: A former two-time 28-goal scorer, the 27-year-old Stewart's physical style could prove enticing for clubs that are seeking grit. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported he wants a two-year, $8 million contract. 

    2. Alexander Semin: Bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes, Semin has amassed 513 points in 635 NHL games. If the 31-year-old is willing to accept a modest short-term deal, he could entice a team that is desperate for scoring punch.

    1. Joel Ward: The 34-year-old Ward is a physical, hardworking winger. His strong performance in this year's playoffs bolstered his free-agent stock. TSN's Darren Dreger reported eight teams have interest in Ward.