Ranking the NHL's top 20 potential UFA forwards
Norm Hall / National Hockey League / Getty

The 2019-20 NHL campaign remains on pause, but it's never too early to look ahead to the offseason. With that in mind, theScore's hockey editors are evaluating the best players who could be available in unrestricted free agency, whenever it begins.

Forwards | Defensemen | Goaltenders

Justin Williams, Joe Thornton, and Mikko Koivu are not included in this list because they're unlikely to hit the open market if they play in 2020-21.

1. Taylor Hall

Position: LW
Age: 28
2019-20 cap hit: $6M
Current team: Arizona Coyotes

GP G P ATOI xGF%
65 16 52 19:10 50.89

Hall's production has taken a dip since he joined the Coyotes, but that's hardly surprising given Arizona's emphasis on defense and lack of further star power beyond Phil Kessel, whose goal-scoring has also dried up in the desert. Regardless, Hall is the cream of the pending UFA forward crop.

Coyotes general manager John Chayka confirmed he'd spoken to the 2017-18 Hart Trophy winner's agent as of late March, and the GM later said the league's hiatus wouldn't stop him from offering Hall a long-term deal. It's still unclear whether Hall will re-sign or test the market, though, and he'll have a lengthy list of suitors if he opts for the latter.

2. Mike Hoffman

Position: LW, RW
Age: 30
2019-20 cap hit: $5.1875M
Current team: Florida Panthers

GP G P ATOI xGF%
69 29 59 16:50 46.27

Hoffman is one of the NHL's most reliable snipers and boasts a career goals-per-game rate identical to Hall's. Though he's not as skilled a facilitator as Hall and has recently logged far less ice time in a far more potent offense, the Panthers winger would be a solid consolation prize for a team that fails to land the No. 1 forward on this list.

Still, clubs should be wary of giving a long-term contract to a player who turns 31 in November.

3. Tyler Toffoli

Position: LW, RW
Age: 28
2019-20 cap hit: $4.6M
Current team: Vancouver Canucks

GP G P ATOI xGF%
68 24 44 16:51 56.47

The Canucks have more than just Toffoli to worry about this offseason, with No. 1 netminder Jacob Markstrom also requiring a new deal. If they fail to ink Toffoli to a fresh contract - or simply opt not to - he'll be one of the most coveted forwards on the market.

The former Los Angeles Kings winger produced 10 points in as many games after L.A. dealt him to the Canucks, and his ice time increased by over 90 seconds per contest with his new team. Toffoli drives possession better than most players on this list, and unlike many of them, he's still in his prime.

4. Evgenii Dadonov

Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Position: LW, RW
Age: 31
2019-20 cap hit: $4M
Current team: Panthers

GP G P ATOI xGF%
69 25 47 17:06 50.89

Dadonov is one of the most underrated scorers in the NHL, having quietly potted 28 goals and at least 65 points in each of the two seasons prior to this one. He was on pace to net 30 markers before the pause, though he benefited from playing mostly alongside elite linemates Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.

Dadonov can fill the net and plays the possession game well enough to warrant a top-six role, but his age should make teams wary of giving him too much money or term.

5. Mikael Granlund

Position: LW, RW
Age: 28
2019-20 cap hit: $5.75M
Current team: Nashville Predators

GP G P ATOI xGF%
63 17 30 17:48 51.67

Granlund isn't the player he once was with the Minnesota Wild, but the Predators winger proved he can still light it up in spurts by pouring in 13 goals over 26 games from late December to late February.

Though he may not deserve consistent top-line minutes, Granlund is relatively young compared to the majority of players on this list and belongs in the top six of most NHL lineups. The Finnish forward shouldn't be overlooked if he's available in free agency.

6. Ilya Kovalchuk

Position: LW, RW
Age: 37
2019-20 cap hit: $700K
Current team: Washington Capitals

GP G P ATOI xGF%
46 10 26 16:58 55.14

Kovalchuk enjoyed a well-documented resurgence in 2020, producing 13 points in 22 games with the Montreal Canadiens before chipping in four points in seven contests with the Capitals.

The former superstar struggled with the Kings before they traded him to the Canadiens in early January, and his advanced age can't be ignored. Signing him to another league-minimum contract, however, would involve minimal risk. A reunion with the Canadiens wouldn't be surprising, nor would the possibility of numerous other teams expressing interest.

7. Vladislav Namestnikov

Position: C, LW, RW
Age: 27
2019-20 cap hit: $4M
Current team: Colorado Avalanche

GP G P ATOI xGF%
65 17 31 15:03 50.01

Namestnikov centered the Avalanche's top line right before the league halted play, though he typically lines up on the wings. The versatile Russian will turn 28 in November, putting him on the younger side relative to his fellow potential UFA forwards.

Despite playing for three different teams in 2019-20, Namestnikov has proven he can contribute wherever he's deployed. He's shown promise in his brief tenure with Colorado, notching four goals and six points in nine games for the club.

8. Tyler Ennis

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Position: LW, RW
Age: 30
2019-20 cap hit: $800K
Current team: Edmonton Oilers

GP G P ATOI xGF%
70 16 37 14:43 51.15

Ennis has long been one of the league's most underappreciated players. His 0.53 points per game in 2019-20 tied for sixth among pending UFA forwards who played at least 21 games, and tied for fifth when excluding Kovalchuk, who played only 46 contests before the pause.

9. Craig Smith

Position: C, RW
Age: 30
2019-20 cap hit: $4.25M
Current team: Predators

GP G P ATOI xGF%
69 18 31 13:25 56.91

Smith ranks fourth among pending UFA forwards in goals scored in 2019-20 and boasts impressive possession metrics. He's notched at least 20 markers in five of his previous eight campaigns and was on pace to do it again before the suspension of the season.

The veteran forward produced despite limited playing time this year and could certainly provide an offensive boost to a team's bottom six.

10. Carl Soderberg

Position: C, LW
Age: 34
2019-20 cap hit: $4.75M
Current team: Coyotes

GP G P ATOI xGF%
 70 17 35 15:54 47.34

Soderberg doesn't post gaudy offensive numbers and his age is a concern. Still, he remains a fairly dependable depth player, and he comes with added value because he can regularly play center. Soderberg's underlying figures aren't great, but he'll likely garner some interest as a pivot with playoff experience.

11. Josh Leivo

Position: LW
Age: 27
2019-20 cap hit: $1.5M
Current team: Canucks

GP G P ATOI xGF%
36 7 19 15:01 49.95

Leivo hasn't played since suffering a broken kneecap in mid-December, but he should be able to return for the postseason and provide a boost for both the Canucks and his free-agent value. The winger was fitting in quite well with Vancouver before his injury, and his agent will undoubtedly get some calls if the team lets him walk in the offseason.

12. Alex Galchenyuk

Jeff Vinnick / National Hockey League / Getty

Position: C, LW
Age: 26
2019-20 cap hit: $4.9M
Current team: Minnesota Wild

GP G P ATOI xGF%
59 8 24 12:18 49.4

Galchenyuk clearly wasn't a fit with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but he showed some life with the Wild, notching seven points in 14 games while averaging nearly 15 minutes of ice time per contest.

13. Erik Haula

Position: C, LW
Age: 29
2019-20 cap hit: $2.75M
Current team: Panthers

GP G P ATOI xGF%
48 12 24 15:50 47

Injuries have plagued Haula since his career-best season in 2017-18, but he still managed to produce half a point per game in 2019-20 while playing 41 of his 48 contests with the Carolina Hurricanes.

14. Jesper Fast

Position: RW
Age: 28
2019-20 cap hit: $1.85M
Current team: New York Rangers

GP G P ATOI xGF%
69 12 29 16:36 51.35

Fast was on pace to set career highs in goals and points before the pause, and though his new personal bests (14 goals, 34 points) wouldn't be eye-popping figures, he's capable of providing scoring depth in a middle-six role.

15. Derick Brassard

Position: C, RW
Age: 32
2019-20 cap hit: $1.2M
Current team: New York Islanders

GP G P ATOI xGF%
66 10 32 13:42 46.81

Brassard has suited up for seven teams over his 13 NHL campaigns, and though his career is clearly on the decline, he'd hardly be the worst free-agent depth option at center.

16. Wayne Simmonds

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Position: RW
Age: 31
2019-20 cap hit: $2.5M
Current team: Buffalo Sabres

GP G P ATOI xGF%
68 8 25 14:55 45.81

The New Jersey Devils retained 50% of Simmonds' initial $5-million cap hit when they traded him to the Sabres, and it's hard to imagine the former 30-goal scorer taking anything but a pay cut in 2020-21. He still offers a rare mix of physicality and skill, though the latter has diminished over the years.

17. Derek Grant

Position: C
Age: 30
2019-20 cap hit: $700K
Current team: Philadelphia Flyers

GP G P ATOI xGF%
56 15 25 13:55 39.14

Grant's production in limited action this season is impressive, but his underlying numbers aren't at all flattering, nor is his inflated 2019-20 shooting percentage (16) that will surely regress.

18. Conor Sheary

Position: LW, RW
Age: 28
2019-20 cap hit: $3M
Current team: Pittsburgh Penguins

GP G P ATOI xGF%
63 10 23 13:06 49.91

Expect Sheary to be somewhat overlooked if he hits the market; he struggled with the lowly Sabres before they traded him back to the high-flying Penguins. The diminutive forward could be a bargain if he can rediscover the success he enjoyed with Pittsburgh earlier in his career.

19. Jason Spezza

Position: C, RW
Age: 37
2019-20 cap hit: $700K
Current team: Toronto Maple Leafs

GP G P ATOI xGF%
58 9 25 10:50 52.33

Spezza won't be a hot commodity, but the veteran center still has some value as a bottom-six forward. Though his playing time dipped to career-low levels in 2019-20, he still drove possession by posting rates of 50% or better in Corsi For, expected goals for, and scoring chances for.

20. Brian Boyle

Position: C, LW
Age: 35
2019-20 cap hit: $940K
Current team: Panthers

GP G P ATOI xGF%
39 6 15 12:23 43.09

Boyle can't drive possession the way Spezza and many other forwards can, but he offers plenty of experience and character. Injured since Feb. 1, he was nearing a return before the hiatus and could be worth a look in free agency.

(Cap figures source: CapFriendly)

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Ranking the NHL's top 20 potential UFA forwards
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