Ranking the NHL's top remaining unrestricted free agents
This year's unrestricted free-agent pool could pack some superstar punch in all three position groups.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the top players who remain available following Friday's frenzy.
All ages are as of January 1, 2021
xGF% = Expected goals for percentage at five-on-five
12. Ilya Kovalchuk
2019-20 cap hit: $700K (Capitals)
After struggling and falling out with the Los Angeles Kings, Kovalchuk surprisingly produced 13 points in 22 games with the Montreal Canadiens. However, the former superstar wasn't as effective with the Capitals and virtually disappeared in the playoffs, but there's little risk involved in offering him another league-minimum deal.
11. Corey Perry
2019-20 cap hit: $1.5M (Stars)
What a difference a postseason makes. Perry bolstered his stock significantly in the playoffs after barely contributing on the offensive end during the regular season. The longtime agitator buried three goals over a two-game span in the Stanley Cup Final, including the double-overtime winner in Game 5.
10. Zdeno Chara
2019-20 cap hit: $2M (Bruins)
Chara has spent the last 14 years with the Bruins (all as their captain), signed one-year deals with Boston in each of the last two offseasons, and said recently he wants to keep playing for the team. But general manager Don Sweeney was noncommittal when asked about the towering blue-liner's future with the club. So, though it may seem unlikely, the door appears open for an exit.
9. Erik Haula
2019-20 cap hit: $2.75M (Panthers)
Haula didn't wow anyone with his stats this past season, but like Namestnikov, he's capable of playing multiple positions up front and may come cheaper due to his diminished production and past injury woes. Despite those concerns, the Finnish forward is only two seasons removed from a 29-goal, 55-point campaign.
8. Travis Hamonic
2019-20 cap hit: $3.86M (Flames)
Hamonic doesn't post gaudy numbers, nor is he likely to limit opposing goals or scoring chances at an elite level. But he is a proven top-four rearguard with 10 years of NHL experience. If he opts to leave the Flames, other teams in need could certainly do worse, as long as it's not for a long term.
7. Sami Vatanen
2019-20 cap hit: $4.87M (Hurricanes)
Vatanen is capable of producing at a 35-to-40-point pace, as he did with the Hurricanes and Devils in 2019-20. He's also a decent defender, though his possession figures leave something to be desired. The Finnish blue-liner has been limited by injuries over the last two seasons, but he missed only one playoff game this campaign and should be fine entering 2020-21.
6. Anthony Duclair
2019-20 cap hit: $1.65M (Senators)
Duclair joins the UFA class Friday following the Senators' surprising decision not to give the All-Star forward a qualifying offer before Wednesday's deadline. He was the definition of streaky in 2019-20, pouring in 20 goals over a 29-game stretch early on before tallying only two goals and 10 points over his final 29 contests. However, he's relatively young and shouldn't cost as much as some of his more consistent counterparts.
5. Mikael Granlund
2019-20 cap hit: $5.75M (Predators)
It was a tale of two seasons for Granlund, as he led the Predators with 11 goals in the 28 games after John Hynes took over as head coach in January. Granlund hasn't matched the level of production he previously established with the Minnesota Wild, but he'll still be one of the top free-agent forwards on the market.
4. Evgenii Dadonov
2019-20 cap hit: $4M (Panthers)
Dadonov isn't the best Panthers forward on this list, but he's been one of the NHL's most underrated scorers over the last few years. The Russian winger potted 28 goals in back-to-back seasons and was on a 30-goal pace before the pause. Dadonov produced 135 combined points over the previous two campaigns, and though he benefited from playing with elite linemates, there's clearly talent there.
3. Tyler Toffoli
2019-20 cap hit: $4.6M (Canucks)
Toffoli said in September that staying with the Canucks is his top priority, but Vancouver has its hands full this offseason. He racked up six goals and 10 points in 10 regular-season games with the club after it acquired him from the Kings before the deadline, and he kept contributing in the playoffs. If the winger hits the market, he'll be one of the top players available.
2. Mike Hoffman
2019-20 cap hit: $5.19M (Panthers)
Hoffman is as consistent as they come in the goal-producing department, averaging 28.7 per season over his nine-year career. He's the second-best forward who could be available in free agency, and it remains to be seen whether the Panthers will choose to keep either of their skilled free-agent scorers around.
1. Alex Pietrangelo
2019-20 cap hit: $6.5M (Blues)
There's no question who the biggest fish on the market will be with the way things are trending. The Blues reportedly advised Pietrangelo to pursue free agency, and the superstar rearguard subsequently said maybe that's "best for both sides" after admitting there's been little progress in contract talks. However, he hasn't ruled out re-signing. Regardless of where he lands, Pietrangelo is in for a hefty payday.
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