Top 10 Best Freelancers Available
Every summer, the month of July is a very hectic time in the National Hockey League.
• Read also: Seven CH prospects to watch at development camp
• Read also: NHL: five potential candidates for a hostile offer
Exceptionally this year, the opening of the free agent market has been postponed to July 13 due to the season lengthened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Three days away from that fateful date, we present to you a top 10 of the best “free agents” available.
10 – Claude Giroux
Let’s start with a big name: Claude Giroux.
If you find it too low for your liking on our list, you’re absolutely right. Rest assured, he would have ended up much higher if he really intended to look elsewhere. But unless the situation changes, everything indicates that the 34-year-old Franco-Ontarian will extend his stay in Florida.
« I would be really interested in coming back with the Panthers, » he said last month. Since my first day here, I have had a great experience. The whole organization has done a wonderful job for my well-being and that of my family.”
General manager Bill Zito has expressed the same desire.
Another argument to consider: the Panthers paid a high price to snatch Giroux from the Philadelphia Flyers at the trade deadline, selling forward Owen Tippett, a third-round pick in the 2023 draft and a first-round selection in 2024 .
It would be very expensive for only 18 “regular” season games and barely 10 in the playoffs, a consequence of a shorter than expected run for the Panthers, swept away by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.
Giroux was successful upon his arrival. He improved an already threatening attack, particularly on the power play.
Still, the plan was more ambitious…
9 – Patrice Bergeron
The presence of Patrice Bergeron at the ninth level is explained in the same way. Everything suggests that the future member of the Hall of Fame will remain in Boston and will conclude his glorious career there.
To hear the general manager of the Bruins, Don Sweeney, it is necessary to foresee the return of the Quebecer with the club which drafted him in 2003. Same observation by listening to the comments made recently by the main interested party.
Knowing his desire to stay with the Bruins, it would not be surprising to see Bergeron accept a pay cut, he who pocketed $ 6.875 million in 2021-2022.
Bergeron, who turns 37 on July 24, isn’t slowing down despite his « advanced age. » The native of L’Ancienne-Lorette tallied 65 points in 73 games last season and won the Selke Trophy for the fifth time, which is a record.
We grant you, Andrew Copp is not the sexiest player of the 2022 vintage of free agents, but many teams will reach out to him. He’s the kind of player all GMs love.
Talk to Chris Drury! The big boss of the New York Rangers is rubbing his hands to have made his acquisition at the deadline of the transactions.
Copp has consistently raised his level of play. The versatile forward broke the 20-goal and 30-assist mark for the first time in his career.
He proved even more valuable in the playoffs. Used more than 20 minutes a night, he scored timely goals and contributed to special teams.
Has he convinced Rangers he’s more than a rental player? If their answer is negative, no doubt he will receive other offers, probably around 4 million dollars.
7 – David Perron
Like Copp, David Perron is a hugely underrated player. His case is especially intriguing.
The 34-year-old Quebecer continued to surprise many pundits by producing consistently with the St. Louis Blues last season. While we thought he was worn down by injuries and slowed down by the weight of the years, he garnered 57 points in 67 games. Without minor health problems, he might even have reached the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career, when his counter stopped at 27.
He continued his momentum in the playoffs, during which he scored nine goals in 12 games, in addition to registering four assists. Not bad for $4 million!
Perron returned to the Blues both times he became a free agent. Never two without three?
It seems very possible. « If we can find some common ground, I’d like to bring him back next season, » general manager Doug Armstrong said when reviewing the season. He’s a hell of a player. He thwarts old age better than 95-99% of NHL players. What he has done this year is spectacular.”
His five NHL contracts, Perron signed them all with the Blues. It smells like the sixth…
6 – Ondrej Palat
Ondrej Palat is another of those shadow players who will be free as the air from this Wednesday.
The one Jon Cooper calls a “silent assassin” has boosted his already high value with his inspired playoff performances. The 31-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning forward shined brighter than ever with 11 goals and 10 assists in 23 games, a personal best.
Proof that Palat is always there when it counts, Joe Pavelski (14) and Evgeni Malkin (13) are the only active players to have scored more game-winning goals than him (12) in the playoffs.
The Czech, who has spent his entire career with the « Bolts », would be open to exploring other avenues. He risks leaving the team that drafted him in the seventh round in 2011 since the Lightning cannot afford to keep him, being stuck by the constraints of the salary cap.
Unless Julien BriseBois performs an accounting miracle, the left winger, who earned an average annual salary of 5.3 million since 2017-2018, will leave for other skies.
5 – John Klingberg
The summer of 2022 is far from being a great vintage for defenders. Among the few interesting candidates, there is notably John Klingberg, of the Dallas Stars.
The two parties could, however, continue their long association, which has lasted since the 2010 draft. They have also begun negotiations in this direction.
« I still want to stay here, » Klingberg said last month. We tried to reach an agreement in various ways. Whether it’s for the duration or the financial sum, we try to find something that will make us all happy. »
« He’ll look at what the market looks like and we’ll do the same to see if it’s a good fit for both parties, » chief executive Jim Nill said.
Last season, the 29-year-old veteran totaled 47 points in 74 games, earning $4.25 million.
Klingberg is reportedly seeking an eight-year contract worth between $62 million and $66 million.
However, the Stars have already spent $ 21 million for six defenders for the next campaign. By granting a contract to the Swede, it would be a very expensive brigade.
Evander Kane’s attitude is not always unanimous, but his talent is undeniable.
The controversial forward, who completed the last playoffs with 13 goals in 15 games with the Edmonton Oilers, should attract the attention of several teams.
After all, he turned out to be one of the best acquisitions that happened during the season. Acquired from the San Jose Sharks in late January, Kane immediately made his impact with the Oilers, scoring nearly a point per game (39 for 43), including 22 goals.
What is its true value? This is THE big question facing the four corners of the NHL.
Certainly, he deserves better than the $2.1 million he added to his bank account in 2022.
3 – Evgeny Malkin
Among the other prime candidates likely to test the free agent market, forward Evgeni Malkin is one to watch closely.
The 35-year-old Russian would like to agree with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the long term to conclude his career there, like Bergeron with the Bruins.
But the recent contract signed by Quebec defender Kristopher Letang ($36.6 million for six years) complicates matters considerably. General manager Ron Hextall will have to show some accounting ingenuity if he wants to make room for Malkin.
The latter will no longer be able to command such a high salary ($ 9.5 million), even if he still produces at a rate of one point per game (42 in 41 in 2021-2022). In his case, it is more his health that is worrying. Last year, he suffered a second major knee injury, so he didn’t start the season until January 11.
Would he accept a contract similar to what Joe Pavelski agreed to on July 1, 2019 ($21 million for three years)?
2 – Nazem Kadri
Let’s not immediately rule out a return of Nazem Kadri with the Colorado Avalanche, but it could be complicated due to the constraints of the salary cap. Because Kadri will command a salary significantly higher than last season, where he represented a real bargain at “only” 4.25 million dollars.
Kadri’s arguments are obvious. After shining in his first season in Denver with a personal best 87 points in 71 games, he was an important cog in the conquest of the Stanley Cup. Kadri scored crucial goals during the playoff run and had 15 points in 16 games.
The problem is that the Avalanche are already paying $16.25 million to Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen for several more seasons and must offer a new contract (certainly VERY lucrative) to Nathan MacKinnon next summer.
There will therefore be little money left to retain the services of the 31-year-old center in the long term. In addition, the Avalanche are still missing a goalie with the announced departure of Darcy Kuemper, also eligible for full autonomy.
His teammate Valeri Nichushkin could also be a tempting catch.
1- Johnny Gaudreau
Johnny Gaudreau is at the top of our list. If he can’t find common ground with the Calgary Flames, or if he wants to “test” the market, there will be plenty of offers.
The diminutive attacker could very well be THE most coveted player. And for good reason! Gaudreau is coming off the best season of his career with 115 points.
At this time last year, Flames general manager Brad Treviling began negotiations with the Gaudreau clan about a contract extension, but failed to reach an agreement.
He probably bites his fingers today since the price is certainly higher. Gaudreau, who earned $6.75 million in 2021-22, deserves a substantial raise. Compared to other top left wingers including Artemi Panarin ($11.6m), Alex Ovechkin ($9.5m) and Kirill Kaprisov ($9m), he is ‘underpaid’ .
Other candidates worth mentioning:
- David Perron
- Vincent Trocheck
- Reilly Smith
- Nino Niederreiter
- Paul Stastny
- Phil Kessel
- Rickard Rakell
- Max Domi
- Ryan Strome
- Joe Thornton
- Andre Burakovsky
- Ben Chiarot
- PK Subban
- Nick Leddy
- Josh Manson
- Darcy Kuemper
- Jack Campbell
- Martin Jones
- Braden Holtby