Ranking top 25 UFAs hitting the market

  • The free agency signing period opens Wednesday
  • The free agent class is deep in forwards but light in defensemen and goaltenders
  • The Stanley Cup champion Avalanche have several UFAs

The NHL free agency signing period opens at noon ET Wednesday and the biggest name will head to the open market.

Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving confirmed that Tuesday night about winger Johnny Gaudreau, telling reporters“It is my strong belief that this was a family decision and I respect that fully.”

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (four years, $24.6 million) and Edmonton Oilers winger Evander Kane (four years, $20.5 million) re-signed late Tuesday, joining an earlier group that includes Colorado’s Valeri Nichushkin, Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang, Nashville’s Filip Forsberg and Minnesota’s Marc-Andre Fleury.

The top 25 free agents from a class that’s deep on forwards but light on defensemen and goaltenders (age as of July 13):

1. F Johnny Gaudreau, Flames, 28

He’ll be due a big raise from his current $6.75 million after tying for second in the league with a career-best 115 points. He finished fourth in Hart Trophy voting and scored in overtime of Game 7 of the first round. If the South Jersey resident chooses to be close to home, the Philadelphia Flyers lack cap space, but the New Jersey Devils have plenty.

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2. F Nazem Kadri, Avalanche, 31

Nazem Kadri celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the Avalanche defeated the Lightning.

He avoided the suspensions that had plagued him and scored a career-best 87 points. Then he helped Colorado win a Stanley Cup. Included in his run:hat-trick after he hadreceived social media threats over his inadvertent collision with Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, andan overtime goal in Game 4 of the Final in his first game back from thumb surgery. Kadri is feisty with a scoring touch, a combination that teams covet.

3. F Claude Giroux, Panthers, 34

The longtime Flyers captain scored 23 points in 18 regular-season games after his trade and helped Florida reach the second round for the first time since 1996. The seven-time All-Star, including this past season, is a leader. He’s still seeking his first championship, so he could look at a contender. Or does he go to the hometown Senators, who boosted their offense on draft day by Acquiring Alex DeBrincat?

4. F Andrew Copp, Rangers, 28

The versatile forward can move up and down the lineup and play center or wing. He had a career-best 21 goals and 53 points this past season, plus 18 points in 16 games as the Rangers reached the Eastern Conference final.

5. G Darcy Kuemper, Avalanche, 32

He’s moving on after the Avalanche acquired Alexander Georgiev on draft day. Kuemper had a career-best 37 wins this season and won the Stanley Cup, though he was hurt for part of Colorado’s run. The Capitals and Oilers are in need of goaltending.

6. F Ondrej Palat, Lightning, 31

He had 11 playoff goals this season and has 12 career playoff game-winning goals. With the trade of defenseman Ryan McDonagh, the Lightning might have the cap space to re-sign him.

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat celebrates his game-winning goal against the Colorado Avalanche.

7. F Vincent Trocheck, Hurricanes, 29

A strong two-way center on one of the NHL’s top teams.

8. D John Klingberg, Stars, 29

He’s coming off a team-friendly deal and will be looking to make more money. After a slow start, he stepped up during Miro Heiskanen’s illness to finish with 47 points.

9. F Ryan Strome, Rangers, 29

He has played his best since he joined the Rangers in 2018-19. He was slowed down by a pelvic injury in the playoffs.

10. F David Perron, Blues, 34

He has been a perfect fit in St. Louis, playing three stints with the Blues, but their cap space for 2023-24 could be tight with a number of players due extensions.

11.F Nino Niederreiter, Hurricanes, 29

A six-time 20-goal scorer. He scored 24 this season while playing a third-line role.

12. G Jack Campbell, Maple Leafs, 30

The late bloomer was a first-time All-Star this season and had a 31-win season despite an injury. He’s due a big raise from his $1.8 million last season. The Maple Leafs acquired Matt Murray, so Campbell will move on.

13. D Josh Manson, Avalanche, 30

The defenseman plays a physical shutdown style. He scored in overtime in Game 1 of the second round and had three goals and eight points during the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup run.

14. F Andre Burakovsky, Avalanche, 27

His 22 goals, 39 assists and 61 points are career highs. He scored the overtime winner in Game 1 of the Final.

15. D Ben Chiarot, Panthers, 31

He made a name for himself as a shutdown defenseman during Montreal’s run to the Final in 2021. He wasn’t as strong this season.

16. F Mason Marchment, Panthers, 27

He ranked first on Florida in points per 60 minutes at five-on-five play, picking up 47 points in 54 games. But he has only 91 games of NHL experience.

17. F Evan Rodrigues, Penguins, 28

The versatile forward had a career-best 43 points this season, getting 30 of those while Malkin was out of the lineup.

Phil Kessel had eight goals and 44 assists last season.

18. F Phil Kessel, Coyotes, 34

He’s a playmaker rather than a goal scorer at this point of his career. He needs eight games to break the iron man streak that Keith Yandle set last season.

19. F Patrice Bergeron, Bruins, 36

The five-time Selke Trophy winner would be near the top of this list based on his talent and leadership. But he has said if he doesn’t retire, he’d return only to the Bruins.

20. F Ilya Mikheyev, Maple Leafs, 27

Injuries have been a problem, but he did have 21 goals in 53 games last season. Four of those were scored while short-handed.

21.D Nick Leddy, Blues, 31

He averages more than 21 minutes a game and has 130 games of playoff experience.

22. F Dylan Strome, Blackhawks, 25

He became available when Chicago didn’t extend him a qualifying offer. He’s a two-time 20-goal scorer, including 22 this past season.

23. G Ilya Samsonov, Capitals, 25

He also didn’t get a qualifying offer because the Capitals thought he’d make too much in salary arbitration in a backup situation.

24. F Reilly Smith, Golden Knights, 31

Smith has hit the 50-point mark five times in his career. He’s been with the Golden Knights since their inaugural season in 2017-18.

25. F Frank Vatrano, Rangers, 28

Vatrano recorded 13 points in 20 playoff games for the Rangers during their run to the Eastern Conference final after coming over in a midseason trade with Florida.

Others to watch: Forward Max Domi, Hurricanes, 27; forward Paul Stastny, Jets, 36; defenseman Jan Rutta, Lightning, 31; defenseman PK Subban, Devils, 33; forward Oskar Lindblom, Flyers, 25.

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