The trend around the NHL is that more players get lock up to long-term contracts, which means that the unrestricted free agent class each year gets thinner and thinner. Here we will take a look at the top 20 players of the unrestricted free agent class of 2014. You should remember that some of these players will get signed by their current team before they reach free agency, but this is the top 20 today.
We haft deliberately left out some players, because we think the will retire or re-sign with their current club. In this category you will find Teemu Selänne, Joni Pitkanen, Daniel Alfredsson, Andrei Markov, Martin Brodeur, Jaromir Jagr and Kimmo Timonen.
1. Ryan Miller – Goaltender – Buffalo Sabres – Age: 33 – Cap hit: $ 6.25 million
Ryan Miller has been great this season, despite playing for the worst team in the league. At 33 years of age he is entering his prime as a goaltender, and can still win a Vezina trophy before he retires.
2. Jonas Hiller – Goaltender – Anaheim Ducks – Age: 31 – Cap hit: $ 4.5 million
Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller might not get the biggest headlines, but he is a true number one goalie in this league.
3. Thomas Vanek – Forward – New York Islanders – Age: 30 – Cap hit: $7,142,857
Thomas Vanek has always been an extremely talented forward, and his next contract will be a very big one.
4. Ryan Callahan – Forward – New York Rangers – Age: 28 – Cap hit: $ 4.275 million
If you need a warrior on the ice Ryan Callahan can bring those qualities to your team. He is only 28 years old, and will be a very effective player in the upcoming years if he can stay healthy.
5. Paul Stastny – Forward – Colorado Avalanche – Age: 28 – Cap hit: $ 6.6 million
You could argue that Paul Stastny is a first-line centre, and at 28 years of age that is hard to acquire in the NHL.
6. Dan Girardi – Defenseman – New York Rangers – Age: 29 – Cap hit: $ 3.325 million
Dan Girardi is a real warrior on the ice and every team in the NHL would like to add his kind of skill. However doesn’t put up so many points as a true number one defenseman.
7. Marian Gaborik – Forward – Columbus Blue Jackets – Age: 31 – Cap hit: $ 7.5 million
Marian Gaborik is a real wild card. If healthy he can be one of the best wingers in the league, but that is a big if.
8. Dave Bolland – Forward – Toronto Maple Leafs – Age: 27 – Cap hit: $ 3.375 million
Dave Bolland has won two Cups with the Blackhawks and will give you experience on the centre-position. The question is if he can come back from his leg injury?
9. Jaroslav Halak – Goaltender – St Louis Blues – Age: 28 – Cap hit: $ 3.75 million
At 28 year of age Slovak goalie Jaroslav Halak has many years left in him, and if you are in need of a new goaltender Halak would be an excellent choice.
10. Matt Moulson – Forward – Buffalo Sabres – Age: 30 – Cap hit: $ 3.133 million
Matt Moulson has shown he can score a lot of points with the Islanders but can he do it on a better team with greater depth and less ice time?
11. Jarome Iginla – Forward – Boston Bruins – Age: 36 – Cap hit: $ 6 million
You know what you get if you sign Jarome Iginla, it is as simple as that.
12. Mike Cammalleri – Forward – Calgary Flames – Age: 31 – Cap hit: $ 6 million
Flames forward Mike Cammalleri has shown in the past he can be effective in the playoffs. He is a true goal-scorer and he still has some years left at the highest level.
13. Matt Niskanen – Defenseman – Pittsburgh Penguins – Age: 27 – Cap hit: $ 2.3 million
Matt Niskanen is only 27 years old and to add him as an unrestricted free agent without giving up anything else than cap space could be valuable for a lot of teams.
14. Steve Ott – Forward – Buffalo Sabres – Age: 31 – Cap hit: $ 2.95 million
Steve Ott could fill a specific need of grit and leadership and some teams around the league need that.
15. Steve Downie – Forward – Philadelphia Flyers – Age: 26 – Cap hit: $ 2.65 million
Steve Downie is only 26 and still hasn’t reached his prime, however he could enter free agency. And at that age he will be an interesting players for a lot of teams.
16. Kris Russell – Defenseman – Calgary Flames – Age: 26 – Cap hit: $ 1.5 million
Kris Russell is having a breakthrough season with the Flames, and he will be looking at a big raise this summer.
17. Ales Hemsky – Forward – Edmonton Oilers – Age: 30 – Cap hit: $ 5 million
Ales Hemsky has so much talent, but also has suffered from many different injuries. Can he produce more points in another team than the Oilers?
18. Mason Raymond – Forward – Toronto Maple Leafs – Age: 28 – Cap hit: $ 1 million
With Mason Raymond you get a great skating winger with scoring ability.
19. Brooks Orpik – Defenseman – Pittsburgh Penguins – Age: 33 – Cap hit: $ 3.75 million
Brooks Orpik will give your team Cup experience and a gritty style of play.
20. Dan Boyle – Defenseman – San Jose Sharks – Age: 37 – Cap hit: $ 6.667 million
Dan Boyle doesn’t want to retire, and he can still be a very effective puck-moving defenseman.
Players that didn’t make the list: Andrew MacDonald, David Legwand, Ben Scrivens, Radim Vrbata, Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski and Devin Setoguchi.