NHL Free Agents: Ranking The Top 25 2022 NHL Free Agents
NHL Free Agents: Ranking The Top 25 2022 NHL Free Agents
As the NHL free agent market looms, Matt MacKay ranks his top 25 unrestricted free agents. Front offices can officially begin making offers to players at noon ET on July 13th.
1. JOHNNY GAUDREAU, LW, CALGARY FLAMES
Johnny Gaudreau led Calgary with 115 points, scoring 40 goals and racking 75 assists. The talented 28-year-old winger has speed, handles, and elite playmaking ability in the offensive zone. So will the Flames make Gaudreau an offer that he can't refuse? Or will he set his sights on another team for the first time in his nine-year career?
2. KRIS LETANG, D, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Kris Letang might be 34-year-old, but he's among the best defensemen in this free agent class. He led the Penguins in assists (58) last season and averaged a monstrous 25:47 time on ice. Letang is a force on both ends of the ice, and his experience in the league will attract plenty of suitors in free agency.
3. FILIP FORSBERG, C, NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Filip Forsberg is a goal-scoring machine. The 27-year-old produced 42 goals and 42 assists as arguably the Predators' top-scoring option alongside Matt Duchene. Forsberg earned $6 million last season and is seeking a more significant contract for his efforts, which could result in him leaving the Music City if the two sides can't get a deal done.
4. NAZEM KADRI, C, COLORADO AVALANCHE
Nazem Kadri has played his best brand of hockey as a member of the Colorado Avalanche across the last three seasons. The 31-year-old center has 15 points through the playoffs this season (7 goals, 8 assists) and yielded even more significant numbers back in 2019-20 with 18 points in 15 playoff games. Kadri won Game 4 with a wicked wrist shot in overtime, so expect offensively-starved teams to throw a considerable contract exceeding his current $4.5 million salary.
5. EVGENI MALKIN, C, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Durability is the only red flag surrounding talented veteran Evgeni Malkin. The 35-year-old center played only 41 games in the 2021-22 regular season but still finished with 42 points, including 20 goals, which was seventh-most amongst Penguins players. He's currently earning $9.5 million, which is the most in this current UFA class, meaning Malkin may stay in Pittsburgh.
6. DAVID PERRON, LW, ST. LOUIS BLUES
St. Louis is a young team that relied on talented veterans like David Perron to make a playoff run this past season. The 33-year-old winger scored 27 goals and dished 30 assists, showcasing his talent in the offensive zone. Only Vladimir Tarasenko and Pavel Buchnevich scored more goals than Perron. Still, his current $4 million salary will need to increase if the Blues want to keep this underrated veteran winger.
7. CLAUDE GIROUX, C, FLORIDA PANTHERS
34-year-old Claude Giroux was traded from Philadelphia to Florida last season, where he notched 20 assists in just 18 regular season games. The Panthers are arguably one of the deepest rosters in the league, and after getting swept by Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs, they may not be willing to saddle Giroux's $8.275 million contract. Experience is frequently desired in the league if a player still possesses high-end talent, which means Giroux should have plenty of teams making offers in free agency.
8. VALERI NICHUSHKIN, RW, COLORADO AVALANCHE
Valeri Nichushkin has finally developed into a consistent and reliable player in the offense for Colorado this season. The 27-year-old winger earns his minutes on the second-line for the Avalanche and has nine goals and six assists in 19 postseason games this year. Nichushkin manufactured 52 points during the regular season, exceeding his previous career-high 34 points set during his rookie season back in 2014.
9. EVANDER KANE, LW, EDMONTON OILERS
Teams looking for a big-bodied winger who can produce points will be submitting offers to Evander Kane during free agency. Kane was traded from San Jose to Edmonton this past season, scoring 22 goals and 17 assists in only 39 regular season games. Kane remained a force in the playoffs, scoring 13 goals and four assists in 15 games for the Oilers. Due to Kane's talent, Edmonton is only paying him $2.1 million, which won't last much longer.
10. MASON MARCHMENT, LW, FLORIDA PANTHERS
Mason Marchment enjoyed his first season with solid numbers during his third year in the league. The 27-year-old forward notched 18 goals and 27 assists across 54 games for the Florida Panthers and only earned $800,000. It was a massive improvement from his previous 10 points generated in 33 games during the 2020-21 season, so Marchment will be receiving numerous multi-million dollar offers from teams in need of a developing forward.
11. NINO NIEDERREITER, RW, CAROLINA HURRICANES
Standing at 6-2, 218-pounds, Nino Niederreiter deceives the eyes with his hulking frame, as he's a strong finisher at the net. Niederreiter scored 24 goals for the Hurricanes in 2021 to become the third-highest goal-scorer on the team. The 29-year-old winger scored four goals during the postseason and currently earns $5.25 million yearly. Niederreiter is still in his prime and performing well, so expect plenty of contracts to be sent in his direction.
12. ONDREJ PALAT, LW, TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Ondrej Palat is not the biggest name on the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he's an integral piece of their offense. The 30-year-old winger has completed three consecutive seasons of 40-plus points and has 11 goals and nine assists thus far in the playoffs. Palat's continued growth and development make him a prime target for 31 other teams in free agency.
13. ANDREW COPP, C, NEW YORK RANGERS
A mid-season trade from Winnipeg to the New York Rangers allowed Andrew Copp to experience a deep playoff run. The 27-year-old earned a potentially lucrative contract in free agency after scoring six goals and eight assists for the Rangers across 20 playoff games. Copp is a solid build and has the requisite skills to be a team's first-line center during the 2022-23 season.
14. JOHN KLINGBERG, D, DALLAS STARS
Dallas' top-scoring defenseman, John Klingberg, was an assist-specialist, stacking 41 assists in the regular season to finish with 47 points. He was disappointing in the postseason with only one assist in seven games for the Stars, but Klingberg is only 29-year-old and has five full seasons with at least 45 points. The Swede stands at 6-3, 190-pounds, so his size and vision will continue to be assets for teams seeking a strong two-way defender.
15. ANDRE BURAKOVSKY, LW, COLORADO AVALANCHE
Colorado will likely part with a few of their players this offseason following the outcome of the Stanley Cup Finals, which may include Andre Burakovsky. During their dominant regular season campaign, the 26-year-old winger has enjoyed a career season with the Avs, yielding 61 points, including 22 goals. Adding three goals and five assists in 12 playoff games is even more significant. Burakovsky could eclipse $5 million per year this offseason due to the number of teams seeking his talent.
16. REILLY SMITH, RW, VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Four years in Vegas has allowed 30-year-old winger Reilly Smith to enhance his overall game. Smith may have the prime of his career in the rearview mirror, but that doesn't mean teams won't be interested in his services. He scored 16 goals and 22 assists for the Golden Knights in 2021-22 despite injuries that kept him out for over 20 games. A new location could rejuvenate Smith's career and contract.
17. VINCENT TROCHECK, C, CAROLINA HURRICANES
Skating and collecting minutes on Carolina's second-line attack, 28-year-old center Vincent Trocheck had a bounce-back campaign in 2021-22. Trocheck scored over 20 goals for the first time since the 2017-18 season and added another six goals and four assists across 14 playoff games. $4.75 million feels too low for his quality of play, so expect other teams to make hefty offers to acquire his talent.
18. RYAN STROME, C, NEW YORK RANGERS
Ryan Strome is a quality center who nearly set a career-high in points during a successful 2021-22 season with the Rangers. Strome set a career-high in goals (21), and he finished with another nine points in the playoffs. He's been with the Rangers since being traded from Edmonton in 2019, so Strome could be on the move for a more significant contract exceeding his current $4.5 million salary.
19. RICKARD RAKELL, C, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
After being traded from Anaheim to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline this season, Rickard Rakell managed a solid transition into his new role with the Penguins. The 28-year-old spent 10 years in southern California, so his brief 21-game-stint with the Penguins only allowed him to finish with four goals and nine assists, including the postseason. Rakell skates on the Pens' second-line attack and earns $3.789 million.
20. JACK CAMPBELL, G, TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
A 31-9-6 record, paired with a .914 save percentage, makes Toronto goaltender Jack Campbell a highly-desired prospect heading into free agency. While he is a bit volatile in terms of his consistency, Campbell is only 30 years old and has never finished with a save percentage below .900 in years where he starts at least 20 games. He's only earning $1.65 million with Toronto, so he may opt to explore more lucrative offers for teams desperate to shore up their netminding.
21. DARCY KUEMPER, G, COLORADO AVALANCHE
Darcy Kuemper is busy trying to win Colorado its third Stanley Cup Finals in franchise history. The 32-year-old netminder left Arizona and joined the Avs this past offseason, where he finished the regular season with a .921 save percentage across 57 starts. Kuemper has regressed slightly in the postseason with a .898 save percentage and a 2.68 goals against average (GAA) in 15 games. A healthy $4.5 million salary, combined with the emergence of Pavel Francouz, could have Kuemper on the move in free agency.
22. MAX DOMI, LW, CAROLINA HURRICANES
Max Domi was traded from Columbus to Carolina mid-season. While it didn't initially appear to be a significant trade, Domi impressed with three goals and three assists in the postseason for the Hurricanes. Despite being a bit undersized, Domi can torch defenders with his speed and stick handling while confidently finishing at the net. His $5.3 million salary is hefty, and Carolina may try to move off of it, knowing that plenty of teams are interested in a speedster with skills around the net.
23. PAUL STASTNY, C, WINNIPEG JETS
Paul Stastny may be a 36-year-old veteran, but he produced the most points (45) with the Jets since reaching 53 points in 2018. The second-line center scored 21 goals for Winnipeg this past season, ranking fifth-highest on the team. His $3.75 million annual contract seems appropriate, but Stastny could take advantage of teams desiring a veteran presence in their locker room.
24. DUSTIN BROWN, RW, LOS ANGELES KINGS
37-year-old winger Dustin Brown is well past his prime, but he still has tread on his tires. Nine goals and 19 assists constituted his regular season point output, ranking eighth in total points (28) for the Kings. Brown is a rarity in the NHL, spending his entire 18-year career playing for the same franchise. Will he move on and seek a more significant contract than his current $5.875 million situation with Los Angeles? His best bet may be to sit tight and remain locked in with the Kings entering his 19th season, but some teams might show interest in his experience and durability.
25. BEN CHIAROT, D, FLORIDA PANTHERS
A mid-season trade from Montreal to Florida sent defenseman Ben Chiarot into a much better situation. First, the 30-year-old defenseman had to acclimate to his new role on a deep Panthers roster, but he scored a couple of goals and six assists in 20 games. Chiarot is an enforcer at 6-3, 226-pounds, shown in the 140 blocked shots and 157 hits he totaled for both teams last season. His current $3.5 million contract is solid, but Chiarot could receive a bigger contract from a more desperate team in free agency.
Matt is an avid writer, editor, and researcher. He enjoys analyzing the game within the game which is fantasy sports and sports betting. Music is another constant in his daily life. Matt loves spending time with his wife and three pets. He likes to read, listen to podcasts, and is constantly motivated to create the most accurate and engaging content in the sports betting industry.