With many teams having hit the halfway point of the season and the trade deadline fast approaching, it’s time to take a preliminary look at the UFA Class of 2017. Here is the first half of our top-20 rankings, based on votes from our writers.
- Michael Del Zotto, D, Philadelphia – The first half of his season hasn’t gone particularly well to say the least. He missed 12 games to start the season with a lower body injury and came to a reduced role while even spending a bit of time as a healthy scratch. However, there’s no denying the offensive skill he brings to the table and he will be one of the youngest players on the open market, turning 27 just a week before free agency is slated to open.
- Radim Vrbata, RW, Arizona – Vrbata is rebounding nicely after a very tough final season with Vancouver. He’s not the top line threat he was for a brief time but is still a quality secondary scorer…at least with the Coyotes. He’s likely to be dealt before the trade deadline and how he performs with his new team may go a long way towards shaping his market after struggling to land a contract this past offseason.
- Vadim Shipachev, C, SKA, KHL – Several teams pursued him last summer but the language in his Russian contract stopped him from crossing the pond at that time. That won’t be the case this coming offseason and Shipachev is having an even better year compared to his 2015-16 campaign. He didn’t have a great World Cup of Hockey tournament but his body of work in the KHL should have several teams looking into him as a second line center this summer.
- Trevor Daley, D, Pittsburgh – Things didn’t work out too well for him in Chicago last year but since joining the Penguins partway through last season, Daley has played more like a top four defender. His production is down a bit so far this season which is notable for someone who has a reputation of being a quality point producer from the back end. As an undersized blueliner who isn’t the most reliable in his own end, that drop off has the potential to hurt him quite a bit if it continues the rest of the way.
- Michael Stone, D, Arizona – It has not been a great platform year for Stone so far. He missed the start of the year while recovering from offseason knee surgery while also missing time with an upper body injury. His role has diminished slightly this season but young (he’ll be 27 come July) blueliners capable of logging top four minutes in free agency are few and far between. He’s a strong candidate to be dealt before the deadline which could be the opportunity he’s looking for to have a bounce back second half.
- Mike Fisher, C, Nashville – After a tough year in 2015-16, Fisher is putting together a much better season this time around as he already has eclipsed his previous point total in barely half the games. He’s still well above average at the faceoff dot and logs plenty of time on the penalty kill. He’ll turn 37 in June so while he’s producing as a second line center, it will be interesting to see if he’s able to get paid as one whether it’s with the Predators or elsewhere.
- Patrick Sharp, RW, Dallas – Concussions have been a major problem for Sharp as two separate trips to injured reserve have cost him 26 games already in the first half. When healthy, he is a consistent top six scoring threat and at the age of 35, he shouldn’t be seeking a long-term deal. Sharp is just getting back into playing shape now and should be in line for a bigger second half of the season which could go a long way towards setting his market in free agency.
- Dmitry Kulikov, D, Buffalo – After being dealt to the Sabres at the draft, many hoped that Kulikov would blossom in a new environment and show more of the offensive upside he showed as a junior player. That hasn’t happened yet. He missed 13 games due to back problems and finds himself on the shelf once again with a lower body ailment. At one point he seemed like a real threat to be one of the top free agent defensemen in this class but Kulikov has only hurt his stock so far.
- Jaromir Jagr, RW, Florida – While Jagr is unlikely to crack 60 points like he did last year, he’s still producing as a top six forward despite the fact that he’ll turn 45 next month. His ability to mentor young players has been lauded during his time with the Panthers which could result in him not only receiving interest from contending teams looking for a veteran to help put them over the top but also rebuilding teams who would want Jagr to work with a group of younger players.
- Kris Russell, D, Edmonton – Russell had to wait quite a while to get a contract last summer but his play with the Oilers so far should stop that from happening again when the market opens up in July. The numbers don’t jump off the board at anyone but he has really helped to stabilize their back end (while logging over 21 minutes per night) and that should have teams around the league taking notice.
Be sure to check back on Friday for our top ten potential unrestricted free agents.