For many teams, free agency is a place to find a player or two to slot into your top two lines, to supplement the core you already have in place. Edmonton went out and got Milan Lucic, to add some veteran toughness while replacing the outgoing offensive contribution of Taylor Hall. Vancouver added Loui Eriksson in a questionable move for a team who hasn’t quite decided what direction they’re headed in, and Buffalo brought on Kyle Okposo to ride shotgun with their young talent up front.
Now that the madness has died down, the market for these top-six players is extremely thin, with only a few names having established themselves there in the past. With Shane Doan surely re-signing with the Coyotes, and Patrik Elias looking as though it’s either Devils or retirement, two of the most well known names among this group aren’t going anywhere. Here are the other possibilities for a team to add to their top-six:
(number in parentheses represents ranking on our Top 50 UFAs)
- Jiri Hudler (18) – Though Hudler is now 32-years old and took a significant step back last season, he still represents one of the better second-line options available. His 46 points in 2015-16 split between the Flames and Panthers were a disappointing total for a player coming off a 31-goal, 76 point season but still ranked him right alongside players like Andrew Ladd (46 points, $38.5MM) and David Backes (45 points, $30MM).
- Kris Versteeg (25) – While Versteeg is probably better suited as a third-liner on a good team, he has shown the ability to move up in the lineup consistently in the past. A three-time twenty goal scorer, Versteeg has scored at least 34 points in each of his seven healthy seasons. He can play either wing, and brings a level of physicality to his game as well.
- Radim Vrbata (27) – Vrbata is clearly on the downswing of his career, having put up just 27 points and a whopping -30 mark last season. Now 35, he’ll look to sign a cheap deal and could be a nice value signing for a team pressed against the cap. Remember, this is a guy who has over 250 career NHL goals, and is just one season removed from the second 30-goal season of his career.
- Alex Tanguay (33) – Though he’s now 37, Tanguay continues to produce like a second-line center, putting up another 35 point campaign despite having a much reduced role after a trade to Arizona. For a team looking to shelter their young forwards, a veteran like Tanguay can provide some offensive punch on a cheap, short-term deal. He’ll likely break 900 points in what has been an excellent career for the former Avalanche stalwart.
- Brandon Pirri (NR) – Despite Pirri’s reputation as a bottom-six forward, some teams might see the former Panther as a second-line option, due to his previous goal scoring ability. Pirri has potted 36 goals over the past two seasons, including 22 in 2014-15. The problem is that he’s racked up just 17 assists over the same time. He was an outstanding scorer in his AHL career, and is still just 25-years old, meaning that taking a shot on him might not be the worst gamble among the remaining options.