With 2016’s free agency frenzy all but over, it’s high time to start looking at next year’s free agent crop. True, some of the following may sign extensions over the course of the year, but others may want to take advantage of the period before July 1st where players can talk with other teams. Another variable in the mix is the expansion draft, and teams may want to hold off of on signing players until after the draft to maximize protection slots. Here are the second five of our top-ten 2017 UFAs:
Long-time San Jose Shark Patrick Marleau is entering his 18th season this year, and like teammate Joe Thornton, it is unclear whether the former Sharks captain will retire at its end. Unlike Thornton, however, Marleau’s numbers dropped, though he still managed 25G and 23A in 82 games—and an additional 5G and 8A in 24 playoff games.
He may not be the offensive powerhouse he once was, but Marleau still has a lot to offer. His previous contract was $6.66MM a year for three years but Marleau will most likely take a small pay cut to returns. With Brent Burns and Joe Thornton also needing new deals, however Marleau may be the odd man out in San Jose.
Karl Alzner sits as a top-three defenseman potentially available this summer, and like another potential UFA Kevin Shattenkirk, Alzner’s value is obscured by playing with other very good defenseman. The Washington Capitals have an embarrasment of riches on the blueline with John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Dmitry Orlov (unsigned RFA), and Brooks Orpik. Alzner held his own, though, and put up 4G and 17A in 82 games while playing over 21 minutes a night.
Alzner’s last contract was for four years at $2.8MM a year. He’ll likely get a significant raise despite his low production because of his age and defensive prowess. He may have to take a hometown discount, however, if he wants to remain with the Caps—a team poised to challenge for the Stanley Cup for the foreseeable future.
Brian Elliott posted excellent numbers last year—a 2.06GAA and a league leading .930SV%—and yet he was shipped off to Calgary to make way for the younger Jake Allen. Elliott has dodged criticism his entire career that his numbers belied his true talent, but he has consistently performed in both Ottawa and St. Louis.
Now that Elliott is the clear starter in Calgary, he has an opportunity to silence his doubters and earn a large pay raise in the offseason. Elliott is in his last year of a three-year, $2.5MM AAV contract, and a strong performance this season should net him a significant raise. If Calgary is prudent they will lock Elliott up midseason if he is performing well.
Alex Steen put up above-average career numbers last season, scoring 17G and 35A in 67 games for the Blues, and an additional 4G and 6A in 20 playoff games. He may not produce like a top line forward but his two-way skills are invaluable in today’s NHL. Steen is a dependable and responsible playmaker that consistently performs.
Steen enters the final year of a three-year $5.8MM AAV contract with the St. Louis Blues and will probably take a small pay cut to stay with the team. St. Louis has enough cap room next year to re-sign both Steen and Shattenkirk, and there’s no glaring reason why the Blues would part ways with their alternate captain.
Ryan Miller may be in the twilight of his career, but the 36 year-old goaltender still has enough to offer teams looking for a one or two year stopgap veteran goaltender. Miller put up a 2.70GAA and a .916SV% in 51 games for the Vancouver Canucks—numbers similar to his dominant years in Buffalo. The Canucks will probably reduce Miller’s playing time this season to make way for future starter Jacob Markstrom, which may hamper his negotiating position come summertime.
Miller, Bishop, and Elliot represent the cream of the free agent goaltending crop next summer, so Miller should find some suitors looking for a starter or 1B goaltender. He will probably take a pay cut from his current three-year, $6MM a year contract as he will be 37 at the start of next season.