With just one day left in July, free agents have had a month to find employment in the NHL. Last summer, there were less than 20 unrestricted free agents signed after the end of July through the beginning of the regular season. This off-season, there are a plethora of notable names left on the market, but at this point is is unlikely that they all find a new home in the league. The question now is how many of these top names get lucky.
Rick Nash could find a landing spot if he wanted to. The six-time All-Star is currently evaluating his future in hockey versus his health after suffering yet another concussion this season. Should he decide to return, he would likely have more than a few teams interested in a short-term deal.
If Nash opts not to return, the top-scoring forward from last season left on the market is actually Mike Cammalleri. Cammalleri, 36, quietly put up 29 points last season after a hot start with the Los Angeles Kings and then a trade to the Edmonton Oilers. The former point-per-game player is not quite that kind of scorer any more, but could still contribute to a number of teams.
Benoit Pouliot was a perennial 30-point player until he turned 30 and has struggled the past two years. In the right situation, he could still make an impact. The same goes for Mark Letestu, Drew Stafford and Jannik Hansen. Ales Hemsky was highly productive before injuries derailed his career, but remains a possible high-ceiling gamble if back at 100%.
Other available forwards bring more of a two-way game such as Daniel Winnik, Scott Hartnell, Scottie Upshall, Chris Stewart, Antoine Vermette, Jussi Jokinen, Tommy Wingels, Jason Chimera, Joel Ward, Dominic Moore, Matt Stajan, and Lee Stempniak. There are also some younger options like Alex Chiasson, Nick Shore, Logan Shaw, Tomas Jurco, and Freddie Hamilton.
On the blue line, Luca Sbisa is reportedly drawing interest from several teams across the league. Although he suited up for just 30 games with the Vegas Golden Knights, he managed to register 14 points and plays a strong checking game. It would seem that Sbisa is in line for a contract at some point.
But what about Toby Enstrom? A free agent for the first time in his long career, the well-respected veteran was expected to land a contract early on but still remains unemployed. Enstrom has always been a reliable presence on the back end, but at 33 years old, he has shown signs of slowing down.
Other aging options on defense include Alexei Emelin, Johnny Oduya, Kevin Bieksa, Dennis Seidenberg, Kyle Quincey, Paul Martin, Josh Gorges, and Jason Garrison. However, experience may not be able to outweigh ability with many younger defenseman still out there. Brandon Davidson, Cody Franson, and Paul Postma seem like players who should be signed, while Justin Falk, Frank Corrado, Ryan Sproul, and Duncan Siemens are all intriguing targets as well.
In net, the options are pretty straightforward. One would think that Kari Lehtonen, Steve Mason, and Ondrej Pavelec had all done enough in their careers to earn a continued stay in the NHL, especially when there are no other legitimate goaltenders available at this point. Yet, its hard to pinpoint three teams that need another option in goal. These three keepers may need to wait until injuries strike to find work.
So, how many of these remaining free agents will sign before the season starts?