Originally published June 27, 2023
The 2023 offseason is in full swing with the trade market as hot as ever – and we still have four days until free agency begins. Kevin Hayes, Damon Severson, Ivan Provorov, Taylor Hall, and Ryan Johansen will all be with new teams next season, and high-end stars like Pierre-Luc Dubois, Alex DeBrincat, and Norris winner Erik Karlsson could all find themselves on the move in the coming days as well.
On Saturday, though, the focus will turn to a crop of players that can be had for free, at least in terms of asset management. The 2023 unrestricted free agent class may be an unusually weak one, but it still boasts a mix of high-end role players looking to cash in on career seasons and skilled veterans looking for a change of scenery. There’s still time for extensions to come in, but most of the extremely prominent players available are expected to go to market.
With that being said, it’s time for another edition of our yearly Top 50 Unrestricted Free Agents list here at PHR. Our rankings and predictions are all voted on by our whole writing team based on a combination of talent perception and expected demand.
These predictions are independent of each other – i.e. just because we predict Orlov to sign with Washington doesn’t prevent us from predicting another free agent to land there later on. While we acknowledge retirement is a strong possibility for more than a handful of players on our list, it’s not something we predict as a possibility.
Players who were bought out or left unqualified before June 27 appear on this list.
1. Dmitry Orlov – Washington Capitals – 6 years, $37.5MM ($6.25MM AAV)
Orlov is a smooth-skating, steady defender who, in most years, would barely crack the top five of pending UFA rankings. He finds himself in the number one spot on our list thanks to a rather weak class, but he also saw his stock skyrocket after a spectacular post-trade deadline showing with the Boston Bruins. The team does have some more cap space to play with after trading Taylor Hall’s $6MM cap hit to the Chicago Blackhawks, but they have other holes to fill on their roster and won’t be able to accommodate Orlov’s next contract, which will undoubtedly be higher than $6MM. With the Capitals looking to stay in the playoff mix while Alex Ovechkin is still playing, don’t rule out a reunion between the two parties.
Signed in Carolina, 2 years, $15.5MM ($7.75MM AAV)
2. Patrick Kane – Buffalo Sabres – 2 years, $11.5MM ($5.75MM AAV)
One of the league’s most dynamic and skilled forwards, Kane enters his first unrestricted free agent period with some fair question marks after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery this offseason. A reunion with the Chicago Blackhawks seems unlikely – the organization’s public messaging has indicated 2022-23 was their last season with Kane and Toews on the roster. Don’t expect any long-term commitment or an extravagantly high cap hit for Kane, who could go unsigned well into the offseason based on how his recovery goes. That being said, while he looked overmatched at times with the New York Rangers after a late-season trade, he still recorded six points in seven playoff games and is a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer.
3. Vladimir Tarasenko – Seattle Kraken – 4 years, $24MM ($6MM AAV)
After a turbulent last few seasons that saw trade rumors swirl, Tarasenko’s recovered nicely from some serious shoulder injuries, recording 132 points in 144 games over the past two seasons. His ability to find the back of the net may be trailing off, though – his 18 goals this season were his worst total in a full season, as was his 10.7% shooting rate. It doesn’t change the fact he’s still a high-end second-line winger at this stage in the game, though, and his career reputation is exceeded only by Kane among UFA wingers. He’ll likely get a richer deal than his longtime divisional rival.
Signed in Ottawa, 1 year, $5MM
4. Patrice Bergeron – Boston Bruins – 1 year, $2MM + bonuses
The future Hall of Famer put off retirement for another year, and it was a good decision. He had another successful season, leading all UFA centers in scoring with 58 points while being elite at the faceoff dot like usual. If he wanted to actually test the market, he could very well be the most sought-after free agent, but instead, the decision Bergeron will be pondering is the one he was a year ago – does he give it one more go with the Bruins or hang up his skates and call it a career?
5. Alex Killorn – Detroit Red Wings – 4 years, $20MM ($5MM AAV)
The high-energy top-six winger is coming off three Stanley Cup Final appearances in four seasons, although his performance in Tampa’s run to the 2022 Final left much to be desired. He quieted all doubters in 2022-23, though, recording career-highs across the board with 27 goals and 64 points. The 33-year-old’s set himself up nicely for a mid-tier term commitment on his next deal, which could be his last, and has likely priced himself out of a return to the Sunshine State in the process.
Signed in Anaheim, 4 years, $25MM ($6.25MM AAV)
6. J.T. Compher – Colorado Avalanche – 5 years, $27.5MM ($5.5MM AAV)
After a strong performance in Colorado’s 2022 Stanley Cup win, Compher positioned himself nicely for unrestricted free agency with a career-high 52 points in 2022-23. He played in all 82 games, averaging a whopping 20:32 per game in the second-line center spot after Nazem Kadri’s departure and Alex Newhook falling down the lineup after an early-season look in that role. Colorado went out and acquired Ryan Johansen last week in case Compher goes somewhere else, but teams could be wary of how much of Compher’s uptick in production is sustainable, given his ice time won’t be nearly as high next season.
Signed in Detroit, 5 years, $25.5MM ($5.1MM AAV)
7. Ryan O’Reilly – Detroit Red Wings – 3 years, $16.5MM ($5.5MM AAV)
Now 32 years old, O’Reilly’s offensive form declined in his final season with the Blues, just as the Blues themselves had an underwhelming campaign. But a mid-season trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs illustrated exactly why the Lady Byng, Selke, and Conn Smythe Trophy winner remained an in-demand player league-wide. He managed a combined 20 points in 24 regular season and playoff games, including production in some big moments helping Toronto achieve a long-awaited playoff series win. There are questions about how well he’ll age, but in a thin center class, he’s in the conversation as the best option available.
Signed in Nashville, 4 years, $18MM ($4.5MM AAV)
8. Ivan Barbashev – Carolina Hurricanes – 7 years, $42MM ($6MM AAV)
He may not get the highest cap hit of anyone on this list, but we’re predicting Barbashev to get the highest total value deal after the market opens on Saturday. He’s one of the youngest top UFAs available at age 27, and he just recorded 18 points in 22 games while playing a first-line role on a Stanley Cup champion. Needless to say, he’s priced himself out of a return to Sin City, but a contending team with flexibility looking to make a splash to their top six will find room for him on a max-term deal.
Re-signed in Vegas, 5 years, $25MM ($5MM AAV)
9. Ryan Graves – Toronto Maple Leafs – 4 years, $20MM ($5MM AAV)
Graves is a great player the Devils would love to have back. It’s a mere roster crunch, though – they have better players coming in Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec. The 2013 fourth-round pick has since made a name for himself as a steady top-four defenseman ever since leading the NHL in plus-minus during his first full season in 2019-20. This season, though, his advanced defensive metrics weren’t all that impressive despite another sky-high plus-minus rating of +34. He did, however, see some of the toughest competition out of anyone in the league and still has the tools to post better results with some slightly eased minutes. He’ll land top-four money on the open market, no doubt.
Signed in Pittsburgh, 6 years, $27MM ($4.5MM AAV)
10. Tyler Bertuzzi – Nashville Predators – 4 years, $22MM ($5.5MM AAV)
In 2021-22, Bertuzzi showed how productive he can be when he’s able to stay healthy and in the lineup. This past season, he struggled and dealt with injury trouble in Detroit, but after being moved to Boston, his production improved considerably before tying for the team lead in playoff points against Florida. At 28, he’s one of the younger wingers on the market and should have several more top-six seasons in him. If he can stay healthy, Bertuzzi should be one of the more impactful players from this free-agent class.
Signed in Toronto, 1 year, $5.5MM
11. Max Domi – Chicago Blackhawks – 3 years, $13.5MM ($4.5MM AAV)
Getting some long-term security has been a challenge for Domi as he has yet to sign a contract longer than two years since his entry-level contract. That should change this time around. After spending most of 2021-22 on the wing, the 28-year-old spent a lot of this past season playing at center, having his second-best offensive year in the process. With many teams looking for help down the middle and offensive versatility, Domi’s market should be considerably stronger than it was a year ago when he had to settle for a one-year deal.
Signed in Toronto, 1 year, $3MM
12. Michael Bunting – Toronto Maple Leafs – 4 years, $22MM ($5.5MM AAV)
Poised to be one of the top UFAs just a few months ago, Bunting falls down our board after some shaky play down the stretch and, more importantly, in the postseason. The high-energy winger can be a valuable pest at times but doesn’t have the refinement in his edgy game that a Brad Marchand type does. That doesn’t mean he’s not a great player – he’s a more-than-capable offensive threat who’s coming off back-to-back 23-goal seasons. His stock is undoubtedly elevated by his star-studded linemates, though, and he may not get the Zach Hyman-type contract some thought he would earlier in the season.
Signed in Carolina, 3 years, $13.5MM ($4.5MM AAV)
13. Shayne Gostisbehere – Florida Panthers – 4 years, $19.4MM ($4.85MM AAV)
Now 30, a pair of seasons spent mostly with the Arizona Coyotes have rejuvenated Gostisbehere’s offensive game. While he dipped to a third-pairing/power-play specialist role after he was dealt to Carolina at the trade deadline, Gostisbehere actually posted very strong defensive numbers while averaging over 22 minutes per game with the Coyotes as their de facto number one throughout most of the year with Jakob Chychrun out of the lineup for extended periods of time. He won’t win any Norris trophies, but Gostisbehere now is much closer to the player that finished second in Calder voting in 2016 than some would have you think. He’s the highest-upside defender available on the open market, although he falls to third on our list among D, given his inconsistent career track record.
Signed in Detroit, 1 year, $4.125MM
14. Tristan Jarry – Pittsburgh Penguins – 4 years, $20MM ($5MM AAV)
With the 14th spot, we arrive at our first goalie. Jarry’s performance in Pittsburgh has been oft-discussed, and injury concerns are a valid complaint about his viability as a long-term starter. But he’s posted numbers few can complain about, averaging a .915 save percentage over the past four seasons, winning at least 20 games every year. He’s undoubtedly the top netminder available – if Pittsburgh lets him walk.
Re-signed in Pittsburgh, 5 years, $26.875MM ($5.375MM AAV)
15. Jason Zucker – Winnipeg Jets – 5 years, $25MM ($5MM AAV)
The 31-year-old had a career revival of sorts in 2022-23, posting his highest goal total in five years. He played like a true top-six winger in a contract year, and he’s set himself up nicely to get a decent financial commitment, although it may be from another team. He did struggle mightily in Pittsburgh for two out of his three seasons there. That being said, his 27 goals this year tie him for first among all pending UFAs.
Signed in Arizona, 1 year, $5.3MM
16. David Krejci – Boston Bruins – 1 year, $1MM + bonuses
Krejci is likely one of the top five players available in this market based on talent, but possible retirement looms and drops him down our list significantly. The 37-year-old veteran had a spectacular campaign after taking a one-season absence from the NHL to play at home while still in his prime, but he came back and recorded 56 points in 70 games while continuing to display supreme playmaking skills. He won’t play anywhere else than Boston if he does return, much like Bergeron.
17. Scott Mayfield – New York Islanders – 4 years, $15.4MM ($3.85MM AAV)
Mayfield signed a contract that proved to be an absolute steal for the Islanders earlier in his career, and he’s established himself as a quality defensive defenseman in the NHL – costing New York just $1.45MM against the cap. This is his chance to cash in, and as a 6-foot-5 right-shot defenseman who ranked second on the Islanders in average ice time and led them in time logged on the penalty kill, he’s likely to have strong interest on the open market but could end up finding his way back on a healthy raise.
Re-signed in New York, 7 years, $24.5MM ($3.5MM AAV)
18. Matt Dumba – Seattle Kraken – 4 years, $21MM ($5.25MM AAV)
Dumba, 28, might not be the dynamic two-way force capable of scoring 50 points as he was earlier in his career, but he remains a valuable player due to his ability to soak up difficult minutes and be a valuable leader and locker room voice. While the 2020 King Clancy Memorial Trophy winner’s average ice time dipped to the lowest point of Dumba’s career since 2016-17, he’s widely considered a top-four defenseman and should be a premier option for a team looking to add a reliable veteran to its blue line.
19. Frederik Andersen – Carolina Hurricanes – 2 years, $8.5MM ($4.25MM AAV)
The Great Dane had a spectacular playoff performance for the Hurricanes but finds himself slotted behind Jarry on our final list thanks to similar injury concerns and a much weaker regular season in 2022-23. The two-time Jennings Trophy winner is coming off a nearly Vezina-caliber season in 2021-22, though, and he’s shown the capability to be a top-ten netminder in this league – just never for multiple seasons in a row. At 33 years old, he may not have a lot of career runway left with his injury history. He’ll likely be settling for another short-term deal.
Re-signed in Carolina, 2 years, $6.8MM ($3.4MM AAV)
20. John Klingberg – Arizona Coyotes – 3 years, $15MM ($5MM AAV)
Few players have proved themselves less on a prove-it deal than Klingberg did last season with the Ducks, having one of the worst seasons defensively of any top-of-the-lineup player in the post-lockout era. He hasn’t met the eye test without the puck at any point recently, either, although he was still on pace for 40 points in a full campaign and is worth a spot in the lineup with more sheltered minutes. Look for a team with severe depth deficiencies on defense (and cap room to spare) to nab Klingberg on the open market, much like last season.
Signed in Toronto, 1 year, $4.15MM
21. Evan Rodrigues – Chicago Blackhawks – 3 years, $12MM ($4MM AAV)
An oft-cited analytics darling, Rodrigues has finally broken out into a high-end, two-way forward in a middle-six role. He’ll never break the bank offensively – he’s yet to score more than 20 goals and 45 points in a full season – but he was on pace to do so this year had he played in all 82 games (he missed 13 with injuries). He’s also by no means a sharpshooter, but he’s an incredible play driver who, as he’s shown over the past few campaigns, makes the players around him better. He could be a good fit as a complementary piece to a team looking to get some insulation for their young stars.
Signed in Florida, 4 years, $12MM ($3MM AAV)
22. Tomas Tatar – Dallas Stars – 2 years, $7.6MM ($3.8MM AAV)
After a slow start to his two-year deal in New Jersey, Tatar had a bounce-back 2022-23 campaign, reaching the 20-goal mark for the sixth time in his career and scoring 48 points, his most since 2019-20. Tatar was signed by New Jersey despite only weeks after sitting as a healthy scratch for the majority of the Montreal Canadiens’ run to the Stanley Cup Final. Tatar has always struggled to be an impactful player in the playoffs, but for the Devils, their worry was more about actually reaching the postseason and ending their rebuild than anything else. While Tatar is unlikely to suddenly become a playoff difference-maker at 33 years old, he’s still a productive middle-six scorer with a lot of value for a team looking to make a push for a playoff spot.
23. Carson Soucy – San Jose Sharks – 3 years, $10.5MM ($3.5MM AAV)
Like Graves, Soucy will be one of the more coveted shutdown defenders available on the open market. A lack of top-four minutes will likely limit what offers he’ll get, but Soucy’s defensive play has been quite good over the past few seasons, and maybe more importantly, it’s been incredibly consistent. He’s one of the safest players available on the open market – at 28, he’s not prone to a sudden decline. Teams will know what they’re getting in Soucy, who can also play either side of the ice as a left shot and has good size at 6-foot-5 and 208 pounds.
Signed in Vancouver, 3 years, $9.75MM ($3.25MM AAV)
24. Joonas Korpisalo – Ottawa Senators – 2 years, $7MM ($3.5MM AAV)
After multiple seasons of sub-.900 save percentage with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Korpisalo finally emerged as a potential regular-season starter in 2022-23, exceptional playoff appearances notwithstanding. He had his best campaign since his .920 rookie year in 2015-16, solidifying Los Angeles’ goalie situation down the stretch after a trade with a .921 mark in 11 starts. He’s got no semblance of consistency throughout his career, though, and likely won’t be relied upon as “the answer” for any team – although he could land a tandem role with some increased activity in the crease.
Signed in Ottawa, 5 years, $20MM ($4MM AAV)
25. Alexander Kerfoot – Edmonton Oilers – 3 years, $11.25MM ($3.75MM AAV)
Now 28, Kerfoot’s got six NHL seasons and nearly 500 NHL games under his belt after being one of the more highly-touted collegiate free agents in 2017. His offensive numbers took a dip to just 32 points in Toronto this season, but he still put together very solid defensive play and carries some value with his versatility, able to play both center and wing rather comfortably. He won’t change the direction of your team, but there are much worse middle-six options out there, especially for a team with a need for a defensively responsible forward and strong penalty killer.
Signed in Arizona, 2 years, $7MM ($3.5MM AAV)
26. Evgenii Dadonov – Washington Capitals – 1 year, $2.25MM
While Dadonov was a quality contributor in his final season with Vegas, after an offseason trade to the Canadiens, his form took a nosedive. He struggled to build momentum in Montreal and was largely unproductive, leaving many to wonder if, after finishing the year in Montreal, he would return to the KHL. Nobody is wondering now, though, as Dadonov reminded everyone of his offensive capabilities after a mid-season trade to Dallas. He scored a combined 25 points in 39 games in the regular season and playoffs and helped the Stars on a run to the Western Conference Final. He’s unlikely to receive any major multi-year commitments, but he’ll likely be of interest to teams looking to add a skilled offensive player on a one-year deal.
Re-signed in Dallas, 2 years, $4.5MM ($2.25MM AAV)
27. Semyon Varlamov – New York Islanders – 2 years, $5MM ($2.5MM AAV)
Varlamov continues to excel quietly into his late 30s, although he’s now completely overshadowed by Ilya Sorokin on Long Island. He’s been a decidedly above-average netminder throughout his four seasons with New York, and he still posted a .913 save percentage and two shutouts this season, although he received just 22 starts. That’s likely what he’ll be in line for again if he re-signs with New York – Sorokin won’t be cooling off anytime soon.
Re-signed in New York, 4 years, $11MM ($2.75MM AAV)
28. Jonathan Toews – Edmonton Oilers – 1 year, $1.5MM + bonuses
Retirement could very well be the most likely option for Toews, who was in and out of the lineup this season as he continues to deal with long-term health issues stemming from CIRS and COVID. The 35-year-old isn’t a top-six caliber center on a contending team anymore, although he could make sense for some in a third-line role. He did put up 31 points in 53 games with Chicago last season in his final year with the franchise, but he’s best described as a non-factor defensively at this stage in his career.
29. Connor Clifton – New Jersey Devils – 3 years, $9.3MM ($3.1MM AAV)
Clifton had played an understatedly strong game with Boston over the past few seasons but oftentimes became a healthy scratch. That all changed this season, skating in 78 out of 82 games and posting a career-high 23 points and +20 rating in a bottom-pairing role for the record-breaking Bruins. There’s no doubt he’s an everyday NHL player at age 28, and the 2013 fifth-round pick is a strong penalty killer too. He’ll make a difference for a team looking to upgrade their third pair in a big way.
Signed in Buffalo, 3 years, $10MM ($3.33MM AAV)
30. Radko Gudas – Ottawa Senators – 3 years, $10.5MM ($3.5MM AAV)
Another player who saw their stock rise from a playoff performance, rumors say Gudas could receive a longer-term commitment than expected for a 33-year-old physical defenseman. Still a very strong lockdown defender, Gudas is worth the money for his very unique blend of physicality and more-than-competent two-way play from a blueliner. He’s never scored more than six goals or 25 points in a season, but he’s got enough smarts to his game to not limit the offensive capabilities of those around him.
Signed in Anaheim, 3 years, $12MM ($4MM AAV)
31. Connor Brown – Columbus Blue Jackets – 1 year, $2MM + bonuses
Brown is one of the wild cards of this free agent class. The Capitals brought him over from Ottawa last summer, hoping he’d bolster their middle-six forward group and serve as a good replacement for Tom Wilson, who was set to miss part of the season with a torn ACL. Instead, the 29-year-old tore his ACL in just his fourth game, ending his year prematurely. Brown averaged 35 points over the six previous seasons and is a dependable defensive forward as well. Had he been healthy, he’d likely slot in a fair bit higher on this list, but the uncertainty around his injury hurt him in our voting. It’ll be interesting to see what type of impact that uncertainty has on general managers around the league.
Signed in Edmonton, 1 year, $775K + $3.225MM in bonuses
32. Erik Gustafsson – Buffalo Sabres – 2 years, $6MM ($3MM AAV)
Gustafsson went a long way toward repairing his reputation around the league this season, posting very solid numbers on both sides of the puck en route to his highest-scoring season since he had 60 points with the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2018-19. He averaged nearly 20 minutes per game this season across 70 games with the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs, notching seven goals and 42 points while not looking out of place wherever he played in the lineup. Questions about his year-to-year consistency remain, but he’ll be an intriguing option for a team looking to add some versatility to its defense.
Signed with New York Rangers, 1 year, $825K
33. Max Pacioretty – Carolina Hurricanes – 1 year, $2MM + bonuses
This past season was one to forget for the veteran. Given away to Carolina for free as a straight cap dump, Pacioretty tore his Achilles tendon in off-season training, resulting in a long recovery time. When he came back, he tore it again, ending his year after just five games. However, the 34-year-old has reached the 20-goal mark in seven of the last ten seasons, and if he’s healthy, Pacioretty has a good chance to do that once again. With the recent injury history, he’s a buy-low candidate with some upside.
Signed in Washington, 1 year, $2MM + $2MM in bonuses
34. Gustav Nyquist – Colorado Avalanche – 1 year, $3.25MM
The 33-year-old has had multiple severe shoulder injuries over the past few seasons, but a strong showing in nine games to end the season with the Minnesota Wild will cause a team looking for scoring depth to bite. Notching a goal and nine assists, Nyquist showed he’s still got solid playmaking ability but will need a more limited role. Teams expecting him to rebound to 60-point form will be disappointed, especially given the extremely high likelihood he won’t play all 82 games, but he’s got a few seasons left in the tank.
Signed in Nashville, 2 years, $6.37MM ($3.185MM AAV)
35. Pierre Engvall – New York Islanders – 3 years, $9MM ($3MM AAV)
After getting traded by the Maple Leafs in February, Engvall gave the Islanders an extra push to make the playoffs. He spent most of his time as an Islander on a line with Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri, which was by far their most consistent offensive force down the stretch. Engvall was a solid fit, bringing more offensive depth to a team that sorely needed it. General manager Lou Lamoriello already expressed his wishes to re-sign the Swedish winger, and there’s no reason to think it won’t happen.
Re-signed in New York, 7 years, $21MM ($3MM AAV)
36. Conor Sheary – Florida Panthers – 2 years, $6.3MM ($3.15MM AAV)
Sheary is a skilled depth player who seemed to find a career rebirth in Washington, recording back-to-back 15-goal seasons. With the Capitals looking for a retool, he could find his way elsewhere on the open market, especially as he’s in line to earn a bit of a raise on his previous AAV of $1.5MM. Wherever he lands, Sheary is a good two-way forward and a veteran with a good bit of playoff experience.
Signed in Tampa Bay, 3 years, $6MM ($2MM AAV)
37. Luke Schenn – Toronto Maple Leafs – 2 years, $3MM ($1.5MM AAV)
The 33-year-old former top-ten pick returned to the team that drafted him at this year’s trade deadline, looking like he never left. 2022-23 was some of Schenn’s best hockey in years, proving he can still stick around as a serviceable and effective bottom-pairing defenseman. His 22 points in 70 games actually tied a career-high, and he tacked on some spectacular defensive play in the postseason to boot.
Signed in Nashville, 3 years, $8.25MM ($2.75MM AAV)
38. David Kampf – Pittsburgh Penguins – 3 years, $7.5MM ($2.5MM AAV)
Kampf’s emerged as a premier shutdown center during his time with the Maple Leafs, winning more than 500 faceoffs in each of the past two seasons and seeing his ice time creep up to over 15 minutes per game. He’s become a solid bet for 20 to 30 points and is an ideal pivot for a defensively inclined third line, and he’d fill Pittsburgh’s largest problem area from last season. Expecting him to join the GM who brought him to Toronto in the first place is a rather reasonable prediction.
Re-signed in Toronto, 4 years, $9.6MM ($2.4MM AAV)
39. Antti Raanta – Carolina Hurricanes – 2 years, $6.6MM ($3.3MM AAV)
There are few that would argue against Raanta’s ability. He has found great results when he plays, recording a save percentage of over .900 in every season since 2014-15 and a collective .910 in the 67 games he’s played since 2021. But a long history of injuries has made Raanta into little more than an exciting backup option. He appeared in 27 games this season, battling with a groin injury in March and an illness in April that forced the Carolina Hurricanes to turn to Pyotr Kochetkov. There is a lot to like about Raanta, and his results are undeniable, but unless a team is feeling particularly risky, it’s unlikely he’ll find a starting net with a new team.
Re-signed in Carolina, 1 year, $1.5MM
40. Jesper Fast – Carolina Hurricanes – 2 years, $5MM ($2.5MM AAV)
Jesper Fast is not a high-end scorer, but he showed a penchant for some key goals throughout their run to the Eastern Conference Final. A capable defensive presence, you could do much worse for a dual-threat third-line winger. He’s scored 30 goals and 82 points in 208 games with Carolina over the past three years, and it’s a marriage both sides would be happy to extend at a fair price.
Re-signed in Carolina, 2 years, $4.8MM ($2.4MM AAV)
41. Brian Dumoulin – Colorado Avalanche – 3 years, $10.5MM ($3.5MM AAV)
Kris Letang’s longtime partner could be looking for a new home this offseason, with Pittsburgh looking to make some roster overhauls. He’s maintained pretty consistent defensive play over the past few years, with his plus-minus rating in 2022-23 tanked by some unusually poor on-ice shooting percentage from his teammates (8.6%). He’s maybe better suited for a second- or third-pairing role as he gets up there in age, but would be a quality add for a team looking to get a competent shutdown defender.
Signed in Seattle, 2 years, $6.3MM ($3.15MM AAV)
42. Kevin Shattenkirk – Minnesota Wild – 2 years, $5MM ($2.5MM AAV)
While not a flashy option, Shattenkirk has stayed on NHL payrolls because of the serviceable, bottom-four reliability that he offers. The right-shot defender averaged just over 19 minutes per game with the Anaheim Ducks last season, filling in on both the penalty kill and power play when needed. While plagued by injury concerns throughout his career, Shattenkirk played in 82 games in 2021-22 and 75 games this season – losing seven games to various lower-body injuries – marking the most games he’s played over a two-year stretch in his entire career. If he really is past the injury plague, Shattenkirk will be a well-rounded and flexible defender for teams looking to complete their bottom pair.
Signed in Boston, 1 year, $1.05MM
43. Garnet Hathaway – St. Louis Blues – 4 years, $8MM ($2MM AAV)
Trade rumors have followed Garnet Hathaway for many years, but it wasn’t until this season that Washington sent away the bottom-six forward, including him as an additional piece in the blockbuster deal that sent Orlov to the Bruins. While he wasn’t too flashy in Boston, the team felt inclined to roster him in all seven of their playoff games, speaking to the attractive reliability that he offers on the fourth line. Boston also utilized Hathaway as a fallback option for the penalty kill, providing a small boost to his value heading into free agency. Every team wants a hardy, veteran presence in their bottom six, and Hathaway is a cheap way of finding it.
Signed in Philadelphia, 2 years, $4.75MM ($2.375MM AAV)
44. Justin Holl – Anaheim Ducks – 3 years, $9.75MM ($3.25MM AAV)
Holl’s been one of the more maligned players in recent Maple Leafs lore, thanks to some very visible and costly defensive miscues. Overall, though, he generally makes up for them in a quieter way and remains an effective mid-pair defender who can eat over 20 minutes per game. You know what you’re getting for his offensive production – he’s notched between 18 and 23 points the past four seasons. He falls below the similarly-rated Dumoulin on our list thanks to those defensive inconsistencies, although he is a bit more proficient offensively.
Signed in Detroit, 3 years, $10.2MM ($3.4MM AAV)
45. James van Riemsdyk – Vegas Golden Knights – 2 years, $5.5MM ($2.75MM AAV)
The 2007 second-overall pick is officially over the hill, recording just 12 goals and 29 points in 61 games with the Flyers last season. It may be buyer beware in case his decline exaggerates as he enters his mid-30s, but he could still absolutely be a capable third-line scoring winger with a much stronger team around him. The veteran of 14 seasons and 940 games is still looking for a Stanley Cup.
Signed in Boston, 1 year, $1MM
46. Ian Cole – Vancouver Canucks – 2 years, $4MM ($2MM AAV)
Cole quietly played a very important role for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2022-23, picking up a lot of the slack for Ryan McDonagh after his departure. He excelled mightily in a shutdown role, averaging over 19 minutes per game, recording 17 points in 78 games and a +13 rating. He’s been linked to the Canucks on a multi-year deal by both Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and CHEK’s Rick Dhaliwal.
Signed in Vancouver, 1 year, $3MM
47. Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Tampa Bay Lightning – 2 years, $4.5MM ($2.25MM AAV)
A late (and perhaps surprising) entrant to the UFA market, which resulted in him not hitting all of our writers’ ballots, Ekman-Larsson isn’t the number one defenseman he was previously in Arizona. That resulted in him not living up to his contract, and eventually, Vancouver felt it was better to buy out the final four years of his deal. But that doesn’t mean he’s finished as an NHL defenseman. The 31-year-old is likely to be quite motivated, and in the right setting in a complementary role, he could be a nice under-the-radar addition this summer.
Signed in Florida, 1 year, $2.25MM
48. Zach Parise – New York Islanders – 1 year, $1.15MM
Parise’s given the Isles solid value after a massive buyout from the Minnesota Wild, providing good goal-scoring depth and veteran leadership. He’s played in all 82 games the past two seasons and scored 15 and 21 goals, respectively – he’s still got some left in the tank at age 38 (soon to be 39). It seems unlikely he’d have much of a desire to go anywhere else at this point, and there’s little reason to believe the Islanders wouldn’t be open to a reunion.
49. Nick Bjugstad – Boston Bruins – 3 years, $5.25MM ($1.75MM AAV)
Last summer, his market wasn’t the strongest after playing a very limited role in Minnesota. He signed a low-cost deal in Arizona with the idea of getting a bigger role to show he can still contribute. He did just that, picking up 17 goals, taking over 1,000 faceoffs, and averaging over two hits per game. Those are elements that many teams will want to see from their role players, and after a decent playoff showing with Edmonton, Bjugstad should have a much better market this time around.
Signed in Arizona, 2 years, $4.2MM ($2.1MM AAV)
50. Miles Wood – San Jose Sharks – 2 years, $5.2MM ($2.6MM AAV)
Wood had a somewhat disappointing season in 2022-23, but it may take him a while to get back to his previous form after missing nearly all of 2021-22 with injury. Now 27, Wood likely won’t ever be good for more than 35 points in a season, but he can be effective as a hard-nosed winger in a third-line role. He could land somewhere lacking forward depth, looking for more upward mobility that he won’t get by re-signing in New Jersey.
Signed in Colorado, 6 years, $15MM ($2.5MM AAV)