Before NHL free agency opened up this summer, PHR published a list of the top-50 NHL UFAs. Two weeks into the offseason and the majority have signed deals—leaving 18 out of 50 still looking for a new NHL contract. Below are the top ten players still on the market:
[initial writeups credited to PHR’s Gavin Lee]
1. Thomas Vanek There are still plenty of questions about his defense, speed and overall effectiveness, but no one can complain about Vanek’s offensive chops. After another season with 48 points, it’s easy to see a Jagr-esque mercenary run for Vanek as his career winds down. He likely won’t get term, but there will definitely be a market for his ability to create offense. Vanek is most recently rumored to be in talks with the Detroit Red Wings.
2. Jaromir Jagr The ageless wonder himself, Jagr plans on playing not just next year but several more after that. While he may not be an 100-point player anymore, he is just a year removed from getting Hart Trophy votes at the age of 44 and can still operate his puck-possession style. He’s never going to beat you with foot speed, but for the analytical and traditional alike he is still a legitimate top-nine option who can help your team 5-on-5. Jagr most recently opined on social media that he has not received any NHL offers. He did, however, receive a publicly-garnering offer from the ECHL Florida Everblades.
3. Andrei Markov The latest talk out of Montreal has Markov seeking a two-year deal, but he might have to look somewhere else to get that. He’s still mighty effective in his role, but signing defensemen who will turn 39 to multi-year contracts is never a good idea. Markov’s never left Montreal and it would be a shame to see him pull on another sweater so close to the end, but like Marleau in San Jose it might have to happen should he want long-term security. Montreal is rumored to have a one-year deal on the table, but Markov is looking for a two-year, $12MM deal.
4. Mike Fisher The captain has hinted that he’ll only play in Nashville or Ottawa next season, and if he can’t find a role with one of those clubs he’ll retire instead. Nothing is decided yet, and at 37, Fisher has been one of the best checking centers in the game for nearly two decades. He now must try to convince one of his old teams to bring him back for another run. Remember, that even though he struggled in the playoffs he did have 18 goals and 42 points in the regular season while still showcasing his regular excellence in the faceoff dot and defensive zone.
5. Drew Stafford It didn’t seem like there was much life left in Stafford through the first half of the season, but after a deadline deal to Boston he seemed reinvigorated and put up eight points in 18 games. He’s a depth option, but a good one that can help defensively as well. At 31, he can help a rebuilding team be respectable, log big minutes and still keep room for another contract to end his career. Stafford is most recently connected to the Boston Bruins, but the team is prioritizing RFA David Pastrnak’s contract first.
6. Cody Franson Franson is in an interesting spot as one of the few right-handed defensemen on the market past Kevin Shattenkirk. His final days in Buffalo weren’t so pretty, but he can still contribute positively with his long reach and crisp passing. A former powerplay quarterback, he could bring that experience to another team that needs help getting shots through with the man advantage.
7. Johnny Oduya Solid depth defensemen don’t often come with the type of pedigree Oduya can boast, with two Stanley Cups and over 100 playoff games under his belt. Though he didn’t look impressive in the Blackhawks’ first-round sweep at the hands of the Nashville Predators, no one on Chicago really did.
8. Jarome Iginla How much is left in the tank for the soon-to-be Hall of Fame winger? He seemed re-energized after being traded to Los Angeles, but couldn’t drag the struggling team into the playoffs. A return to Calgary could be a storybook ending to a great career, but they’ll have to take on some risk to make it happen.
9. Daniel Winnik Winnik has been used as a depth-and-flip piece more than once in his career, and could see it happen again in the future. He’s never had enough leverage for a no-trade clause, but is sought after for playoff runs every year. He quietly had another double-digit goal season, and is one of the better defensive wingers in the entire league.
10. Shane Doan An unceremonious exit from Arizona aside, Doan’s options on the open market are probably very few. Extremely well liked, but just hanging on as an offensive contributor he’ll have to up the physicality and settle into a different role somewhere else.