NHL Free Agents Frenzy: Who are the top UFA’s on the market?

nhl free agency
May 30, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (19) and Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) battle over the puck during the second period in game one of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

This summer, there are a high number of unrestricted free agents about to hit the market. Some names like Alex Ovechkin are unlikely to make it to July 27th. Many teams are wisely leaving key players unsigned in order to protect other players under contract in the July 21st expansion draft.

Here’s a look by tiers at the top UFA’s available.

NHL Free Agency: Top Tier

Dougie Hamilton (D): The NHL loves to chase after top-end right-handed defenseman. You saw what Alex Pietrangelo was able to get in this economy, and that’s what 28 year-old Dougie will go after too. He will be expecting a serious increase over his $5.75 million AAV deal, so GM’s better save those dollars. The Hurricanes have allowed Hamilton to talk with other teams in order to see if he can get a better offer than what Carolina is willing to give him.

Taylor Hall (F): The 29 year-old winger signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres this offseason for $8 million. Hall used his no move clause to his advantage and got traded to the Bruins at the deadline. My best guess is he’s staying in Boston at a slight discount to stay. Hall’s already said he’s willing to do so.

nhl free agency taylor hall
Apr 13, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Taylor Hall (71) skates with the puck during an overtime period against the Buffalo Sabres at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Gabriel Landeskog (F): There’s always a market for power forwards and ones with leadership skills to boot. The 28 year-old plays the game tough and physical, so wear and tear are a genuine concern. He’ll be coming off a deal that paid him $5.5 million AAV but his 41 points in 41 games this season means a huge pay raise is coming. Will the Avs let him walk? This remains to be seen, but I have a hard time seeing it.

David Savard (D): One of the biggest catches at the NHL Trade Deadline, the 30 year-old defenseman will be a prized UFA this summer. It is unlikely that the Tampa Bay Lightning will try to re-sign him. If they do, they will need to move major salary out to make it happen. Regardless, he’s already at the top of a few teams’ lists and winning the Stanley Cup always helps.

Phillip Grubauer (G): Here’s another name that is a pending UFA but is unlikely to get there. The Colorado Avalanche will look to lock up the 29 year-old Grubauer but they will have to fork over more than his current $3.33 AAV. If the Avs try to low-ball him and he goes to the open market, he could wear another sweater.

NHL Free Agency: Mid Tier

Tyson Barrie to test free agency
Apr 10, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie (22) controls the puck during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Tyson Barrie (D): The 29 year-old rearguard took a one year deal with the Edmonton Oilers. Barrie bet on himself and it appears the move should pay off. He has 48 points in 57 games this season which was tops for all defensemen. He will command big bucks by any team looking for a PP quarterback.

Jaden Schwartz (F): The 29 year-old Schwartz struggled this year with just 21 points in 40 games. He has 60-65 point potential and plays a solid two-way game so there will be interest. Depending on how he performs the rest of the way, he could be had to a similar AAV of $5.35 million.

Frederik Andersen (G): If there was one goalie I could see in a new uniform, it is Frederik Andersen. You almost get the sense he’s worn out his welcome with the Toronto fans and media. The 31 year-old spent a lot of time on LTIR, and earns $5 million AAV. He will be looking for a raise, but it appears the Leafs may be very happy with Jack Campbell going forward.

Linus Ullmark (G): This is the goalie teams should target. The 27 year-old goalie is coming off a bargain deal of $2.6 million and is going to be worth at least double. He’s an absolute gamer playing on one of the most abysmal teams I’ve ever seen in my 30 years of watching the sport. The Sabres want to keep him and thus refused to move him at the deadline, his camp may be looking at the freedom of free agency. We will see where this goes.

Jamie Oleksiak (D): This 28 year-old pending UFA was sought after heavily at the deadline. Elliotte Friedman mentioned Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was frustrated after not being able to make a deal he was looking for. “I can’t say for sure he was the only target but I do believe one of the deals they tried to make was Jamie Oleksiak in Dallas,” he said. “Who I do believe the Stars are going to do everything they can to keep him long term.” Should Oleksiak hit the open market the Stars will find it hard to retain him.

Brandon Saad (F): The 28 year-old is having a nice season with the Avalanche with 15 goals and 24 points in 44 contests. He’s coming off a $5 million AAV deal and will certainly will be a desirable add, but I’m not sure the Avs are going to pay him top dollar. He seems destined for a new team.

Brandon Montour (D): Another big trade deadline acquisition, Montour may have found a new home with the Panthers. Albeit nothing is set in stone and until he inks a deal he could hit the open market. If that happens, Montour will be a hot commodity in free agency.

Nick Foligno (F): I will make this one simple. Nick Foligno will be a free agent. Nick Foligno will return back to the Blue Jackets this summer.

NHL Free Agency: Low Tier

david krejci
Sep 16, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46) skates with the puck against Washington Capitals forward Garrett Pilon (40) during the third period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

David Krejci (C): This Boston Bruins center will be a UFA in 2021 at the age of 35. He can still play as he has 44 points in 51 games this season. Krejci will be coming off a deal that pays him $7.25 million and will get nothing close to that in the flat cap era. Teams looking for a veteran center to play second or third line minutes will do well here but it sounds like the B’s are trying to keep him.

Ryan Getzlaf (C): He is getting up there at 36 years-old. Getzlaf will also be coming off the last year of a big contract that paid $8.25 million. Just like Krejci he will not see anything close to it, but has immense value. The 6’4″ pivot notched just 18 points in 48 games. I have a feeling he will sign for a bargain to remain in Anaheim.

Tuukka Rask (G): There remains to be some questions in Boston about Rask’s future. The 34 year-old net-minder addressed his mindset heading into the offseason. “I’m not going to play for anybody else but the Bruins,” Rask explained. “This is our home. We have three kids in school, we have friends here. Hopefully it works out that I can return well (from surgery) and then we will talk contract.” The Bruins may want to bring him back, but it won’t be for the $7 million AAV he’s coming off of. Maybe Rask will retire?

Pekka Rinne (G): This man wants to retire a member of the Nashville Predators. He first pulled a Predators sweater over his head on December 15, 2005 in a win over the Blackhawks. He became their number one goalie in the 2007-2008 season has never looked back. When the 38 year-old goalie was asked about his future before the deadline he provided a straight forward response. He said, “I do want to retire as a Predator.” If Rinne is looking to play past this season and the Preds want to go a different direction, will he retire? Or chase a Cup with a contender on a one year-deal? When the season officially ended he left it off by saying he would not close any doors.