Best remaining NHL free agents after Hall, Pietrangelo sign

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Now that Taylor Hall and Alex Pietrangelo both landed in unexpected spots in as NHL free agents, teams and fans must be wondering: who’s left?

As different as things are right now, with 2020 NHL Free Agency in October, some things haven’t changed. By that I mean: there aren’t a whole lot of valuable NHL free agents remaining. Once you get past the cream of the crop, you’re left with … well, dented cans of creamed corn.

OK, that’s not totally fair. There are still some premium items to rummage through. Granted, some might be the hockey equivalent of paying way too much for items at Whole Foods, but there are still a few interesting players left in 2020 NHL Free Agency.

In particular, teams might find some interesting options at forward. Beyond a Hail Mary or two, they might be better off going the trade route for defensemen, though.

This post focuses on the best remaining 2020 NHL Free Agent options who are UFAs. If you’re arguing that teams could make the biggest splashes with RFAs like Mathew Barzal, you’re right. But you also probably realize that NHL teams are extremely hesitant to rock the boat in that manner. Maybe 2020 will be different in that way, too?

Who knows, but let’s focus on unrestricted free agents NHL teams might consider.

Best players left in 2020 NHL Free Agency

Prominent Forwards

  • Mike Hoffman: Hoffman, 30, is the sort of player teams were likely to spend foolish money on in previous NHL free agent years. That’s not to say he brings zero value, but some understandably view him as an “empty-calorie” goal-scorer.

If he’s holding out for a James Neal-type deal, that could be bad. Hoffman could be awfully interesting if the market’s simply sour on him, though. Goals are goals.

Although you could say that for many NHL free agents, Taylor Hall being off the market could help Hoffman in particular.

  • Evgenii Dadonov: While Dadonov scored 25 goals (after two straight 28-goal seasons), his underlying numbers have dropped considerably since an outstanding return to the NHL in 2017-18.

Already 31, Dadonov could be a risky long-term investment. Perhaps his asking price would be reasonable after lingering on the NHL free agent market?

  • Joe Thornton: At 40, it’s fair to wonder how much “Jumbo Joe” has left. It’s also fair to ask how comfortable he really is with the idea of leaving San Jose.
  • Mikael Granlund: If Granlund was ever going to be a “sexy” pick, he isn’t now. That lack of sizzle might actually make the 28-year-old a nice bargain, much like fellow former Predator Craig Smith.
  • Anthony Duclair: Carries some of those Hoffman-like “empty calorie” concerns. But he’s also fast and young for a UFA at 25 after the Senators strangely balked on handing him a qualifying offer.
  • Corey Perry: Honestly, if it weren’t for a mini-resurgence during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Perry would be in the next section. Another low-risk deal would make sense for the 35-year-old pest.

Other notable forwards

Defensemen

  • Zdeno Chara – In Chara’s case, this almost certainly boils down to re-signing with the Bruins or retiring. But he must at least be mentioned.
  • Sami Vatanen – It’s been a tough stretch for the 29-year-old. Could that make him a value pick-up, though?
  • Travis Hamonic – Also 29, also a defenseman who’s seen his stock drop dramatically. And also could be beneficial if a team can sign Hamonic to a “show-me” deal.
  • Andy Greene – Comes with obvious risks at 37, yet maybe those limitations would pave the way for a value contract? Delivered considerable rental value for the Islanders.
  • Dmitry Kulikov – Hey, I didn’t get it when the Jets gave him quite a lot of money. Who’s to say someone else won’t talk themselves into Kulikov?
  • Cody Ceci – Another not very good defenseman who NHL teams insist on employing.
  • Trevor Daley – Have to admit, I thought he retired.
  • Ron Hainsey – Similar energy to Daley. He’s also a fellow former Penguins defenseman, and Jim Rutherford clearly loves remembering guys.

Goalies

Not many spots left, but teams might be able to find a diamond in the rough if they need a backup.

  • Ryan Miller – Would be kind of cool if he returned to the Sabres, wouldn’t it?
  • Aaron Dell – Early in his Sharks days, Dell looked like an elite backup, peaking with a .931 save percentage over 20 appearances in 2016-17. One could argue he was propped up then, yet now Dell’s agent might argue that the Sharks’ defense hangs goalies out to dry. At 31, he’s younger than many other options. Would he take on a third goalie role to try to rehab his career? (Dell might not have a choice.)
  • Craig Anderson – Tough to imagine the 39-year-old drawing much interest, unless he’s open-minded about a 3G gig too.
  • Jimmy Howard – Rotated a sneaky-fantastic 2018-19 with an apocalyptic 2019-20. At 36, his options are limited. That said, if you had to bet on anyone on this list, it’d probably boil down to Howard or Miller. (Goalies are strange, though, so it will probably be Mike Condon storming on the scene or something.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.