NHL Power Rankings: Top 2021 unrestricted free agents

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we are taking a look at the top unrestricted free agents for the 2021 offseason.

We are separating the players into two groups — The top skaters (forwards and defensemen, which are discussed in the video above) and the top goalies.

Leading the way for the skaters are Alex Ovechkin (who is almost certain to re-sign with his current team), Dougie Hamilton, and Gabriel Landeskog, while the Bruins will have to work out new deals for two-thirds of their newly formed second scoring line.

On the goalie list, Tuukka Rask and Philipp Grubauer lead the way.

Where do the top players land on our NHL Power Rankings?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

Top Skaters

1. Alex Ovechkin. Will he ever make it to the unrestricted free agent market? No way. But he is at this point technically an unrestricted free agent so he tops the list. The only question is how much do the Capitals re-sign him for, and for how long. He just finished a 13-year, $124M contract that turned out to be a bargain.

2. Dougie Hamiton. The best defenseman eligible for unrestricted free agency, and also one of the best all-around defensemen in the league. He should have no shortage of suitors if he makes it to market. A team like Philadelphia should be all in here. As should Carolina when it comes to re-signing him.

3. Gabriel Landeskog. Top-line, two-way player that has been a key cog for what has become the most talented team in the league. Given his status as Avalanche captain, and the role he plays next to Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen on the top line, re-signing him would have to be a priority. He will probably not be a bargain anymore.

4. Taylor HallFor the second year in a row Hall heads to the unrestricted free agent market, and his value is going to be fascinating. He had a brutal season in Buffalo on a one-year deal. He got traded to Boston and looks like the MVP player he was a couple of years ago. Put him in the right situation and he will excel. Boston seems like the right situation.

5. Ryan Nugent-Hopkns. Re-signing Nugent-Hopkins should probably be a priority for the Oilers. Their forward depth after Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl is already bad. They can not afford to lose the one really good player they have beyond them. 

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

6. Blake ColemanI know this much: His next contract is going to be a heck of a lot larger than the $1.5M deal he plays on now. Great defensive forward that can score 20 goals and play with a mean streak. The type of player GMs go crazy over, especially in free agency.

7. David Krejci. Krejci can still play and has been great between Hall and Craig Smith. The fact he is entering his age 36 season drops him down the list a little.

8. Jaden SchwartzWhen healthy you can comfortably pencil him in for 20 goals and strong possession numbers over an 82-game season. Very good middle-six player.

9. Kyle Palmieri. Very underrated player that is a steady 25-30 goal scorer and very good defensively. Not a player that will change your franchise, but a good contributor for a contender. Only concern is the fact he will be starting his next contract in his age 31 season.

10. Tomas Tatar. One of the best possession drivers in the league with fantastic underlying numbers across the board. Probably a better player than you realize.

11. Brandon Saad. Saad never became an All-Star, but he is a great complementary piece for a contender. Good two-way player that can chip in some offense in a middle-six role.

[Related: Can Avalanche keep Brandon Saad beyond this season?]

12. Zach Hyman. He kind of gets lost in the shadow of Toronto’s superstars, but Hyman has developed into a solid winger that has been scoring at a 25-goal pace per 82 games for three years now.

13. Tyson Barrie. Buyer beware in big letters. Great offensive numbers, but he was playing in a great environment for that with McDavid and Draisaitl and on the best power play in the league. His defensive game leaves a lot to be desired. Do not pay for the point total here.

14. Phillip Danault. His offensive numbers dropped a little this year, but an outstanding defensive forward that can score 10-15 goals. Every team in the league can use a player like that in its bottom six.

15. Paul Stastny. Stastny will be 36 next season but he has not really shown any signs of falling off. Not a top-line center anymore, but if he is skating as your second or third line center you are going to have the start of a strong line.

Top Goalies

1. Tuukka Rask. Boston (the fan base, that is) has never fully appreciated what it has had in Rask. For their sake (and the Bruins’ sake), they better hope he re-signs so they do not have to find out the hard way how good they have had it.

2. Philipp Grubauer. You kind of forget about him with all of the All-Stars in Colorado at forward in defense, but he has been an extremely productive goalie when healthy. Not one of the elites, but certainly a goalie you can win with.

3. Chris Driedger. The good news: Driedger has been great when he has played the past two seasons. The concerning news: His sample size in the NHL is 38 regular season games. How bold do you want to be committing to that in free agency?

4. Linus Ullmark. The best case you can make for Ullmark is over the past three years the Sabres are 41-34-11 when he starts. They are 37-70-14 when he does not.

5. Frederik Andersen. During his peak Andersen was a very productive, extremely durable goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs that consistently took on a heavy workload. He has really started to slow down the past two years though.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Scroll Down For:

    Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

    Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

    John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.

    TORTS REFORM

    Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

    “I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

    Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.

    BIG MO

    The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

    The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

    “He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”

    PLAYOFF ROTATION

    Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

    Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

    “I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

    The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

    “He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

    The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

    “This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”

    LAMBERT ISLAND

    Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

    Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

    “Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”

    MORE NEW VOICES

    The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

    Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

    The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

    Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

    “He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

    Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

    The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

    Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

    “We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

    Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

    “I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

    Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

    The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

    Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

    The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

    Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

    Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

    blackhawks
    Harry How/Getty Images
    13 Comments

    CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

    The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

    The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

    The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.