NHL Power Rankings: Best of the remaining free agents

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look at the best of the remaining unrestricted free agents that are still on the market.

While most of the top players are signed, there are still a few players that have slipped through the cracks that should be able to contribute this season, and perhaps even beyond.

Who all makes the cut this week?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Tuukka Rask. Is this a Boston-or-bust situation? It probably is, but he is still technically an unrestricted free agent and we will include him. The Bruins just made a huge investment in Linus Ullmark, while Jeremy Swayman waiting in the wings, so it will be interesting to see their level of urgency in trying to bring back Rask. He is still an elite, top-tier goalie.

2. Tomas TatarHe fell out of favor with the coaching staff in Montreal during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he is still an outstanding player, top-line scorer, and elite possession driver. If I am the Kings and looking for a way to jumpstart my team in the short-term I would bring him in and reunite him with Phillip Danault.

3. Kyle Palmieri. The Islanders have the salary cap space to bring him back and have not yet made another significant move this offseason. So perhaps that is on the table. Palmieri is a 20-25 goal scorer over 82 games with a solid defensive impact. He remains a very strong middle-six player.

4. Casey CizikasGiven the contracts for players like Brandon Tanev and Barclay Goodrow there is no reason for Cizikas to not be able to get five-six years and $3 million per season. Great defensive impact and can chip in some offense. Perfect for for the Islanders.

5. Zach Parise. He just turned 37 and is coming off a down year where he found himself as a healthy scratch on more than one occasion, but he is also just one year removed from back-to-back 25-goal seasons. He is not a franchise player anymore, but he can still contribute.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

6. Ryan Donato. Donato seems like he could be this year’s Anthony Duclair: A restricted free agent that did not recieve a qualifying offer and can excel in the right situation. He has great underlying numbers and has shown flashes of being able to score in the past.

7. Eric Staal. Staal is not going to be a top-line game-changer anymore, but given his two-way play, possession driving ability, and occasional offense he would be a solid bottom-six center for a contender.

8. Joe Thornton. He is 42 years old and finished as an elite player but his underlying numbers and playmaking ability are still there. He is also still chasing that elusive Stanley Cup.

9. Dominik Kahun. This situation is just screaming one-year prove it deal. He has shown flashes of being a really good player in Chicago and Pittsburgh, but never really saw it progress in Buffalo or Edmonton.

10. Ryan Murray. He never panned out as a No. 2 overall pick and will not provide much offense, but he will make a solid defensive impact on a second or third pairing.

11. James Neal. He might still be able to provide something as a power play specialist but outside of a random hot streak to start the 2019-20 season he has not really been an impact player for three years.

[Related: What Blackhawks should expect from Marc-Andre Fleury this season]

12. Derick Brassard. He has played on six different teams since the start of the 2017-18 season and is probably going to be joining a seventh at some point this offseason. At one time he was a legit top-six center and big-game player, but is now just a depth forward that might score 10-15 goals and 30 points in an 82-game season.

13. Zdeno Chara. Not sure how much he has left at age 44 but he is still a massive presence on the blue line with a heavy shot.

14. Nikita Gusev. His first year in New Jersey looked very promising, especially after all of the preseason hype surrounding his arrival. But things went backwards in a significant way in year two with the Devils. Still a lot of talent there. Good reclamation project.

15. Devan Dubnyk. After being one of the league’s best goalies for most of his time in Minnesota he has hit an obvious decline the past two years. He is probably not going to be what you want as a starter. But can he still give you enough to be a solid backup? He might.

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.