NHL Free Agency: Kadri, Klingberg top list of best available UFAs

NHL Free Agency
Michael Martin, Getty Images

We are a week into the NHL’s Free Agent signing period, and even though most of the top players have already found new homes there are still some pretty good players (and relatively big names) remaining on the market.

Let’s take a look at 10 of the most significant.

1. Nazem Kadri. It is a little surprising that Kadri is still available as he was one of the top players to the UFA market. Coming off a career-year offensively and playing a major role on the Avalanche’s run to a Stanley Cup, Kadri figured to be one of the big earners in free agency. And he still probably will be. It is just taking some time. There was a report over the weekend that Kadri is wanting to play for a contender and might need some teams to clear salary cap space before signing him. We will see if that ends up being true. As good as Kadri is, he is not without his risks on a free agent contract. He is already 32 years old, and for as good as his 2021-22 season was there is no guarantee he repeats that production, especially on a team that is not as loaded as Colorado’s is offensively.

2. John Klingberg. After Kris Letang re-signed in Pittsburgh it made Klingberg that top defenseman on the open market, and arguably the only top-pairing defenseman. And he remains unsigned more than a week in. That is odd, and might suggest that the market for him is not as strong as originally thought. If teams think they can add a top-pairing defenseman, they are going to jump at that chance.

[Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker]

3. Nino Niederreiter. This one is also a little surprising. Niederreiter is an excellent middle-six forward that drives possession and will score 20-25 goals for you over the course of an 82-game season. Not a superstar, but a heckuva player that will make any line (and team) he plays on better.

4. Paul Stastny. Stastny will turn 37 early this season but is still, very quietly, a really productive player. Strong two-way presence that can drive possession and chip in second-line offense. On a one-year deal this would be a solid add for a contender that needs center depth.

5. Danton Heinen. Heinen was a really good find for the Penguins a year ago in free agency, but they were clearly afraid of what his arbitration number would look like. So they did not qualify him an offer and allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent. A better defensive player than he gets credit for, Heinen can be a 15-20 goal scorer in the right spot.

6. Phil Kessel. His goal scoring has dried up, but he is still a really good playmaker and can help out on a power play. If you are not expecting him to carry your offense there is still a good contributor here offensively.

7. Evan Rodrigues. Through the first two months of the 2021-22 season Rodrigues was scoring like a top-line player and stunning the league. He cooled off considerably in the second half, but still finished with 19 goals and 43 total points. Maybe he does not repeat those numbers, but he is still a really good two-way player that will work on any team’s bottom-six.

[Related: Best NHL Free Agent Signings So Far]

8. P.K. Subban. Like Kessel, you are getting a former star at the end of his career that you are going to have to play in a specialized/sheltered role. And that is fine, because Subban can still shoot it from the point and still has some speed from the back end. As long as you have reasonable expectations and a coaching staff that does not expect him to play 25 minutes a night you can still get a good player here.

9. Jonathan Dahlen. Really intriguing player here. Dahlen is going to turn 25 in December and has just one year of NHL experience. He was a dominant offensive player in Sweden and scored 12 goals in 61 games in his first taste of NHL action on a bad Sharks team. Maybe this year’s Mason Marchment or Michael Bunting on the UFA market?

10. Johan Larsson. Larsson is not going to bring a lot of offense to your team, but you might not find a better defensive forward on the open market at this point. If he brings that and can chip in 10 goals you have a heckuva a bottom-six forward.

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.