With the NHL Free Agency starting on Wednesday we are taking an updated look at our top unrestricted free agent Power Rankings from back in May, removing the players that have already re-signed with their teams (Kris Letang, Filip Forsberg, Valeri Nichushkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Rickard Rakell) and adding some of the restricted free agents that were not given qualifying offers on Monday.
The latter list includes former Blackhawks Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik, goalie Ilya Samsonov, and winger Danton Heinen.
You might notice one name missing from the list: Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron. We made the decision to leave him out of the rankings because while his contract is technically expiring, he has made it clear that there are only two realistic options for him: Re-signing with the Boston Bruins or retirement. That does not really make him a fit here with the rest of the players on the rankings.
Which players make the cut and where do they rank?
To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!
1. Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau picked a heck of a team to have a career year and be the second-leading scorer in the NHL. Gaudreau is an incredible talent, one of the most productive players in the league, and is still at an age where he should have a lot of productive hockey ahead of him. Whether it is Calgary or somewhere else, he is going to cash in this offseason. [UPDATE: Johnny Hockey is heading to the Blue Jackets on a seven-year, $68.25 million deal.]
2. Nazem Kadri. The pro: He had an incredible season and is a really good two-way player at a premium position. The concern: He will be 32 when his next contract begins and he has never really produced at this level prior to this season. Can he duplicate that on a different team, and for how many years?
3. Evgeni Malkin. If he is healthy he is still an impact player, especially on the power play. Maybe not as dominant as he was at his peak, but you would take him on your team if given the opportunity. It seems weird imagining him in a uniform other than the Penguins but that seems to be the way this is heading after it was revealed on Monday that he is testing the open market. [UPDATE: Malkin has signed a four-year, $24.4 million extension to stay in Pittsburgh.]
4. Claude Giroux. Pretty similar to Malkin in the sense that he is not quite the player he was at his peak, but he will definitely make somebody a better hockey team. Would Philadelphia bring him back? Or does he want to take another serious run at a Stanley Cup? [UPDATE: Giroux has signed a three-year, $19.5 million deal with the Senators.]
5. David Perron. Perron is a steady producer with a track record of being a top-line player on winning teams. Also an overlooked mean streak that some teams will probably love. It probably does not matter where he actually signs because he always finds his way back to St. Louis anyway. [UPDATE: Perron is moving on after signing a two-year, $9.5 million deal with the Red Wings.]
6. Vincent Trocheck. Trocheck is a strong second line center option. Can do everything well, good production, and solid player. The bad news: This is the type of signing in free agency that will look good for two years and then by year three or four you are wondering what you are going to do with him and his salary. [UPDATE: Trocheck is heading to the Rangers after signing a seven-year, $39.375 million deal.]
7. John Klingberg. Klingberg seems to be the type of player whose reputation will depend on who you ask and when you are asking it. His defense gets a lot of criticism, but he can provide some offense from the blue line and is a better all-around player than his critics might have you believe. But is he the player you want to build your defense around? With Letang staying in Pittsburgh he is by far the top defenseman available.
8. Ondrej Palat. Palat might sometimes get overlooked on that Tampa Bay roster, but he has been one of the top players for one of the league’s top teams for a decade. Great second or third line forward for a contender. Not sure Tampa Bay will be able to re-sign him with that salary cap situation. [UPDATE: Palat heads to New Jersey with a five-year, $30 million deal with the Devils.]
9. Andrew Copp. Outstanding defensive forward whose offensive game reached another level this season. Also had a very strong playoff showing that will boost his value for sure. [UPDATE: Copp is moving on to the Red Wings with a five-year, $28.125 million deal.]
10. Evander Kane. Kane is a good player and has been very productive in Edmonton, but when you sign him you are not just signing the player. You are signing everything that comes with the player off the ice, and his off-ice issues are well documented and quite significant (read about them here, here, here, and here). There is a reason Edmonton was able to sign him for so cheap mid-season. But like with Edmonton, it only takes one team being willing to do it. [UPDATE: Kane has re-signed in Edmonton with a four-year, $20.5 million extension.]
11. Darcy Kuemper. Finally, a goalie on the list. Kuemper had a great regular season and has a very solid resume over his career. But teams might look at what happened to Phillip Grubauer when he left Colorado and wonder what happens when a 32-year-old Kuemper is playing behind a worse team. He is leaving Colorado after the team traded for Alexandar Georgiev. [UPDATE: Kuemper signs a five-year, $26.25 million deal with the Capitals.]
12. Jack Campbell. Campbell can be very hit and miss. At times over the past two years he has looked like he put everything together, and at other times he has looked just ordinary. How much faith do you have that you are consistently getting the good version? [UPDATE: The Oilers have given Campbell a five-year, $25 million contract.]
13. Andre Burakovsky. Really productive player and one of the younger players on the list, so his play will probably not drop off too much right away. [UPDATE: Burakovsky heads to the Kraken on a five-year, $27.5 million contract.]
14. Nino Niederreiter. Not a superstar, but he is going to score you 20-25 goals and be a strong possession driver. That is a valuable top-six winger.
15. Ryan Strome. He ended up being a really good addition for the Rangers the past few years and a solid No. 2 center. [UPDATE: Strome heads west after inking a five-year, $25 million deal with the Ducks.]
16. Dylan Strome. There is an argument to be made that Dylan might be an even more attractive option than Ryan given his age and the fact he might be a little cheaper and a better value. It is a mild surprise that the Blackhawks did not want to retain him, but the problem might be that he is just too good for what Chicago wants to accomplish this season. [UPDATE: Strome has signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Capitals.]
17. Dominik Kubalik. Kubalik came out of nowhere with a 30-goal (in only 68 games) performance as a rookie three years ago but has not been able to match that number ever since. He does have some finishing ability and could be a good scoring option for a team that needs some depth. Like Strome, he was not given a qualifying offer by the Blackhawks. [UPDATE: Kubalik is a Red Wing after signing a two-year, $5 million deal.]
18. Max Domi. Creative playmaker with some defensive shortcomings. Good complementary player but probably not much more than that. [UPDATE: Domi heads to the Blackhawks with a one-year, $3 million deal.]
19. Reilly Smith. Very similar player to Niederreiter in terms of what to expect production wise, but maybe not quite the same level of possession driving ability. [UPDATE: Smith is staying in Las Vegas on a three-year, $15 million extension.]
20. Ilya Samsonov. Samsonov was supposed to be the Capitals’ long-term solution in goal and replace Braden Holtby. It has not worked out at all. With the trade of Vitek Vanecek and not qualifying Samsonov the Capitals are now completelly overhauling their goalie position. He might draw some strong interest in an alarmingly thin goalie market with somebody hoping he can still reach some of his potential. [UPDATE: Samsonov has signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract with the Maple Leafs.]
21. Brett Kulak. The former Montreal defenseman teams should have been trying to acquire when the Ben Chiarot bidding war happened. Nothing flashy about his play, but he is a very good mid-pairing defender. [UPDATE: Kulak moves to the Oilers with a four-year, $11 million contract.]
22. Danton Heinen. Heinen had a strong season for the Penguins, scoring a career high 18 goals. But that was probably going to drive up his price tag due to arbitration and the Penguins obviously did not want to go there, especially with the re-signing of Rickard Rakell. Good all around player with some scoring touch.
23. Mason Marchment. A late bloomer, Marchment had a really nice year for the Panthers. Can he repeat it? How much is that one year at age 26 worth on the open market? [UPDATE: Marchment is heading to Dallas after signing a four-year, $18 million deal.]
24. P.K. Subban. Still a big name, still extremely talented with the occasional “wow” moment, but not quite the consistent impact player and superstar he was in his prime.
25. Phil Kessel. Kessel is a new addition to the list with some of the other wings re-signing. He is not an elite goal scorer anymore, but he is always going to be in the lineup and while his goal scoring has started to dry up he remains an excellent playmaker. You need a specialized role for him, but he can still provide something.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.