Most of the top names found new homes July 1, but some important ones remain unsigned.
As has become customary in the early negotiation window era, the first day of unrestricted free agency treated us to a flurry of signings. Of my top 30 UFAs going into July 1, 20 were signed as of this writing, including six of the top 10. But a few useful players wait extra days or weeks to ink their new deals each summer. Here are the best of the remaining UFA lot after hungry NHL teams picked most of the meat off the bones Saturday.
1. ALEXANDER RADULOV, RW, 30
2016-17 cap hit: $5,750,000
Boom-bust signing went boom for Habs. He brought offense and infectious energy from the KHL, and his agent says he wants to re-sign. More than just a complementary scorer. Makes teammates better and can take over games. He’s posturing for a long-term deal, which could spook Montreal, but he’s still a decent bet to end up back there.
July 1 update: The Dallas Stars are reportedly Montreal’s stiffest competition for his services.
2. JAROMIR JAGR, RW, 45
2016-17 cap hit: $4,000,000
Jagr claims he wants to play until he’s 50. Will he make it? Still durable and can play on a scoring line. No denying he makes Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov better in Florida.
3. PATRICK MARLEAU, LW, 37
2016-17 cap hit: $6,666,667
If he doesn’t finish his career as a lifetime Shark, look for him to sign with another California team and not uproot his family. He seems more likely to depart than Thornton, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them stay together.
July 1 update: Thornton rejoined the Sharks, upping the chances of Marleau doing the same. But the Toronto Maple Leafs, among other teams, remain in pursuit.
4. ANDREI MARKOV D, 38
2016-17 cap hit: $5,750,000
Just keeps producing impressive offense as he creeps toward his 40s. Wants to stay in Montreal, which would require a discount but seems likely to happen. Is Marc Bergevin willing to give Markov term, though? Maybe a run at Alzner would make more sense.
July 1 update: Well, Alzner happened, clouding the Markov picture. A deal is not imminent as of Saturday.
5. MIKE FISHER, C, 37
2016-17 cap hit: $4,400,000
Preds captain and his country music star wife belong in Nashville. But Fisher isn’t guaranteed to even continue his career yet. He’s a retirement candidate.
July 1 update: The Nick Bonino contract makes Fisher redundant, further fuelling rumors of his retirement.
6. THOMAS VANEK, LW, 33
2016-17 cap hit: $2,600,000
Best to keep him hungry and sign him to another one-year deal. It worked great for the Red Wings this season.
7. DREW STAFFORD, RW, 31
2016-17 cap hit: $4,350,000
Seems to get hot whenever he joins a new team. Worked out decently for Bruins and is interested in returning.
8. CODY FRANSON, D, 29
2016-17 cap hit: $3,325,000
Value has taken a hit since his Toronto days, but playing on bad Buffalo teams partially to blame. Still in his 20s, still mobile, and a right-handed shot to boot.
9. JOHNNY ODUYA D, 35
2016-17 cap hit: $3,750,000
Time with Hawks likely done. Long-term pact with be tough to find given his age and declining play.
10. NAIL YAKUPOV, RW, 23
2016-17 cap hit: $2,500,000
There will be a market for 2012’s failed No. 1 overall pick. He needs a team willing to put up with his mistakes and set him free offensively.