The remaining UFA class in 2018 offers a handful of high-impact players, but there’s a rapid dropoff. It’s an extremely shallow group this summer.
JUNE 26 UPDATE: We’ve been saying a while the 2018 UFA class is frighteningly top-heavy. Now, Evander Kane, John Carlson and Ilya Kovalchuk are off the board, meaning three of the top 10 are gone. It’s also entirely possible if not probable John Tavares decides to remain a New York Islander before July 1. After Tavares, there’s a precipitous drop in talent. We’re looking at one of the shallowest July-1 UFA classes of all-time.
Here’s a look at the best remaining names to watch, with salary info provided by capfriendly.com. The UFA group has grown this week with several noteworthy RFAs not given qualifying offers. Ages listed are as of July 1, 2018.
1. JOHN TAVARES, C, 27
2017-18 cap hit: $5,500,000
We know the Toronto Maple Leafs, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning won the right to join the New York Islanders and make in-person pitches to Tavares. The Isles remain the favorite to retain their star, however, and deserve a ton of credit for upping their odds of late, bringing in Lou Lamoriello as GM and Barry Trotz as coach and acing their 2018 draft. The franchise looks far more appealing for Tavares than it did even a few weeks ago.
2. JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK, LW, 29
2017-18 cap hit: $4,250,000
He’s a one-trick pony, but it’s a good trick. He’s arguably the league’s best goal scorer from inside three feet. If that skill dries up at any point, though, his next deal could weigh down his new team about halfway through the term.
3. PAUL STASTNY, C, 32
2017-18 cap hit: $7,000,000
Found new life as a Jet centering a dynamite second line after being acquired at the 2018 trade deadline. Given his versatility and the dearth of great centers on the market, Stastny will be in heavy, heavy demand as a potential consolation prize for teams that miss on Tavares.
4. MIKE GREEN, D, 32
2017-18 cap hit: $6,000,000
Just as Green’s neck injury scared teams away from renting him at the deadline, the cervical surgery required to fix it will likely cost Green some money. In such a poor class for D-men, though, he’s still one of the best options out there, risk and all. He may be the top UFA blueliner left with Carlson signed.
5. JAMES NEAL, RW, 30
2017-18 cap hit: $5,000,000
Had a sizzling start to his year with Vegas, then faded in second half, though injuries were to blame. That he rallied with a mostly solid playoff showing should erase concerns that he’s still a valuable power forward.
6. JOE THORNTON, C, 38
2017-18 cap hit: $8,000,000
‘Jumbo’ won’t win the Hart or scoring title again but remains a great playmaker and elite two-way center. The fact San Jose had to overpay him at $8 million last summer suggests he considered leaving. Might he actually do it this time, like buddy Patrick Marleau did in 2017? All reports coming out of the Silicon Valley say Thornton badly wants to remain a Shark. He won’t cost as much this time given his age and health concerns.
7. DAVID PERRON, LW, 30
2017-18 cap hit: $3,750,000
David Perron, point-per-game stud? Dreams come true in Sin City. He’s played his way into a nice extension theoretically, but if Golden Knights GM George McPhee pays every player for his 2017-18 performance, he’ll run out of money. Someone will end up the odd man out and walk as a UFA, and it appears that’ll be Perron.
8. RICK NASH, LW, 34
2017-18 cap hit: $7,800,000
He still brings a big, strong, athletic skill set to a scoring line, but he’s also a name brand who may never have a 30-goal season again, let alone a 40-goal season. It’s tough to see him earning more than a two- or three-year commitment on the open market. At the right price he can still really help a contender, though.
UPDATE: Per Nash’s agent Joe Resnick, Nash will not field offers July 1 and is taking time to ponder his future.
9. TYLER BOZAK, C, 32
2017-18 cap hit: $4,200,000
A Selke Trophy will never perch atop his mantle, but he brings decent offensive skill as a third-liner on a good team or a placeholding second-liner on a rebuilding team. Likely expendable in Toronto, so he could wind up in the latter scenario. Either way, he’s at worst the fourth-best offensive center on the market, so he’ll have plenty of offers.
10. RILEY NASH, C, 29
2017-18 cap hit: $900,000
Did any UFA-to-be boost his value more than Nash did in 2017-18? He’s a great checking center but also kept up with elite scorers Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak when Patrice Bergeron was hurt. Nash was a point-per-game guy in 13 games. He should easily triple his current cap hit.
11. PATRICK MAROON, LW, 30
2017-18 cap hit: $2,000,000
He didn’t set the world on fire after a trade to New Jersey, but 13 points in 17 games showed he didn’t depend on Connor McDavid for all his success. Maroon can play and he’s a behemoth, too, so he’ll have many suitors. It may make sense to stay with the Devils.
12. MICHAEL GRABNER, RW, 30
2017-18 cap hit: $1,650,000
A handy specialist who brings speed, penalty killing acumen and tremendous even-strength scoring on bottom-six assignments. Flopped as a deadline rental with the Devils, so he’ll come cheaper than anyone would’ve thought even three months ago.
13. THOMAS VANEK, LW, 34
2017-18 cap hit: $2,000,000
A true gun for hire now but still an effective one. Helps a power play, offers veteran mentoring, disappears come playoff time.
14. CARTER HUTTON, G, 32
2017-18 cap hit: 1,125,000
A remarkable story this season, pushing Jake Allen into a timeshare, but isn’t it safe to say this will be Hutton’s career peak? It’ll be risky to ink a 32-year-old career backup expecting him to become the next Tim Thomas.
15. ROBIN LEHNER, G, 26
2017-18 cap hit: $2,225,000
He’s an emotionally volatile young man coming off a bad year, but no UFA goaltender offers more raw talent and upside than Lehner, who is just a season removed from posting a .920 save percentage. Is he not a better gamble than Hutton? Lehner is six years younger.
16. CALVIN DE HAAN, D, 27
2017-18 cap hit: $3,300,000
Not flashy, and he doesn’t log monster minutes for the Isles, but de Haan is a sturdy, physical top-four defender who blocks shots and isn’t a zero on offense. Any team could use that. Missed the last 49 games with a shoulder injury and will thus come at a discount.
17. JAROSLAV HALAK, G, 33
2017-18 cap hit: $4,500,000
Halak is a rare proven starting goalie on the market this summer. A desperate team could install him as a stopgap or place him in a platoon with an injury-risk starter.
18. VALTTERI FILPPULA, C, 34
2017-18 cap hit: $5,000,000
Can play center or wing in a team’s middle six. Kills penalties. Wins draws. Now that his way-too-lucrative contract has expired, he’s suddenly appealing again as a cheap signing.
19. MARK LETESTU, C, 33
2017-18 cap hit: $1,800,000
Wins faceoffs, can hold down a checking role, can even play on the power play a bit. The definition of a useful depth signing.
20. DEREK RYAN, C, 31
2017-18 cap hit: $1,425,000
A good driver of possession who chips in a bit of offense. A bit undersized, though, which means he’s not a dream fit for a checking role, and his talent isn’t high-end enough for constant scoring-line duty, either.
21. KARI LEHTONEN, G, 34
2017-18 cap hit: $5,900,000
Entered season with no confusion about his role. He was a backup. Did it take the pressure off? He posted his best numbers since 2013-14. He’s best suited to B or 1B duty on his next deal.
22. RILEY SHEAHAN, C, 26
2017-18 cap hit: $2,075,000
Even though the Pens didn’t qualify him, they still reportedly want to bring him back on a different deal. Still, he’ll receive other offers. Plenty of teams could use his two-way skill set. He’s a fallback for those who miss out on Riley Nash.
SIGNED, PIT, 1 YEAR, $2.1 MILLION
23. DEVANTE SMITH-PELLY, RW, 26
2017-18 cap hit: $650,000
He was arbitration eligible as an RFA, so the Capitals weren’t sure they could afford him after his sizzling playoff performance. He could still re-sign with them, but his blend of heavy checking and splashes of offense will attract many other teams. He’s likely to leave.
SIGNED, WSH, 1 YEAR, $1 MILLION
24. IAN COLE, D, 29
2017-18 cap hit: $2,100,000
Plays a simple, meat-and-potatoes game and offers Stanley Cup experience. A bottom-pairing target.
25. TOMAS PLEKANEC, C, 35
2017-18 cap hit: $6,000.000
Will never touch $6 million again. Still signable as a checking-line pivot who wins draws, kills penalties and can handle a scoring-line assignment in a pinch. Fared better when the Leafs gave him more responsibility higher in their lineup.
26. LEO KOMAROV, LW, 31
2017-18 cap hit: $2,950,000
Value took a hit this year. Defensive metrics have slipped, as has his offense. Still a good depth piece as a physical agitator. Needs a fresh start. He’s done as a Leaf.
27. PETR MRAZEK, G, 26
2017-18 cap hit: $4,000,000
No slam-dunk starting goaltender sits out there in free agency. Teams can search for safe veteran 1B types or younger types still possessing the upside to become starters again. Mrazek fits in the latter category, just like Lehner.
28. JOHN MOORE, D, 27
2017-18 cap hit: $1,666,667
Has added a little bit of offense to his game and still plays with a healthy amount of jam. You could do a lot worse for your No. 6 D-man.
29. JAY BEAGLE, C, 32
2017-18 cap hit: $1,750,000
Possession numbers look hideous, but that’s because he plays the other team’s top lines and starts most shifts in the defensive zone. His usage was so D-heavy that it squashed his overall numbers. He’s still a viable checking pivot.
30. JACK JOHNSON, D, 31
2017-18 cap hit: $4,357,143
The Blue Jackets have so much high-end talent on their blueline that Johnson got pushed down the depth chart. On a lesser team, though, he could find his way to meaningful minutes again.
OTHER UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS TO WATCH: Michal Kempny (signed, Wsh), Chris Kunitz, Blake Comeau, Brooks Orpik, Anthony Duclair, Tobias Rieder, Brian Gibbons, Antoine Roussel, Matt Calvert, Thomas Hickey, Lee Stempniak, Roman Polak, Ryan Reaves, Luca Sbisa, Benoit Pouliot, Drew Stafford, Cam Ward, Chris Stewart, Scott Hartnell, Alexei Emelin, Dominic Moore, Luke Schenn, Kris Versteeg, Antoine Vermette, Mike Cammalleri, Jonathan Bernier, Patrick Sharp, Joel Ward, Jannik Hansen, Jussi Jokinen, Mark Barberio, Toby Enstrom, Ondrej Pavelec, Daniel Carr, Nail Yakupov, Dylan DeMelo