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NHL Free Agency: Top 30 UFAs for 2022

Free agency one of the most exciting -- and nerve-wracking -- times of the NHL calendar. Here's a look at 30 of the top UFAs heading toward July 13.
Johnny Gaudreau

It's time, baby.

NHL free agency is set to kick off on July 13, a bit later than the usual July 1 -- but that's been the norm the past few years, anyways.

It's one of the most exciting -- and nerve-wracking -- times of the season. Star players move places, teams spend a stupid amount of money and you'll find the odd value pick every now and then.

As always, it's time to look at 30 of the best UFAs on the market this summer. The list doesn't include Patrice Bergeron, who is expected to sign a one-year deal with the Bruins at some point, or Reilly Smith, who should be staying in Vegas on a five-year deal. David Krejci also wasn't included because he's been in deep talks with the Boston Bruins, and likely wouldn't go anywhere else, anyways.

So, let's get started:

1. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, 28

2021-22 cap hit: $6,750,000

After breaking the 100-point barrier for the first time in his career, Gaudreau is ready for a big payday. Ideally, the Flames wouldn't let him go, but he's going to make a team quite happy this summer.

2. Nazem Kadri, C, 31
2021-22 cap hit: $4,500,000

Kadri picked an incredible year for a breakout season, scoring 28 goals and 87 points in the regular season and 15 points in 16 playoff games en route to a Stanley Cup run. He's poised for a long-term deal, but like with any player that breaks out in their 30s, you know the final few years could be a bit rough. Still, a huge get this summer.

3. Claude Giroux, C/LW, 34
2021-22 cap hit: $8,275,000

The Flyers traded their longtime captain to Florida for a Stanley Cup bid, only to fall short in the second round. Giroux hit the 60-point mark for the first time since 2018-19, and should thrive once again with the right team where he doesn't have to do all the scoring legwork like in his final days with Philly.

4. John Klingberg, D, 29
2021-22 cap hit: $4,250,000

Klingberg never found the offensive flair that made him a 67-point defender back in 2017-18, but he's still one of the best defensemen on the market, and his value as a right-hand shot can't be ignored.

5. Darcy Kuemper, G, 32
2021-22 cap hit: $4,500,000

With strong stats during the regular season, a Stanley Cup to his credit and a lack of quality goaltending options on the market, Kuemper should get a solid payday this summer. The key thing will be Kuemper's health, especially after it came out he had to go to the optometrist 2-3 times a day during the Cup final to "re-train his eye".

6. Jack Campbell, G, 30
2021-22 cap hit: $1,650,000

Before an injury took him out of action for a significant portion of the season, Campbell was putting up numbers worthy of some Vezina Trophy odds and even played in the NHL all-star game. The issue? He's a 30-year-old goaltender who has never played 50 games in a season, and while he had some great moments with the Leafs, there are some potential liabilities here.

7. Evander Kane, LW, 30
2021-22 cap hit: $2,100,00

The off-ice incidents have been well-documented, so there's always the risk when signing Kane. But you can't deny his on-ice success after joining the Oilers, so we'll see how teams tackle his future this summer.

8. Andrew Copp, C/LW, 28
2021-22 cap hit: $3,640,000

Copp was such a big piece of the Rangers' playoff run this year and had over a point-per-game in 16 regular season games, too. Don't expect him to be a consistent 50-point scorer, but he brings more to a team than offense, and his list of suitors won't be short.

9. Ondrej Palat, LW/RW, 31 
2021-22 cap hit: $5,300,000

When Jon Cooper and Steven Stamkos are signing your praises on a nightly basis, you know you're doing some good. The issue? The Bolts probably sang a bit too much about their winger, and now he's set for a nice little payday.

10. Vincent Trocheck, C, 29 
2021-22 cap hit: $4,750,000

Remember Trocheck's 75-point season in 2017-18? He hasn't come close since, but he hit the 51-point barrier during the regular season this year and was one of Carolina's better forwards during the playoffs. There's a lot to like here.

11. David Perron, RW, 34
2021-22 cap hit: $4,000,000 

Perron once again showed he isn't slowing down, scoring 57 points in 67 games before becoming St. Louis' most valuable forward during the playoffs. Even if he leaves the Blues, expect him to find his way back at some point.

12. Ryan Strome, C, 28
2021-22 cap hit: $4,500,00

Strome hit 50 points for the third time in his career as New York's second-line center and will likely find himself in a similar spot elsewhere. He has tons of good hockey still to go.

13. André Burakovsky, LW, 27 
2021-22 cap hit: $4,000,000 

A product of a good team, or a true scoring winger? That's the question here, but after a career-high 61 points, he'll have the pick of the litter this summer.

14. Josh Manson, D, 30
2021-22 cap hit: $4,100,000

Manson was a nice pickup for the Avs at the trade deadline and played a perfect role for the team when they needed it most. Manson is a physical defensive defender that can often find himself on the wrong side of penalty calls, and there's a definite chance that he becomes one of the more overpaid players this summer after seeing his role during the Cup final.

15. Dylan Strome, C, 25
2021-22 cap hit: $3,000,000

It'll be a busy summer for the Stromes, with Dylan coming off of one of the best seasons of his career with 48 points. He's young, can put up good numbers and has done quite a lot for a pair of teams with just one playoff appearance over his career. Imagine what he can do on a contender.

16. Mason Marchment, RW, 28
2021-22 cap hit: $800,000

One of the best things to happen this season for the Panthers was the emergence of Marchement as a scoring figure. The worst thing to happen to the Panthers? That, but in a contract year when they're tight against the cap.

17. Max Domi, LW, 27
2021-22 cap hit: $5,300,000

It's been a long few years since Domi scored 28 goals and 72 points with the Canadiens in 2018-19. He had just 39 this year, but spent most of the season on a bad Blue Jackets team. If a team can get him at a fair price, he's still good scoring depth.

18. Phil Kessel, RW, 34
2021-22 cap hit: $8,000,000

Kessel quietly had a 52-point season, but the once-consistent 30-goal scorer only managed to score five at even strength this year. At the right price, Kessel can be good scoring depth, but his contract made him a challenge to move at the deadline in an attempt to win the Cup.

Phil Kessel

Phil Kessel

19. Evan Rodrigues, C, 28
2021-22 cap hit: $1,000,000

One of the best value players last year, Rodrigues had 43 points in 82 games, a career-best campaign after never breaking the 30-point barrier in his career. Sidney Crosby was the center he played with the most, though, and over half his goals came on the power play. Still, you can at least rely on him around the net, and he shouldn't be too expensive.

20. Nino Niederreiter, RW, 29
2021-22 cap hit: $5,250,000

A power forward, Niederreiter never has hit the 50-point barrier twice, but don't expect him to do that without a perfect situation again. At 29, he still has some good hockey left, but he's definitely more of a secondary option.

21. Ilya Mikheyev, LW, 27 
2021-22 cap hit: $1,650,000

Mikheyev has yet to play a full NHL season, but with 21 goals this year, he proved to be a valuable secondary scoring piece for the Leafs. Can he score 20 goals elsewhere? Who knows, but at the right price, you'll love his energy.

22. Ilya Samsonov, G, 25
2021-22 cap hit: $2,000,000

Once viewed as Washington's goalie of the future, he never really found his footing with the team and wasn't given a qualifying offer. Could he stick in D.C.? Perhaps, but his situation makes free agency a heck of a lot more interesting in net.

23. Ben Chiarot, D, 31
2021-22 cap hit: $3,500,000 

The Panthers needed some defensive depth for the playoffs but it ultimately didn't work out. He's a big defender that doesn't put up a ton of points, but he's a hard defenseman to play against in his own zone.

24. Brett Kulak, D, 28
2021-22 cap hit: $1,850,000

Like Chiarot, Kulak was dealt by the Habs at the trade deadline, and in Kulak's case, he was quite valuable in Edmonton's run to the Western Conference. His ceiling is only so high, and he doesn't bring a ton of offensive value, but you can do far worse than him.

25. Frank Vatrano, RW, 28
2021-22 cap hit: $2,530,000

Vatrano's value hit a nice peak after an impressive playoff run with the Rangers. He hasn't hit the 40-point mark yet, but as a middle-six forward, he can easily get it done. But don't overvalue his playoff performance, because that recency bias could really cause trouble.

26. Paul Stastny, C, 36
2021-22 cap hit: $3,750,000

Stastny is still chugging along, even at 36. You have to wonder how much competitive hockey he has left, but the skilled center can still hold his own defensively and it was nice to see him hit 45 points this year, his best regular season total since 2015-16. It's his age that's concerning.

27. Jan Rutta, D, 31
2021-22 cap hit: $1,300,000

When the Bolts desperately needed someone to fill in on the blueline for cheap, Rutta proved to be a valuable resource, capable of playing alongside Victor Hedman on the team's top pairing. You're not going to get a ton of game-changing plays from Rutta, but he's stable defensively.

28. Colin White, C, 25
2021-22 cap hit: $4,750,000

Maybe a bit of a stretch to put him in the top 30, but White could be one of the better value picks this free agency. He never really became the player the Sens were hoping for after a promising 2018-19 campaign and was ultimately bought out, but there are still some promising signs there. Was it just a case of a good player in a bad situation? 

29. Dominik Kubalik, LW, 26
2021-22 cap hit: $3,700,000

Kubalik's 30 goals as a rookie definitely seem like more of a fluke, even if it wasn't that long ago. Away from the net, Kubalik doesn't bring much to the table, which hurts his value.

30. Nikita Zadorov, D, 27
Cap hit: $3,750,000 

Zadorov has bounced around the past few years, but teams like his physical play and he even had a career-high of 22 points this past season.

Other notables: Erik Gudbranson (D, 30), Nick Leddy (D, 31), Calle Jarnkrok (C, 30), Ilya Lyubushkin (D, 28), Tyler Motte (LW, 27), Andreas Athanasiou (LW, 27), Justin Schultz (D, 31), Jaroslav Halak (G, 37), Ian Cole (D, 33).

UPDATE (July 11, 8:33 pm): Removed Valeri Nichushkin, added Ilya Samsonov.
UPDATE (July 12, 10:32 am): Removed Rickard Rakell, added Nikita Zadorov.
UPDATE (JULY 12, 11:09 pm): Removed Evgeni Malkin, added Dylan Strome.

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