The NHL’s Free Agency opens up on Saturday July 1st. There are plenty of quality players looking for new teams and some that will likely remain with the same squad. Let’s look at the top 5 available free agents.
Shattenkirk put together one of his best regular season performances in his contract year as he collected 13 goals and 43 assists for 56 points which is the highest total of his career. His defense is still quality and fitting for a first pairing right defenseman. Shattenkirk didn’t look great in the playoffs this season but they did run into a hot Penguins team and his +/- showed it. He was still able to get 6 points in his 13 game playoff run though. Shattenkirk has plenty of suitors lined up including the Rangers, Sabres, Devils, Lightning. The Rangers appear to be the front-runners and will be able to fit Shattenkirk’s contract in without a problem as they have plenty of cap room. The most interesting option is the Lightning, Shattenkirk did block a trade there during the time of the deadline but is open to going there in free agency. A pairing of Shattenkirk and Hedman would be lethal and would help put the Lightning back into the playoffs for sure.
Radulov just came back from the KHL and in his first season back he made quite the NHL impression. He notched 54 points in his return, 18 goals and 36 assists, which showed his still a valuable player. The Canadiens would like to keep Radulov and they’re doing the best to meet his demands. Radulov played on the Canadiens top line with Max Pacioretty and a slew of different centers throughout the season. Radulov even proved his worth in the playoffs by putting up 7 points in the Canadiens 6 games. Radulov would make his way into any teams top-six and he’ll have a bunch of teams lining up to offer him a contract on Saturday.
Hanzal was sought after at the deadline and eventually shipped to the Wild where he did well registering 13 points in 20 games and he tallied 39 points on the season. Hanzal is a solid second line center option and he has the ability to produce and win faceoffs, which is one of his biggest assets, his career percentage is 57%. Hanzal is one of the best free agent options in a thin free agent class because he is a younger center and he still has a proven track record. At 30 years old Hanzal has only played for two teams Arizona and Minnesota so I’m sure he’s tempted to see what’s out there. He fit well with the Wild but they don’t have the cap space to keep him. Hanzal can produce with some better linemates he didn’t have much to work with in Arizona.
Joe Thornton is finally a free agent and he’s got plenty of options on the table. Thornton has drawn interest from the Sharks, Kings, Predators, Rangers, Blue Jackets. Even at 38 years old Thornton is still drawing plenty of interest. Thornton is known as the best passer of his generation and he certainly has been. Last season he put together 50 points and although he’s lost a step or two he still gets points. Thornton belongs on any teams top two lines and his ability to make players better is a much coveted skill. He makes goal scorers who they are and pairing him with a scoring winger would make him as deadly as a player as he has been. He still poses power play value too as he always has. I wouldn’t be surprised if Thornton stayed put in San Jose though because his family has grown very used to living there but who knows what will happen.
Marleau is another aging veteran and will likely only get a one or two year deal. Marleau was still able to produce last year as he scored 27 goals last year and added 19 assists. Even at 37 years old Marleau is still finding the back of the net and that makes him valuable as a first or maybe second line winger. The interest level in Marleau is still high but it’s been kept quiet as to who is looking at him. The Kings appear to be in on him and the Sharks are staying in the loop but I doubt he returns to the Sharks. Marleau has been able to keep his legs under him and has been able to keep up in the NHL’s quickening pace of play which is key for the aging veteran.
The Free Agent Frenzy is usually rapid and most of the important players are signed on the first day of free agency with depth guys hanging around the entire offseason until they find a team and deal they like. Free Agency opens on Saturday, July 1st it should be interesting to see where players end up and who will be wearing a new jersey next season.
Written By: Tyler Smith