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NHL's best free agents

Mark Streit captained the Islanders, but looks set to test the market and find a new home. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Mark Streit captained the Islanders, but looks set to test the market and find a new home. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the July 5 start of the NHL's 2013 unrestricted free agency period less than a month away, there's rising interest in some notable players who appear will be available by that date.

The best defenseman will be NY Islanders captain Mark Streit, who intends to test the market after rejecting the Islanders latest offer.

Streit is coming off a five-year contract worth an average annual salary of $4.1 million. Newsday's Arthur Staple cited a source claiming the Isles offered a three-year deal worth $5 million per, but Streit is seeking more than $5.5 million.

Given the lack of quality defensemen available this summer, Staple believes the Swiss-born veteran could command four years at $6 million per on the open market.

It's common knowledge the Philadelphia Flyers are after an experienced top-two defenseman. They could pursue Streit, but may balk at committing more than three years and $5.5 million on a 35-year-old blueliner.

The Edmonton Oilers need experienced blueline depth, but Jim Matheson and Jonathan Willis of the Edmonton Journal believe Streit's age and salary demands make him a risky long-term investment for the young Oilers.

Staple also reported talks are ongoing between the Islanders and Brad Boyes, who could also depart via free agency.

Boyes, 31, is completing a one-year, $1 million contract. His 35 points in 48 games this season will lead to interest from clubs seeking affordable second-line scoring depth.

Washington Capitals center Mike Ribeiro is among the best free agent forwards. Capitals management expressed interest in re-signing Ribeiro, but his agent recently told CSN Washington's Chuck Gormley there was nothing new to report on his status.

Ribeiro, who earned $5 million per season on his current deal, is seeking a four- to five-year deal and might accept a pay cut to stay in Washington.

The problem, as Gormley observes, is the Capitals lack available dollars to re-sign the 33-year-old center. With just more than $5.6 million in projected cap space, and Karl Alzner, Marcus Johansson and Matt Hendricks still to re-sign, the Capitals currently have no room for Ribeiro unless they shed some salary via trade or compliance buyout.

The Capitals will free up $2.75 million by honoring Jeff Schultz's trade request, but it could also take buying out Martin Erat ($4.5 million) or Joel Ward ($3 million) to make room for Ribeiro.

Detroit Red Wings forward Valtteri Filppula should also prove attractive to clubs with cap space seeking scoring depth.

Filppula, 29, can play center or left wing and possesses very good speed and playmaking skills.

Wings GM Ken Holland would re-sign him, but Filppula (coming off a five-year, $15-million deal) reportedly wants more than $5 million per season. Contract talks broke off two months ago and aren't expected to resume unless he lowers his asking price.

Filppula expressed disappointment over the breakdown in negotiations, but acknowledged it’s the nature of the business. The Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs could pursue him on July 5.

Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo Sports reported Ottawa Senators defenseman Sergei Gonchar is in talks with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of Russia's Kontinental League (KHL). The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch, however, reported Gonchar's agent said his client is still considering his options.

The 39-year-old blueliner played for Metallurg during the most recent NHL lockout. Garrioch claimed their offer for Gonchar - who earned $5.5 million per season with the Senators - was more than $7 million per season.

It's believed Gonchar and the Senators have mutual interest in his remaining in Ottawa, but the latter would prefer at a cheaper price.

At this stage in his career, Gonchar won't command more than $5 million per season in the NHL, let alone $6 million. If he still wants big bucks, he won't get a better offer than the one from Metallurg.

Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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