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The top 30 unrestricted free agents of 2017

Matt Larkin
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The top 30 unrestricted free agents of 2017

Kevin Shattenkirk.

Author: Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images

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The top 30 unrestricted free agents of 2017

Matt Larkin
By:

Brent Burns was easily the top potential UFA for next summer. He's off the market. Who remains in what should be a relatively weak class?

Brent Burns, theoretically, was the belle of 2017's free agent ball. But let's be honest: he was never attending. He was staying at home with his parents. Burns signed an eight-year, $64-million extension this week to remain a key cog on the San Jose Sharks' blueline and power play.

Who does that leave in the 2017 free agent class? Last year gave us David Backes, Andrew Ladd, Kyle Okposo, Milan Lucic and Keith Yandle, to list just a handful of the top names. And while Steven Stamkos didn't make it to July 1 unsigned, he did reach the early free agent negotiation window, so he was essentially part of the UFA class. Don't expect anything close to the same star power next summer. The class shapes up to be one of the weakest in years, at least in terms of top-end value. That's a shame for the Vegas Golden Knights, who get an early-early negotiation window of 48 hours to speak with pending UFAs before any other team.

Here's a look at the top names out there, with salary info provided by capfriendly.com. Ages are as of July 1, 2017. Some of these players will ink extensions before summer arrives, so I'll update this list throughout the season.

1. KEVIN SHATTENKIRK, D, 28

2016-17 cap hit: $4,250,000

Right-handed blueliners in the prime of their careers who can play 20-plus minutes a night get PAID on the open market. Shattenkirk is also one of the sport's premier offensive defensemen. He should earn as much coin as anyone next summer.

2. BEN BISHOP, G, 30

2016-17 cap hit: $5,590,000

He'll be the top goaltender on the market by a long shot. Even if Lightning hold him through the playoffs, they almost certainly won't re-sign him. Cap space maxed out and they've extended Andrei Vasilevskiy. My pick to sign Bishop next summer: the Philadelphia Flyers.

3. JOE THORNTON, C, 37

2016-17 cap hit: $6,750,000

A bit of fuss about his lack of goal scoring early this season, and a major statistical decline is inevitable, but 'Jumbo' remains a great two-way pivot and playmaker. I don't see him leaving San Jose, even if that means taking a haircut on money and signing a one- or two-year pact.

4. ALEXANDER RADULOV, RW, 30

2016-17 cap hit: $5,750,000

Boom-bust signing has gone boom for Habs. He's brought offense and infectious energy from the KHL, and his agent says he wants to re-sign. Radulov won't come cheap. If he keeps up his stellar play he could easily command $6 million per year over five years or so.

5. T.J. OSHIE, RW, 30

2016-17 cap hit: $4,175,000

We know what Oshie is now. Between 19 and 26 goals, between 51 and 60 points in each of his past four full seasons. He's a good, not great, NHL scoring winger. Still young enough to earn a long-term contract easily. 

6. BRIAN CAMPBELL, D, 38

2016-17 cap hit: $1,500,000

Campbell could retire next summer, for all we know, but he's still an effective puck mover who plays a strong possession game. As long as he wants to play, and it appears he really does, he'll remain coveted, albeit on another short-term contract.

7. MARTIN HANZAL, C, 30

2016-17 cap hit: $3,100,000

Hanzal is injury prone but possesses great size and two-way acumen. He's never gotten a shot to play a major role on a true contending team. He'd make for an OK No. 2 center and a championship-caliber No. 3 center with an organization chasing a Cup.

8. KARL ALZNER, D, 28

2016-17 cap hit: $2,800,000

This is Alzner's set-for-life window. He's a big, rugged, experienced defenseman in his prime who can play top-pair minutes. He'll be tough for the cash-strapped Capitals to afford.

9. JOHNNY ODUYA D, 35

2016-17 cap hit: $3,750,000

Unlikely to get huge term in his mid-30s but should have no problem signing for a two or three years, as plenty of teams value his Stanley Cup-winning experience. Dallas could bring him back.

10. DMITRY KULIKOV, D, 26

2016-17 cap hit: $4,333,333

No offense to speak of so far in first season with Sabres, and has nursed a back injury, but Kulikov has played monster minutes when in the lineup. Plenty of time to hike his value back up before July, which I believe he will.

11. ANDREI MARKOV D, 38

2016-17 cap hit: $5,750,000

Just keeps producing impressive offense as he creeps toward his 40s. Seems more likely to keep things going in Montreal than to leave at this stage of his career.

12. 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? He's shown signs of decline early this season. If he elevates his game along with Aleksander Barkov in the months to come, it wouldn't be surprising to see Jagr back with the Panthers.

13. BRIAN ELLIOTT, G, 32

2016-17 cap hit: $2,500,000

If Elliott turns his game around in Calgary, he jumps five spots on this list, easily. If he continues struggling, he could slide a lot more than five spots.

14. STEVE MASON, G, 29

2016-18 cap hit: $4,100,000

Mason, like Elliott, has a decent track record that trumps a weak start to the season. Mason has an edge in youth, however, and is more likely to be signed as a starting netminder.

15. THOMAS VANEK, LW, 33

2016-17 cap hit: $2,600,000

Vanek was well on his way toward landing a nice comeback contract, scoring at a point-per-game pace as a Red Wing, before he lost a month to injury. Which version of him will we see the rest of the way?

16. TREVOR DALEY, D, 33

2016-17 cap hit: $3,300,000

Glass half full: He revived his career in Pittsburgh as a top-four blueliner. Glass half empty: Coach Mike Sullivan's system brought Daley back from the dead, and he won't be the same if he goes elsewhere.

17. PATRICK SHARP, LW, 35

2016-17 cap hit: $5,900,000

Sharp's body seems to be breaking down as he reaches his mid 30s. There's a place on most teams for a true winner who still has 20 goals in his stick, though.

18. NICK BONINO, C, 29

2016-17 cap hit: $1,900,000

Numbers have tanked with 'HBK' Line broken up in Pittsburgh. 'Bones' is a versatile center who can man the second or third line, however, and comes up big in clutch situations.

19. MIKE FISHER, C, 37

2016-17 cap hit: $4,400,000

Fisher didn't earn the Predators captaincy just to walk away the following summer, did he? He's not going anywhere.

20. PATRICK MARLEAU, LW, 37

2016-17 cap hit: $6,666,667

Tomas Hertl's injury has given Marleau a chance to show he can still be a top-six NHL forward. Will he still be one in San Jose next year? He feels less likely than Thornton to stay. Marleau previously expressed interest in Kings, Ducks and Rangers.

21. RADIM VRBATA, RW, 36

2016-17 cap hit: $1,000,000

Days of sniping 30 goals appear over, but he could still catch on somewhere as a depth signing who can plug a hole on a scoring line.

22. JUSTIN WILLIAMS, RW, 35

2016-17 cap hit: $3,250,000

Feels strange to rank 'Mr. Game 7' this low, but his play has fallen off a cliff early in 2016-17. Have all those deep playoff runs made him an old 35?

23. THOMAS GREISS, G, 31

2016-17 cap hit: $1,500,000

Even if he hasn't played his way into a No. 1 job, he should challenge for a 1B somewhere. That could still be Brooklyn, but maybe Greiss would rather play for a team that deploys a two-goalie system instead of three-goalie system.

24. BRIAN BOYLE, C, 32

2016-17 cap hit: $2,000,000

Should be a contender magnet thanks to his huge frame, physicality and checking ability. Will the Bolts have room to re-sign him even if they want to? General manager Steve Yzerman has a ton of young restricted free agents to worry about.

25. KRIS RUSSELL, D, 30

2016-17 cap hit: $3,100,000

Oilers seem happy with him so far. He's a decent bet to re-sign. Continues to draw praise for his shot-blocking acumen, but his advanced statistics still suggest he's a below-average defender.

26. JIRI HUDLER, RW, 33

2016-17 cap hit: $2,000,000

Price tag looked like a steal for Stars, but a mysterious virus cost Hudler most of October and November. He may not get a big 2017 payday unless he can get healthy and start scoring.

27. MICHAL NEUVIRTH, G, 29

2016-17 cap hit: $1,625,000

Played over his head in monster playoff effort for Flyers last spring. Struggled early this season and will be sidelined well into December with a knee injury. Neuvirth had a chance to play his way into starter's money this year, but it hasn't worked out so far.

28. RYAN MILLER, G, 36

2016-17 cap hit: $6,000,000

Will any team pay Miller to be its starter again? Or have those days passed him by? I'd keep an eye on Vegas. The city would be a nice fit for him because of its proximity to Los Angeles, where his actress wife Noureen DeWulf works.

29. MICHAEL DEL ZOTTO, D, 27

2016-17 cap hit: $3,875,000

He's had his minutes slashed, and he's even been scratched at times early this season. Even if Del Zotto's days as a Flyer end, some team will take a chance on his talent – but at a discount price.

30. JAROME IGINLA, RW, 40

2016-17 cap hit: $5,333,333

Looks like the end of the line for 'Iggy.' He's as strong a bet as anyone to retire this off-season.

Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to thn.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin

 

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The top 30 unrestricted free agents of 2017