The time has come with free agency less than 48 hours away for the annual preview of NHL free agency here on Standing Room Only. The following is a look at the top fifteen free agents and predictions where they will land
1.) John Tavares, C, New York Islanders, 81 GP, 36 Goals, 47 Assists, 83 Points
Tavares is the crown jewel of the market and a point per game player is one of the best players to be on the market in recent years. Tavares is a number one center on any team in the NHL and has had meetings with Tampa Bay, Toronto, Boston, Dallas, San Jose and the New York Islanders. Tavares has been an Islander all of his professional life and there is no doubt there is some loyalty there. But with a new general manager and coach, he might be tempted to go to another team. Tavares is someone who prefers a quiet environment and why not go to a place that emphasizes winning but still flies under the radar in San Jose? He would be the top line center and have talented wings on either side of him and a complete team.
Tavares signs a 7 year deal with San Jose Sharks
2.) James Van Riemsdyk, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs, 80 GP, 36 Goals, 18 Assists, 54 Points
Van Rimesdyk scored a career high 36 goals this season and has averaged over 27 goals the past five seasons which includes 2 30+ goal seasons and a season with 29 goals. Van Riemsdyk is someone who can contribute on the power play scoring 11 times this year and will put up double digit points on the power play. Van Riemsdyk is someone who would be able to provide secondary scoring behind a star and would be a good fit in the New Jersey giving them another legitimate winger behind the new MVP, Taylor Hall.
Van Riemsdyk signs a 5 year deal with New Jersey Devils
3.) Paul Statsny, C, Winnipeg Jets, 81 GP, 16 Goals, 37 Assists, 53 Points
Statsny had a huge impact on the young Winnipeg Jets after coming over at the trade deadline. Statsny had 4 goals and 9 assists in 19 games after being traded to Winnipeg and another 6 goals and 9 assists in 17 playoff games. Statsny, the clear number two center in this class, proved that he could be a good number two center on a young and talented offensive team. There is definitely interest in Winnipeg to re-sign him but they will need to get creative with their RFA’s in order to fit him in. But with Winnipeg in win now mode with a young core that took a huge step forward, they find a way to re-sign him.
Statsny re-signs for 3 years with Winnipeg Jets
4.) James Neal, LW/RW, Vegas Golden Knights, 70 GP, 25 Goals, 19 Assists, 44 Points
Neal had a huge impact as a leader on the expansion franchise and was instrumental in their playoff run. Neal has 10 consecutive seasons of 20+ goals and is the model of consistency. He will turn 31 before the season but has proven he is a big time player that is versatile. Neal provides a physical presence and should have no shortage of suitors including Vegas, Dallas, Chicago, Nashville, New Jersey among others. Neal would look good as the right wing on the line of Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad or on a line with Patrick Kane providing Chicago some scoring and physical play on the top six.
Neal signs for 3 years with Chicago Blackhawks
5.) Thomas Vanek, LW/RW, Columbus Blue Jackets, 79 GP, 24 Goals, 32 Assists, 56 Points
Vanek continues to be a player that puts up results and is desired after in free agency. Vanek has scored 20+ goals in 11 seasons and the guy continues to get it done year after year as he ages, he’s 34 at the start of this season. Vanek is someone who will provide scoring on the second line and can help out a team that needs some veteran scoring and some speed as well. Vanek has fans in Detroit, Minnesota among others. Those teams as well as Columbus, Chicago, Nashville and others will be on his list. But with his wife from Minnesota and the fact he played there in college and the pros, Vanek returns home to a team that he had 33 goals for in 2 seasons.
Vanek signs for 2 years with Minnesota Wild
6.) David Perron, LW/RW, Vegas Golden Knights, 70 GP, 16 Goals, 50 Assists, 66 Points
Perron had career highs in points and assists this past season as he thrived in Vegas after struggling to fulfill his potential that he flashed earlier in his career. Perron hasn’t cracked the 20 goal mark since 2014 and did struggle to be in the Vegas lineup at times throughout the playoffs. But Perron thrived in Vegas and demonstrated that he could be a part of an effective top six in the right situation. Perron will have suitors in Arizona, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Toronto and others. But Vegas was a great situation for him and he should go back if the money is right.
Perron re-signs for 4 years with Vegas Golden Knights
7.) Mike Green, D, Detroit Red Wings, 66 GP, 8 Goals, 25 Assists, 33 Points
Green is the best defenseman, and a right handed shot to boot, out there after John Carlson, who re-signed with the Washington Capitals. Green has put up results and has proven over his career that he can be a reliable defenseman who will score 8-15 goals per season. Interesting fact that Green has scored double digit goals every other year going all the way back to 2011-2012 when he only played in 32 games. Green gets results and will play 70+ games. There are a lot of teams that will be interested in an offensive blue liner including Buffalo, Montreal, Colorado and others. But in the end, Green was very good in Detroit and it seems like a good fit where he can continue to thrive mentoring young players that are coming up.
Green re-signs for 3 years with Detroit Red Wings
8.) Tyler Bozak, C, Toronto Maple Leafs, 80 GP, 11 Goals, 31 Assists, 42 Points
Bozak is a bottom six forward who can provide decent offense from the third line and help out in the faceoff circle. Bozak has eight consecutive seasons of 10+ goals and will have no shortage of suitors for his services as he can play on the penalty kill as well. Bozak will garner interest from Toronto, Columbus, St. Louis among others but I think Bozak goes to a team that can use a veteran third line center in Columbus to provide leadership as well.
Bozak signs for 3 years with Columbus Blue Jackets
9.) Thomas Hickey, D, New York Islanders, 68 GP, 5 Goals, 19 Assists, 24 Points
Hickey is another young left handed defenseman who should get paid wherever he goes. He’s not going to put up big time offensive numbers but he should be good to contribute 20+ points which he has done in 4 of the past 5 seasons. Hickey is good for 4-5 goals a year and while he won’t blow you away he can be a consistent player on the blue line. He will garner interest from the Islanders, Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, Vancouver and others. But in the end, I think that Hickey goes back to the Islanders where he is comfortable for a decent term.
Hickey re-signs for 4 years with New York Islanders
10.) Calvin De Haan, D, New York Islanders, 33 GP, 1 Goal, 11 Assists, 12 Points
De Haan really struggled to follow his breakout year in 2016-2017 missing 49 games this year after scoring 5 goals with 20 assists the year before. De Haan has missed at least 10 games in 4 of the past 5 seasons so durability is a concern. When healthy he brings speed and the ability to move the puck quickly out of the zone as a left handed defenseman to a team. Several suitors will be clamoring to get him including Chicago, Columbus, the Islanders, Montreal and others. De Haan feels like he could be an off the board signing for someone who needs a mobility defenseman and is willing to gamble. Edmonton seems like a fit given those parameters as they try to rebound after a disastrous 2017-2018 season.
De Haan signs for 4 years with Edmonton Oilers
11.) Patrick Maroon, LW, New Jersey Devils, 70 GP, 17 Goals, 26 Assists, 43 Points
Maroon is a physical forward who has excelled playing alongside stars such as Connor McDavid, Ryan Getzlaf and Hall. He is the perfect forward to put alongside them as he doesn’t command the puck and is a complimentary piece to stars that creates space for them by being his physical self. Maroon has scored 44 goals in the past two seasons and is a perfect piece for a team that has a star player that needs some protection. Some suitors include Edmonton, New Jersey and Colorado. In the end, Maroon is very valued but goes back to New Jersey who can give him the most money with their $24 million in cap space that they have.
Marooon re-signs for 3 years with New Jersey Devils
12.) Riley Nash, C/RW, Boston Bruins, 76 GP, 15 Goals, 26 Assists, 41 Points
Nash had a breakout year for Boston setting career highs in goals, assists and points. He is someone who should make a nice chunk of change on the free agent market this year. Nash is a bottom six forward who will provide that scoring punch that teams need and eat up minutes as well. Nash has scored 10+ goals three times in his career and will put up close to 10 goals if not more for the team that he signs with. Potential suitors include Boston, Florida, Columbus, Edmonton, Calgary and others. In Calgary, Nash would reunite with his old coach, Bill Peters and be able to carve out a role in the lineup which screams a good fit.
Nash signs for 3 years with Calgary Flames
13.) Ian Cole, D, Columbus Blue Jackets, 66 GP, 5 Goals, 15 Assists, 20 Points
Cole is a prototypical defensive defenseman who can play on the penalty kill and will be a second line defenseman who can skate close to 20 minutes a game. Cole is a left handed shot as are all of the defensemen in this list and will be good for close to 20 minutes a game. Cole will provide leadership to a team having won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017. He will have plenty of suitors including Columbus, Chicago, Edmonton, Dallas and others. But he was able to carve out a nice role in Columbus and can return there and be a part of a great, young team that has the possibility to make a huge jump next year.
Cole re-signs for 3 years with Columbus
14.) John Moore, D, New Jersey Devils, 80 GP, 7 Goals, 11 Assists, 18 Points
Moore is a mobile, left handed shot defenseman who can eat up minutes as he skated close to 20 minutes a night this year. Moore has scored 23 goals in the past 3 seasons including a 12 goal season in the 2016-2017 season. Moore will be able to contribute on the penalty kill and is a good two way defenseman that would be a perfect fit in the top four of a team. Suitors will include New Jersey, Columbus, Toronto and Chicago. Moore grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in Winnetka and a return to his hometown team is intriguing where he could be a mentor to younger defensemen coming up and play in the top four behind Duncan Keith.
Moore signs for 3 years with Chicago
15.) Joe Thornton, C, San Jose Sharks, 47 GP, 13 Goals, 23 Assists, 36 Points
Thornton continues to shine at the age of 38. He is coming off a torn ACL but Thornton has proven he can come back from tough injuries. When you think San Jose Sharks, you associate Thornton with them. He’s a free agent for the second consecutive year but don’t expect to see him go anywhere. If they add Tavares, Thornton will take a pay cut and stay with San Jose. If he wants to go he’ll have plenty of suitors in Toronto, Florida, Nashville and Dallas. But Thornton is a Shark and he’ll stay that way until he decides he is done.
Thornton re-signs for 1 year with San Jose