The NHL’s 2017 UFA forwards aren’t as strong this year as opposed to last year but there’s still some very good forwards that are likely going to hit the open market. It would’ve been a bit stronger had TJ Oshie hit the open market but he signed an eight year deal with the Washington Capitals this past weekend. There are several forwards available that could make serious impacts with teams so let’s take a look at the top ten best forwards who are set to hit the open market next Saturday.
Top 10 NHL UFA Forwards
#1 – Alexander Radulov
Previous cap hit: $5.75M with the Montreal Canadiens
Radulov is easily the best forward available on the open market and it’s a bit of a surprise to some that he hasn’t signed back with Montreal. It was expected that he was going to sign back but Montreal and Radulov’s camp are far apart in contract negoiations. It’s been reported by various NHL reporters that he’s been eyeing a contract somewhere around six years making $7M a season. Montreal isn’t likely to do that but if that’s what he’s asking, there’s definitely going to be a team out there that will pay him that. He brought a ton of offense to Montreal this year and can take over a game at anytime. It’ll be interesting to see which teams besides Montreal will be interested in bringing him in.
#2 – Joe Thornton
Previous cap hit: $6.75M with the San Jose Sharks
Despite a down year this past season, Joe Thornton is still one of the best free agents on the open market if he doesn’t re-sign with the Sharks. Thornton’s contract is up and it’s been reported by David Pagnotta that he’s looking for a three year contract from a team. He’s an amazing two-way center and one of the best passers in the league still despite being 37 so there will be many teams in on him as we get closer to free agency. Would Thornton want to go to a contender to chase his first Stanley Cup or will he stay in San Jose? His status will definitely be one to watch for sure as he can make any team better. The only question left to be answered is how good can he be coming off a torn ACL and MCL this past season?
#3 – Martin Hanzal
Previous cap hit: $3.1M with the Minnesota Wild and Arizona Coyotes
Martin Hanzal is one of the few free agent centers that’s on the open market and as such is likely to land a big contract somewhere. Teams will value him highly, or perhaps overvalue him. He’s a perfect third line center for a team that will be chasing a cup but as was seen in Minnesota and Arizona, his production isn’t worthy of top six minutes, and he relies heavily on powerplay scoring. Minnesota gave up a ton to get him at this years trade deadline and he finished the year with a career high in goals. It’s a buyer beware scenario, but if he can be had for the right price, Hanzal would be a great get for any team.
#4 – Justin Williams
Previous cap hit: $3.25M with the Washington Capitals
Justin Williams signed a two year deal with the Washington Capitals so that he could chase a Stanley Cup but he didn’t end up getting one. The three time winner will now be a free agent again and it’s unlikely that he will signing back with the Capitals as they have to sign core restricted free agents Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky. Williams is a great secondary scorer and can give any team some much needed depth scoring. He had 24 goals this past season in Washington and 22 before that. If he wants to, he could cash out his final deal or he could do what he did last time and sign a cheap deal with a Stanley Cup contender.
#5 – Radim Vrbata
Previous cap hit: $1M with the Arizona Coyotes
Despite being in his mid-30’s, Radim Vrbata is still producing at a high level as he had a 20 goal season with the Arizona Coyotes. Just two seasons prior, he had a 31 goal season with the Vancouver Canucks. He’s due a raise of some kind this off-season and whether or not he goes to a contender remains to be seen. He’s a great depth scorer to have in a teams bottom six as he can chip in at least 15 a season. If he can score 20 in Arizona, who was one of the worst teams in the league last season, then there’s no reason to think he can’t do it anywhere else.
#6 – Patrick Marleau
Previous cap hit: $6.66M with the San Jose Sharks
Another long time member of the San Jose Sharks will likely hit the open market this Saturday as Patrick Marleau‘s contract has expired in San Jose. He also remains cup-less and he will have a variety of options including signing back with the Sharks. Despite being 37, he remains a great player. He scored 27 goals this past season and has 52 goals combined his previous two seasons with the Sharks. He’s great on the power play and would be a strong addition to any team’s second line.
#7 – Nick Bonino
Previous cap hit: $1.6M with the Pittsburgh Penguins
Nick Bonino‘s contract is up after two seasons in Pittsburgh and he’s due a considerable raise as he hits the open market. His first season in Pittsburgh was great as he had a unbelievable playoff run accumulating 18 points and scoring the game-winning goal against the Capitals in game six. Despite a slow start to the year, he still had 18 goals to finish the regular season and had four goals again in the playoffs. He’d make a great depth center on any team but with a premium on centers this summer, and a pair of recent Stanley Cups, it would be no surprise to see him go for more than market value. He’s in a great position to finally get paid as he’s one of the best centers on the open market.
#8 – Brian Boyle
Previous cap hit: $2M with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs
Brian Boyle started the season with the Tampa Bay Lightning again but ended up being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs before the trade deadline. Going into free agency, he’s going to be coveted as a bottom six center, likely a fourth line center. He has lots of size and is a strong two-way player. He had 13 goals this past season centering the fourth line for both Tampa Bay and Toronto; an impressive tally for a fourth-liner. He’ll likely get a multi-year contract and will generate a lot of interest from multiple teams. He also said that a return to Tampa would definitely be an option if they’re interested in bringing him back.
#9 – Jaromir Jagr
Previous cap hit: $4M with the Florida Panthers
It seems that Jaromir Jagr will play forever as he will be coming back for yet another season. It remains to be seen where he will play as there’s not a lot of details about what teams are interested yet. He’s still a great depth player as he had 16 goals this past season in Florida to go along with 46 points. The year before that, he had 27 goals in his first full season in Florida. He likely will sign either a one year deal or a two year deal as he hasn’t been doing more then that the past few seasons he’s been in the league. He’d be a great add for any team that’s looking to make their lineup deeper.
#10 – Thomas Vanek
Previous cap hit: $2.6M with the Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers
Thomas Vanek is the one of the more interesting free agents as the Red Wings took a chance with him with a one year deal and it paid off. He had 15 goals for them before he got dealt to the Panthers and finished with 17 goals for the season. He also finished with 48 points this season which is the most he’s had since the 2013-2014 season. Throughout his career, he’s always been an underrated goal scorer and playmaker and will likely have a lot of teams coming after him on July 1st. It’ll be interesting to see if he signs another one-year deal again like he did with Detroit or if he signs a multi-year deal with another team. He’s a great option for any team looking for more secondary scoring in their lineup.