10 Top NHL Free Agents and Where They Could Go
The NHL offseason is off and...skating?
With the league's draft going down last weekend in Buffalo, the league's 31st franchise was awarded to Las Vegas, and star defensemen Taylor Hall, PK Subban and Shea Weber are all on the move via trades. All the more shocking is the fact that the league's free agency period doesn't officially start until tomorrow afternoon.
While the prize acquisition, Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, is returning to "f***in' Tampa" for the next eight seasons via a deal reached yesterday, is off the market, there are plenty of names to keep an eye on. Here are the Top 10 guys to keep an eye on and where they could go....
10) Petr Mrazek, G, Detroit
In a weak goalie free agent class, the 24-year-old Mrazek is perhaps the best option. Mrazek was given an offer sheet by his current employers in Detroit, where he took the starting job last season from Jimmy Howard. At 24, Mrazek has a good thing going the Red Wings, but if he tests the market, expect teams in need of tending to at least take a look.
Possible Destinations: Detroit, Buffalo, Calgary
9) Troy Brouwer, RW, St. Louis
Brouwer is a prototypical hockey player. He can skate, he can throw his body around, he's efficient. His timing to go on a hot streak could not have been better. Headed into his free agent summer, Brouwer broke out this postseason, tallying a career high 8 goals (6th among all playoff skaters) and 13 points in the Blues' trek to the Western Conference Finals. Brouwer has spoken highly of his one year in St. Louis, and would like to return with the right dollar amount, but, a Vancouver native, he has talked about joining his hometown team, the Canucks.
Possible Destinations: Vancouver, St. Louis
8) Jiri Hudler, RW, Florida
In back-to-back seasons, the 32-year-old Hudler served as a veteran prescience to a group of young players making surprise playoff trips. The 2014-15 season was a banner year for him, tallying career highs in goals (31), assists (45) and points (76), winning the NHL's Lady Byng Award for sportsmanship, and helping the Calgary Flames win a playoff series. Hudler and the Flames struggled this season, prompting his trade to Florida. A 10 year vet of the league, Hudler could again find work as the vet around a group of young guys, though his snub by the Czech Republic's World Cup roster may be a bit of a red flag.
Possible Destinations: Vancouver, Nashville
7) Brian Campbell, D, Florida
Florida's trade for Keith Yandle more or less ensured that Campbell would not be returning to Sunrise. At 37, Campbell's age is troubling, but he meshed well with Florida's youngsters last season, and proved he can still contribute to a team. Winner of a Stanley Cup in 2010 with the Blackhawks, Campbell recently expressed interest in a Windy City reunion.
Possible Destinations: Chicago, Dallas
6) Mikkel Boedker, LW, Colorado
If you look past Boedker's ugly plus/minus of -33, you see that he can be very serviceable and was perhaps a mere victim of playing for some inexperienced Arizona and Colorado teams. Team executive Joe Sakic has stated that he'd like to bring Boedker back, but considering his price tag (a $5.5 million cap hit last season) and the fact the Avs are focused on signing their homegrown FA's Tyson Barrie and Nathan MacKinnon...both of whom already have qualifying offers...Boedker, a Top 10 pick in Arizona, is more than likely going to test the market.
Possible Destinations: Philadelphia, Montreal, Washington
5) Andrew Ladd, LW, Chicago
Ladd won a Stanley Cup each in Carolina and Chicago before moving on to Winnipeg to become the leader of the young Jets. Despite playing with an ever changing lineup in Manitoba, Ladd was able to keep his scoring production and plus/minus in the positives before the bottom fell out on the Jets this season, prompting his trade back to the Blackhawks. Ladd wants an increased salary, asking for just under $7 million from Chicago earlier this season, but, again, a team hungry for a veteran leader, not to mention a Cup champion, could pony up the dough. Ladd was rumored to have met with the New York Islanders earlier this week.
Possible Destinations: NY Islanders, Tampa Bay, Nashville, Montreal
4) Loui Eriksson, RW, Boston
On one hand, Eriksson's recent injury history, suffering two concussions during the 2013-14 season, could scare some teams off. On the other, the resiliency of the 2016 Lady Byng finalist could be just what certain teams are looking for. Eriksson missed just one more game after his concussed debut with the B's, tallying 30 goals last year, reaching that plateau for the 2nd time in his career. Eriksson was offered at the deadline, but the B's kept him for a failed playoff push. The rival Canadiens may aggressively pursue him, and the Predators have set up a meeting.
Possible Destinations: Montreal, Nashville, New Jersey, Detroit
3) David Backes, C, St. Louis
For years, Backes and TJ Oshie led the Blues as a dynamic duo. Backes assumed full-time leadership when Oshie was dealt to Washington, but it's clear now that the Blues belong to Vladimir Tarasenko for the time being. A lifelong Blue, Backes has watched this time rise from the dregs of the Western Conference, choke several times in the playoffs before finally breaking on through to the Western finals this season. The general opinion is that the Blues want to bring Backes back, but want to focus on signing the young Jayden Schwartz. Ideally, Backes will retire a Blue, but if that's not possible, team looking for good leadership will pounce.
Possible Destinations: Minnesota, Philadelphia, Buffalo
2) Kyle Okposo, RW, NY Islanders
What in the heck do Team USA officials have against Okposo? One of the most consistent American skaters, and one of the architects behind the awakening of Islanders hockey, Okposo was not only left off the 2014 Sochi Olympics roster, but snubbed for this fall's World Cup as well. He can make up for it with a big payday, and his relative youth (28), speed and smarts make him a sexy acquisition. The Islanders tried to ship him for assets at last season's trade deadline, so it appear he could be on the move. Many teams have already been in touch with him, so expect Okposo, who was a mere $2.8 million cap hit last year, to only go quickly, but get paid quickly.
Possible Destinations: Minnesota, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Detroit, Buffalo
1) Milan Lucic, LW, Los Angeles
Lucic has it all. When he's hot, he's one of the best wingers in the league, perfectly capable of putting in 30 goals a season. He also has the brilliant ability to get under other players' skin, making him a dangerous pest. A British Columbia native, Lucic has been wooed by the Western Canadian locals in Edmonton and Vancouver. The Canucks may have the advantage because he's from the city, but the Oilers just opened up a ton of space with the Taylor Hall trade to New Jersey.
Possible Destinations: Edmonton, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Detroit
What other NHL free agents are you keeping an eye on? Sound off in the comments!
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter, @GeoffMags5490
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