Brophy on NHL: Top 10 free agents

June 30, 2011, 3:19 PM

What was already a weak unrestricted free agent class has gotten worse by the day.

With the signing of Brooks Laich by the Washington Capitals, Kevin Bieksa of the Vancouver Canucks and Pascal Dupuis of the Pittsburgh Penguins this week, the picks continue to get slimmer.

Below is a list of 10 players slated to be unrestricted free agents July 1 that should garner attention.

Also, sportsnet.ca has full lists of pending restricted and unrestricted free agents:

Eastern Conference | Western Conference

1. Brad Richards, Centre

Richards is unquestionably the best player available, but that comes with a caveat. As we all know, he missed action last season with a concussion. That will make some teams stop and think, but it likely won’t affect his ability to secure a long and fruitful contract. When he’s healthy, Richards is a potential top 10 scorer who makes players around him better. Even with the head injury Richards accumulated 77 points in 72 games. One of the big spenders – the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning or Toronto Maple Leafs – is bound to make a pitch for the 31-year-old.

2010-11 numbers
Games Played Goals Assists Points Salary cap hit
72 28 49 77 $7.8 million
 
2. Christian Ehrhoff, Defence

The 28-year-old German defender brings a solid two-way game to the table. Coming off back-to-back 14-goal seasons, to go with 44 and 50 points respectively, Ehrhoff will attract a team that needs scoring from the blue line and also a power play specialist. Twenty-six of his 53 career goals have come with the man advantage. The New York Islanders acquired his negotiating rights on Tuesday but failed to reach an agreement so turned around and dealt his rights to the Buffalo Sabres. NOTE: Ehrhoff signed with the Sabres on Thursday.

2010-11 numbers
Games Played Goals Assists Points Salary cap hit
79 14 36 50 $3.1 million
 
3. Tomas Kaberle, Defence

Don’t laugh. There will still be a market for a puck-moving defender; even one who didn’t play especially well for his new team after joining the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline. Kaberle, 33, managed 47 points in 82 games with Toronto and Boston. He was a disappointment in the playoffs, but the Bruins still won the Stanley Cup. He had just one goal and nine points in 24 regular season games with Boston and no goals and 11 assists in 25 playoff games.

2010-11 numbers
Games Played Goals Assists Points Salary cap hit
82 4 43 47 $4.25 million
 
4. Tomas Vokoun, Goaltender

The general consensus is Vokoun is a great goaltender who just happens to play for lousy teams. That could change come Friday. The 34-year-old native of the Czech Republic is capable of winning games on his own, but hasn’t had the luxury of playing on a really good team in his 12-year big league career spent mostly with Nashville and Florida. In fact, he has only been to the playoffs twice and has never won a series.

2010-11 numbers
Games Played Record Goals Against Avg. Save Percentage Salary cap hit
57 22-28-5 2.55 .922 $5.7 million
 
5. Simon Gagne, Left Wing

A team signing the 31-year-old Gagne would have to be convinced he can remain healthy and get back to being one of the more dangerous scorers in the NHL. Gagne is coming off identical 17-goal, 40-point seasons with Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. He played 63 games last season and just 58 the year before. Still, he’s relatively young and has had seasons of 47 and 41 goals. Gagne completed the season with a strong playoff, scoring five goals and 12 points in 15 games with the Lightning.

2010-11 numbers
Games Played Goals Assists Points Salary cap hit
63 17 23 40 $5.25 million
 
6. James Wisniewski, Defence

The much-traveled 27-year old popped a career-best 10 goals last season and a new single-season high in points with 51. A solid defender who plays with an edge, Wisniewski is a quality point man on the power play. His breakout last season upon his arrival in Montreal is an indicator the best is yet to come for the former Canadian Hockey League defenceman of the year.

2010-11 numbers
Games Played Goals Assists Points Salary cap hit
75 10 41 51 $3.25 million
 
7. Tomas Fleischmann, Left Wing

The 27-year-old Czech native really seemed to come into his own upon being traded to the Colorado Avalanche from the Washington Capitals last season. After managing just four goals and 10 points in 23 games with Washington, the 6-foot-1, 192-pounder exploded for eight goals and 21 points in 22 games with Colorado before he was diagnosed with pulmonary emboli Jan. 20 and was shut down for the remainder of the season.

2010-11 numbers
Games Played Goals Assists Points Salary cap hit
45 12 19 31 $2.6 million
 
8. Ed Jovanovski, Defence

At his best, Jovo Cop is a physical defender who can put up points. However, last season he was limited to just 50 games because of injury and he had just five goals and 14 points. The 35-year old did play in his 1,000th game last season. Jovanovski managed 31 goals in the previous three seasons combined and would be a nice addition to a team that already possesses a solid blueline.

2010-11 numbers
Games Played Goals Assists Points Salary cap hit
50 5 9 14 $6.5 million
 
9. Ville Leino, Left Wing

After breaking through with seven goals and 21 points in 19 playoff games when the Philadelphia Flyers went to the Stanley Cup final in 2009-10, much was expected from the 27-yeasr-old left winger. Leino did come up with career highs in goals (19) and points (53) but he really wasn’t the dominating player he had been in the post-season the year before. In fact, in 11 playoff games this past season he managed just three goals and five points.

2010-11 numbers
Games Played Goals Assists Points Salary cap hit
81 19 34 53 $800,000
 
10. Michael Ryder, Right Wing

Will the real Michael Ryder please stand up? Is it the Ryder who performances were in and out during the regular season when he managed 18 goals and 41 points in 79 games? Or the enthusiastic Ryder who had eight goals and 17 points in 25 playoff games, helping the Bruins win the Stanley Cup? Consistency has not been a friend to Ryder, especially in the playoffs prior to this season. Still, there is no denying the guy has hands of gold.

2010-11 numbers
Games Played Goals Assists Points Salary cap hit
79 18 23 41 $4 million
 
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