NHL’s top 10 unrestricted free agents available

July 23, 2014, 10:44 AM

With so many of the league’s significant free agents scooped up on July 1, the opening day of 2014′s free agency, unattached impact players are suddenly scarce. Still, more than a few useful talents are out there and could fill important roles on teams with some salary cap space willing to take a flier.

Keep it here for a regularly updated look at the latest buzz surrounding the best free agents available.

UPDATE: The Denver Post reports that Andre Benoit has signed with the Buffalo Sabres.


10. Andrei Loktionov
Age: 24
2013-14 team: Carolina Hurricanes
Position: Centre
2013-14 cap hit: $725,000
Why he’s worth a shot: Loktionov put up 22 points in 68 games with the Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils in 2013-14 despite seeing less than 13 minutes of ice time per game. The centre lit it up as an OHL star for the 2008-09 Windsor Spitfires (66 points in 51 games) and is still on the fun side of 25, but his 155 NHL games have been spread among three teams and have only yielded 22 goals total. Perhaps he just needs to find the right linemates and a couple extra shifts per game to develop into a more reliable NHLer.
Latest dirt: While there have been no reports of NHL teams expressing interest in Loktionov, he could be a low-cost gamble for a team like the Edmonton Oilers in search to fill a hole a centre. As with so many Russian players, the option of signing to a KHL club remains. Yaroslav Lokomotiv, for whom Loktionov played seven games in 2007-08, would reportedly welcome him back.

9. Dustin Penner
Age: 31
2013-14 team: Washington Capitals
Position: Left wing
2013-14 cap hit: $2 million
Why he’s worth a shot: Penner got off to a great start last season in Anaheim rushing alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. (I know: who wouldn’t succeed on that line?) On this list, only Daniel Alfredsson scored more goals last season than Penner’s 14, and no UFA comes close to Penner’s plus-25 rating (if you place any stock in that stat). The big guy’s only 31 and could chip in some added scoring in a bottom-six role.
Latest dirt: Penner is coming off a 67-game season, something he hadn’t enjoyed since 2009-10 with Edmonton. But having worn three different sweaters since 2013, the versatile forward is finding it tough to land a permanent gig.

8. Saku Koivu
Age: 39
2013-14 team: Anaheim Ducks
Position: Centre
2013-14 cap hit: $2.5 million
Why he’s worth a shot: Fourth in goals scored among available UFAs, potting 11 in just 65 games and adding 18 assists, the veteran Koivu should still be able to contribute in a depth role on a one-year deal — if he can be talked out of retiring. Fun fact: Koivu actually outscored the more celebrated Teemu Selanne in 2012-13 and 2013-14.
Latest dirt: Anaheim GM Bob Murray announced well before July 1 that the team would not be bringing Koivu back. The Ducks’ other departing Finnish legend is back in Finland contemplating his future and whether or not he even returns to the NHL. Those speculating from an ocean away suggest he’d be a good fit on the Minnesota Wild or back with the Montreal Canadiens.

7. Daniel Winnik
Age: 29
2013-14 team: Anaheim Ducks
Position: Centre / Left wing
2013-14 cap hit: $1.8 million
Why he’s worth a shot: Arguably the best left-shooting forward remaining, Winnik enjoyed a career-best 30-point season on a strong Ducks squad, contributing 15:39 of ice time per game. While he’s yet to contribute a goal in 28 career playoff games, the Toronto native is a responsible depth player who can kill penalties.
Latest dirt: The Ducks essentially replaced Winnik with Dany Heatley this summer, but he is certain to find a bottom-six role in the league — and could make the Ducks regret it.

6. Andre Benoit
Age: 30
2013-14 team: Colorado Avalanche
Position: Defence
2013-14 cap hit: $900,000
Why he’s worth a shot: The most productive blue-liner left on the board, Benoit led all remaining UFA defencemen in goals (seven) and assists (21) in 2013-14 and ranked second (behind Calgary’s Chris Butler) in ice time, averaging 20:21 per game. A professional who has bounced around the AHL, KHL, and elite league’s in Sweden and Finland, Benoit should be fuelled by his breakout season and could work on the second power-play unit. A nice left-handed shot on the second or third pairing.
Latest dirt: Don’t rule out a return to Colorado for Benoit yet. The Avs were keen to keep him before July 1 and need some defence to go along with all that firepower.

5. Devin Setoguchi
Age: 27
2013-14 team: Winnipeg Jets
Position: Right wing
2013-14 cap hit: $3 million
Why he’s worth a shot: His value couldn’t be lower. Setoguchi just had his worst year as an NHL forward: 11 goals, 16 assists. A three-time 20-goal man with the San Jose Sharks, this could simply be a case of needing to get with the right linemates and refreshing his sweater. He’s still young and can skate. Would be worth a shot on a two-year term.
Latest dirt: Scarce are reports that there is a demand for Setoguchi. But he was so reliable in teal—14 goals in his last two playoff runs with the Sharks–one wonders if GM Doug Wilson would consider bring him back. Or perhaps Boston could use him to fill the right-wing hole left by Jarome Iginla.

4. Martin Brodeur
Age: 42
2013-14 team: New Jersey Devils
Position: Goaltender
2013-14 cap hit: $4.5 million
Why he’s worth a shot: Despite his decreasing save percentage, Brodeur is the winningest goaltender in NHL history and he is willing to play backup in the right situation. Say your No. 1 goes down in Round 2 of the playoffs, there could be worse options wearing the ballcap, no?
Latest dirt: Brodeur told Sportsnet he has a specific list of teams he’ll play for; he wants to go to a contender. The Maple Leafs, Blackhawks, Bruins, Penguins and Lightning all reportedly kicked tires. The Lightning and Penguins signed other backups on July 1. Lost in the free agency madness, New Jersey scooped up goaltender Scott Clemmensen to back up Cory Schneider, which should squash any ideas of Brodeur appearing in a Devils uniform prior to his jersey retirement. Brodeur’s agent, Pat Brisson, told Fire & Ice on July 13 that the goalie is willing to wait until after the season begins to find the right fit.

“On or around July 1, we explored a few possibilities for Marty that made somewhat sense. That didn’t come to fruition,” Brisson wrote the site via email. “Marty has a lot to offer, but it will be the right fit and this may come later this summer or even early in the season. He is in no rush until the right fit appears.”

3. Tomas Vokoun
Age: 38
2013-14 team: Pittsburgh Penguins
Position: Goaltender
2013-14 cap hit: $2 million
Why he’s worth a shot: Although he missed 2013-14 due to blood clots, Vokoun filled in admirably for the Penguins in the 2013 playoffs when Marc-Andre Fleury struggled and might still have what it takes to be a security blanket. (P.S.: He’s four years younger than Martin Brodeur.)
Latest dirt: With Pittsburgh nabbing promising backup Thomas Greiss on July 1, the veteran Vokoun is reportedly fielding multiple offers.

2. Michael Del Zotto
Age: 24
2013-14 team: Nashville Predators
Position: Defence
2013-14 cap hit: $2.55 million
Why he’s worth a shot: Del Zotto couldn’t find a fit with the New York Rangers nor the Nashville Predators and now has a bit of a stigma attached to him. Perhaps missing out on a Cup run and not getting a qualifying offer from the Preds will serve as a double wake-up call. He has skills; it’s the work ethic that’s been questioned. Dude is only 24. Plenty of time to turn his career back around.
Latest dirt: Teams that whiffed on the sure-thing UFA defencemen like Dan Boyle and Matt Niskanen could take a flier on Del Zotto, who should come cheap now. The offensive defenceman told Sportsnet on July 17 that he’s been talking to “a bunch” of teams and is just waiting to find the right fit. He’d love to get a prominent role on the power play again.

1. Daniel Alfredsson
Age: 41
Team: Detroit Red Wings
Position: Right wing
2013-14 cap hit: $3.5 million
Why he’s worth a shot: Even at his advanced age, Alfredsson led all still-available UFAs in goals per game in 2013-14, and his leadership and work ethic were appreciated in Detroit.
Latest dirt: Alfredsson has told the Red Wings that he will take some time to assess his back pain and decide to either return to Detroit or retire from the game. He does not want to uproot his family again and go to another team.


Best of the rest

Forwards: Ray Whitney, T.J. Galiardi, Ryan Carter, Matt D’Agostini

Defence: Sami Salo, Henrik Tallinder, Cory Sarich, Jamie McBain, Raphael Diaz, Brett Bellemore

Goaltenders: Tim Thomas, Ilya Bryzgalov

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