Top 11 NHL UFAs of 2015: Best of who’s left

Defenceman Cody Franson didn't have the Stanley Cup run he and Predators were looking for, but teams are still interested in the blueliner as the opening of free agent season approaches.

Where does the unrestricted free-agent class of 2015 stand now, as we inch ever closer to training camp? Well, admittedly, it’s looking a little thin.

Although we expect some of the names on this list to earn professional tryout offers only (like Sergei Gonchar and Scott Gomez), that doesn’t mean some of these useful players won’t be scooped up before camp opens.

We rank the 11 most valuable pending UFAs still left on the board.

11. Anton Volchenkov
2014-15 team: Nashville Predators
Age: 33
Position: Defence
2014-15 cap hit: $1 million
Contract year report: The physical, stay-at-home defenceman had an unspectacular one-and-done season in Nashville, registering seven assists in 46 games and only getting into one post-season contest. His most memorable highlight involved taking out Brad Marchand illegally.
Latest dirt: The jury is out whether the 2000 first-rounder gets another NHL contract, but perhaps a tryout and short-term, low-money awaits. The Boston Bruins are one team still reported to be looking for affordable blue line help.

10. Scottie Upshall
2014-15 team: Florida Panthers
Age: 31
Position: Left wing
2014-15 cap hit: $3.5 million
Contract year report: One season removed from his career year (37 points in 2013-14 with the Panthers), Upshall regressed production-wise in 2014-15, putting up just 15 points in 63 games as a depth winger.
Latest dirt: In Elliotte Friedman’s excellent season-ending 30 Thoughts, he reported that players of Upshall’s ilk may be looking at fall tryouts instead of inking deals this summer.

9. Lubomir Visnovsky
2014-15 team: New York Islanders
Age: 39
Position: Defence
2014-15 cap hit: $4.75 million
Contract year report: Though limited to just 53 games in 2014-15, the veteran still put up 20 points and averaged top-four minutes on the Islanders’ back end.
Latest dirt: In an interview on, the Czech blueliner said that he and the Islanders have begun negotiations on a one-year deal. He has no interest in joining the KHL, but the NHL dream is alive and well.

“During this summer I will have a recovery with a specialist from Zilina,” Visnovsky told the website. “Hopefully somebody will want to sign me even when I had so many injuries last few seasons.”

With NHL offers slow to materialize, Visnovsky is reportedly looking at overseas options.

8. Marek Zidlicky
2014-15 teams: New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings
Age: 38
Position: Defence
2014-15 cap hit: $3 million
Contract year report: Don’t look at his age; look at his results. The Czech blueliner put up 34 points last season and averaged more than 20 minutes per game.
Latest dirt: Agent Allan Walsh announced on Twitter in June that Zidlicky “is 100% committed to playing in the NHL next season.” Quiet in terms of rumours, but the veteran could provide power-play help at a low cost and short term. The Boston Bruins were said to be giving Zidlicky consideration, and reliable reporter Arthur Staple of Newsday reported interest from the New York Islanders.

7. Lee Stempniak
2014-15 teams: New York Rangers, Winnipeg Jets
Age: 32
Position: Right wing
2014-15 cap hit: $900,000
Contract year report: A solid if unspectacular two-way forward, Stempniak scored a respectable 15 goals and added 13 assists in 2014-15 while posting his best plus/minus (+8) ever.
Latest dirt: Stempniak told us this month that he wanted to remain with the Jets. He and his agent have spoken with “a lot” of teams, bu the winger is searching for the right fit. the older he gets, the more winning has become a priority. Could fit well in multiple teams’ bottom six if the price is reasonable.

6. Brad Boyes
2014-15 team: Florida Panthers
Age: 33
Position: Right wing
2014-15 cap hit: $2.625 million
Contract year report: The most shocking of the 2015 buyouts, Boyes chipped in 38 points and was a plus-11 player for a non-playoff club.
Latest dirt: Boyes has become a shootout specialist — a commodity NHL teams should value more than they do. Sniping 44.8 per cent of his attempts, Boyes has 39 shootout goals, 12 of them game-deciders. Expect some team to scoop him up for cheap.

5. David Schlemko
2014-15 teams: Arizona Coyotes, Dallas Stars, Calgary Flames
Age: 28
Position: Defence
2014-15 cap hit: $1.187 million
Contract year report: Played nicely as a stay-at-home, No. 5 blueliner for coach Bob Hartley, staying out of the penalty box and finishing as a plus-6.
Latest dirt: With most of the big blueline names going early, look for a team – don’t rule out Calgary yet, to take a flyer on Schlemko for depth. He’s younger than most UFA alternatives. Pat Steinberg breaks down Schlemko’s value nicely here.

4. Sean Bergenheim
2014-15 teams: Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild
Age: 31
Position: Left wing
2014-15 cap hit: $2.75 million
Contract year report: After a decent start in Florida (18 points through 39 games), the Finnish winger’s trial with the Wild never panned out (one point in 20 games).
Latest dirt: Don’t expect a Minnesota return, but Bergenheim could help out a club’s second or third line at a reduced rate.

3. Jiri Tlusty
2014-15 teams: Carolina Hurricanes, Winnipeg Jets
Age: 27
Position: Left wing/Centre
2014-15 cap hit: $2.95 million
Contract year report: While failing to excel after the trade to Winnipeg, Tlusty was a reliable wing in Carolina on pace for fourth consecutive 30-point season.
Latest dirt: Tlusty has not closed the door on a return to Carolina, but plenty of teams are still looking to upgrade their top nine. Tlusty has been brought up as a consideration for the Arizona Coyotes. Arizona reportedly would like to sign a player in the $2 million to $3 million per year ballpark. He was spotted training at Raleigh Center Ice, the Hurricanes practice facility, on Aug. 27.

2. Curtis Glencross
2014-15 team: Calgary Flames, Washington Capitals
Age: 32
Position: Left wing
2014-15 cap hit: $2.55 million
Contract year report: As a deadline rental, Washington was hoping to squeeze more than the one playoff goal it got out of Glencross, who was a solid but declining contributor to the Flames for seven years.
Latest dirt: Some speculation that the Panthers and Maple Leafs are among the teams kicking tires here. Larry Brooks of The New York Post makes the case that Glencross be would be a good fit for the Rangers, while there has been speculation that he could reunite with Jarome Iginla in Colorado.

1. Cody Franson
2014-15 teams: Toronto Maple Leafs, Nashville Predators
Age: 27
Position: Defence
2014-15 cap hit: $3.3 million
Contract year report: After three consecutive one-year deals, Franson stepped up his game with unrestricted free agency in sight and earned a trade back to Nashville. The big body with a nasty point shot had a career high in points (36) but never fit in with a deeper Predators blue line.
Latest dirt: Franson is still looking for a multi-year deal this summer, as a Nashville return won’t happen. He hit the campaign trail early, saying he’d be open to a Toronto return and would love Vancouver to be in the mix. On July 21, the B.C. native appeared on Vancouver radio and said five teams are interested in his services, mentioning only the Boston Bruins specifically.

On Aug. 27, the Buffalo News reported that the Sabres had offered Franson a two-year contract.

On the Radar

Forwards: Tomas Fleischmann, Mike Richards, Jim Slater, Martin Erat, Erik Cole, Michael Ryder, Stephen Weiss, Devin Setoguchi

Defencemen: Jan Hejda, Tim Gleason, Andrej Meszaros, Michal Rozsival, Ryan Wilson, Jordan Leopold, Keith Aulie, Sergei Gonchar

Goaltenders: Josh Harding, Jonas Gustavsson, Ray Emery, Peter Budaj

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.