Here’s a quick look at Brad Richards(notes) and the 49 next-best unrestricted free agents on the market.
The top 50 ranking is broken down by position: 20 forwards, 20 defensemen and 10 goaltenders.
The NHL’s free-agent frenzy begins at noon ET on Friday.
TOP 20 FORWARDS
1. Brad Richards – Don’t know if you’ve heard, but Richards is the star pupil of the 2011 free agent class.
2. Ville Leino(notes) – Talented winger has grit, too, and is suited for second-line duty.
3. Teemu Selanne(notes) – Soon-to-be 41-year-old probably shouldn’t be listed here because the only team he’ll sign with is Anaheim.
4. Erik Cole(notes) – Power winger plays a high-speed game. He’s been knocked around a bit, but can still be a force.
5. Tim Connolly(notes) – First-rate skills, third-world health record.
6. Tomas Fleischmann(notes) – Highly skilled, but his career’s in question due to blood-clot problems. It’s a big gamble for the team that signs him – and for his own well-being, too.
7. Sean Bergenheim(notes) – Jumped over more than a few players with his prodigious playoff output for the Lightning.
8. Scottie Upshall(notes) – You know, 22 goals in a season split between Columbus and Phoenix ain’t half-bad.
9. Simon Gagne(notes) – Still tempts with his talent, but concussion issues and neck injuries have slowed him down.
10. Antti Miettinen(notes) – He’ll score 15 goals and contribute on special teams.
11. Michael Ryder(notes) – A new Stanley Cup champion whose calling card is goal-scoring. That combination usually results in some offers.
12. Jason Arnott(notes) – Veteran center provides punch and leadership. Just don’t expect 30 goals and 60 points.
13. Steve Sullivan(notes) – A gamer with an offensive arsenal, but also a 37-year-old who’s endured some serious injuries.
14. Max Talbot – Versatile center can jump up to a top line, but is more efficient as a checker.
15. Michal Handzus – Veteran center wins faceoffs and is tough to play against.
16. Andrew Brunette(notes) – One of the most underrated players in the NHL, but he’s creeping up on 38.
17. Cory Stillman(notes) – There might be a few power-play goals left in his 37-year-old body.
18. Raffi Torres(notes) – Borderline bodychecker who can get streaky.
19. Nikolay Zherdev – Has the talent to be a top-five forward on the list, but not the desire.
20. Kyle Wellwood(notes) – A little less talent than Zherdev, and a little more desire.
TOP 20 DEFENSEMEN
1. Christian Ehrhoff(notes) – A top-pairing defenseman with top-flight offensive capabilities. There’s a reason both the Islanders and Sabres paid a fourth-round pick for a few days of negotiating rights.
UPDATE: Scratch Ehrhoff off the list as Buffalo jumped the queue and signed him to a huge deal on Thursday.
2. Tomas Kaberle(notes) – He won a Cup with Boston, but didn’t do much to boost his value as the Bruins’ power play was missing throughout the playoffs.
3. Jan Hejda(notes) – Big body and can play in all three zones.
4. Ian White(notes) – Little body and can play in all three zones.
5. Roman Hamrlik(notes) – The No. 1 overall draft pick in 1992 is still solid after all these years.
6. Sami Salo(notes) – If longtime (and oft-injured) Canuck moves to another city, make sure he’s packaged in bubble-wrap.
UPDATE: Another scratch: The Canucks have reportedly kept Salo with a one-year, $2 million deal on Friday morning.
7. James Wisniewski(notes) – At his best unleashing slapshots on the power play.
UPDATE: Another itch scratched – and how. Columbus, who had acquired Wisniewski's rights, have reportedly ponied up $33 million over six years, in a deal that went down before noon ET on Friday.
8. Ed Jovanovski(notes) – His 35-year-old body has logged some hard miles, but he’s a veteran leader who would improve any team.
9. Andy Greene(notes) – Not as good as his 37-point season in 2010-11, and not as bad as his minus-23 rating this year.
10. Bryan McCabe(notes) – Starting to show his age, but can still help the power play and provide leadership.
11. Scott Hannan(notes) – Defensive warrior slowing down.
12. Jonathan Ericsson(notes) – He’s got bits of Red Wing in him, so you know he’s good. Of course, if he was really good, the Wings wouldn’t let him get away. Who knows, he might end up back in Detroit next season.
UPDATE: Scratch Ericsson off the list, too, as the Wings did indeed re-sign him. He got a three-year, $9.75 million deal on Thursday night, according to TSN.
13. Radek Martinek(notes) – If he’d stop with the devastating injuries, he’d be a top-four defenseman.
14. Steve Montador(notes) – Solid depth defenseman who can play more minutes in a pinch.
UPDATE: Keep scratching. Chicago, who obtained Montador's negotiating rights earlier in the week, signed him to a four-year deal on Thursday night.
15. Kent Huskins(notes) – Sandpaper and savvy on the third pairing.
16. Shane O’Brien(notes) – Plays it brash, and backs it up with his fists.
17. Adam Pardy(notes) – Physical presence stays at home.
18. Ruslan Salei(notes) – Big, strong veteran is gearing down.
19. Paul Mara(notes) – Pretty reliable for a third-pairing defender.
20. Andreas Lilja(notes) – Didn’t pick a good time to post a career-worst minus-15 rating – and in only 52 games.
TOP 10 GOALIES
1. Tomas Vokoun(notes) – The lone bona fide No. 1 goalie on the market.
2. Evgeni Nabokov(notes) – Don’t expect him to sign with the Islanders.
3. Ray Emery(notes) – Had a great run as a late-season stop-gap measure in Anaheim, but questions about long-term health – and temperament – remain.
4. Pascal Leclaire(notes) – Talent trumped by brittle body.
5. Josh Harding(notes) – It’s tough to prove yourself when you’re stuck behind Niklas Backstrom(notes) in Minnesota.
UPDATE: Looks like Harding is happy where is, agreeing to a one-year deal for $750,000 before the market opened on Friday.
6. Mathieu Garon(notes) – A solid backup who can get hot.
7. Mike Smith(notes) – Didn’t cut it as a starter in Tampa, but good enough to play second fiddle.
8. Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes) – Held together by duct tape last season, he could still be a decent backup – and mentor – if he gets healthy.
9. Jose Theodore(notes) – Whatever happened to the 2002 NHL MVP anyway?
10. Alex Auld(notes) – He’d be a good fit for a team that has a No. 1 netminder who’ll start 65 games.