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