Top 25 unrestricted NHL free agents: Where they went

·7 min read

The NHL free agency signing period opened at noon ET July 13, and the biggest name landed in a surprise location.

Speculation on former Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau focused on the New Jersey area, where he grew up and has an offseason home, but the soon-to-be father signed instead with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Center Nazem Kadri, who had won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche, didn't land a deal until Aug. 18, signing with the Flames.

The top 25 free agents from a class that's deep on forwards but light on defensemen and goaltenders (age as of July 13) and where they signed:  

1. F Johnny Gaudreau, Flames, 28

He'll be due a big raise from his current $6.75 million after tying for second in the league with a career-best 115 points. He finished fourth in Hart Trophy voting and scored in overtime of Game 7 of the first round. If the South Jersey resident chooses to be close to home, the Philadelphia Flyers lack cap space, but the New Jersey Devils have plenty. Where he went: Blue Jackets, seven years, $68.25 million.

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2. F Nazem Kadri, Avalanche, 31

Nazem Kadri celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the Avalanche defeated the Lightning.
Nazem Kadri celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the Avalanche defeated the Lightning.

He avoided the suspensions that had plagued him and scored a career-best 87 points. Then he helped Colorado win a Stanley Cup. Included in his run: a hat trick after he had received social-media threats over his inadvertent collision with Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, and an overtime goal in Game 4 of the Final in his first game back from thumb surgery. Kadri is feisty with a scoring touch, a combination that teams covet. Where he went: Flames, seven years, $49 million.

3. F Claude Giroux, Panthers, 34

The longtime Flyers captain scored 23 points in 18 regular-season games after his trade and helped Florida reach the second round for the first time since 1996. The seven-time All-Star, including this past season, is a leader. He's still seeking his first championship, so he could look at a contender. Or does he go to the hometown Senators, who boosted their offense on draft day by acquiring Alex DeBrincat? Where he went: Senators, three years, $19.5 million.

4. F Andrew Copp, Rangers, 28

The versatile forward can move up and down the lineup and play center or wing. He had a career-best 21 goals and 53 points this past season, plus 18 points in 16 games as the Rangers reached the Eastern Conference final. Where he went: Red Wings, five years, $28.125 million.

5. G Darcy Kuemper, Avalanche, 32

He's moving on after the Avalanche acquired Alexandar Georgiev on draft day. Kuemper had a career-best 37 wins this season and won the Stanley Cup, though he was hurt for part of Colorado's run. The Capitals and Oilers are in need of goaltending. Where he went: Capitals, five years, $26.25 million.

6. F Ondrej Palat, Lightning, 31

He had 11 playoff goals this season and has 12 career playoff game-winning goals. With the trade of defenseman Ryan McDonagh, the Lightning looked liked they might have the cap space to re-sign him, but their moves on July 13 didn't leave enough room. Where he went: Devils, five years, $30 million.

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat celebrates his game-winning goal against the Colorado Avalanche.
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat celebrates his game-winning goal against the Colorado Avalanche.

7. F Vincent Trocheck, Hurricanes, 29

A strong two-way center on one of the NHL's top teams. Where he went: Rangers, seven years, $39.375 million.

8. D John Klingberg, Stars, 29

He's coming off a team-friendly deal and will be looking to make more money. After a slow start, he stepped up during Miro Heiskanen's illness to finish with 47 points. Where he went: Ducks, one year, $7 million.

9. F Ryan Strome, Rangers, 29

He has played his best since he joined the Rangers in 2018-19. He was slowed by a pelvic injury in the playoffs. Where he went: Ducks, five years, $25 million.

10. F David Perron, Blues, 34

He has been a perfect fit in St. Louis, playing three stints with the Blues, but their cap space for 2023-24 could be tight with a number of players due extensions. Where he went: Red Wings, two years, $9.5 million.

11.F Nino Niederreiter, Hurricanes, 29

A six-time 20-goal scorer. He scored 24 this season while playing a third-line role. Where he went: Predators, two years, $8 million.

12. G Jack Campbell, Maple Leafs, 30

The late bloomer was a first-time All-Star this season and had a 31-win season despite an injury. He's due a big raise from his $1.8 million last season. The Maple Leafs acquired Matt Murray, so Campbell will move on. Where he went: Oilers, five years, $25 million.

13. D Josh Manson, Avalanche, 30

The defenseman plays a physical shutdown style. He scored in overtime in Game 1 of the second round and had three goals and eight points during the Avalanche's Stanley Cup run. Where he went: Stayed with Avalanche, four years, $18 million.

14. F Andre Burakovsky, Avalanche, 27

His 22 goals, 39 assists and 61 points are career highs. He scored the overtime winner in Game 1 of the Final. Where he went: Kraken, five years, $27.5 million.

15. D Ben Chiarot, Panthers, 31

He made a name for himself as a shutdown defenseman during Montreal's run to the Final in 2021. He wasn't as strong this past season. When he went: Red Wings, four years, $19 million.

16. F Mason Marchment, Panthers, 27

He ranked first on Florida in points per 60 minutes at five-on-five play, picking up 47 points in 54 games. But he has only 91 games of NHL experience. Where he went: Stars, four years, $18 million.

17. F Evan Rodrigues, Penguins, 28

The versatile forward had a career-best 43 points this season, getting 30 of those while Evgeni Malkin was out of the lineup. Where he went: Avalanche, one year, $2 million.

Phil Kessel had eight goals and 44 assists last season.
Phil Kessel had eight goals and 44 assists last season.

18. F Phil Kessel, Coyotes, 34

He's a playmaker rather than a goal scorer at this point of his career. He needs eight games to break the iron man streak that Keith Yandle set last season. Where he went: Golden Knights, one year, $1.5 million.

19. F Patrice Bergeron, Bruins, 36

The five-time Selke Trophy winner would be near the top of this list based on his talent and leadership. But he has said if he doesn't retire, he'd return only to the Bruins. Where he went: Stayed with Bruins, one year, $2.5 million, with another $2.5 million in performance bonuses.

20. F Ilya Mikheyev, Maple Leafs, 27

Injuries have been a problem, but he did have 21 goals in 53 games last season. Four of those were scored while short-handed. Where he went: Canucks, four years, $19 million.

21. D Nick Leddy, Blues, 31

He averages more than 21 minutes a game and has 130 games of playoff experience. Where he went: Stayed with Blues, four years, $16 million.

22. F Dylan Strome, Blackhawks, 25

He became available when Chicago didn’t extend him a qualifying offer. He’s a two-time 20-goal scorer, including 22 this past season. Where he went: Capitals, one year, $3.5 million.

23. G Ilya Samsonov, Capitals, 25

He also didn't get a qualifying offer because the Capitals thought he'd make too much in salary arbitration in a backup situation. Where he went: Maple Leafs, one year, $1.8 million.

24. F Reilly Smith, Golden Knights, 31

Smith has hit the 50-point mark five times in his career. He's been with the Golden Knights since their inaugural season in 2017-18. Where he went: Stayed with Golden Knights, three years, $15 million.

25. F Frank Vatrano, Rangers, 28

Vatrano recorded 13 points in 20 playoff games for the Rangers during their run to the Eastern Conference final after coming over in a midseason trade with Florida. Where he went: Ducks, three years, $10.95 million.

Others to watch 

Forward Max Domi, Hurricanes, 27. Where he went: Blackhawks, one year, $3 million.

Forward Paul Stastny, Jets, 36. Where he went: Hurricanes, one year, $1.5 million.

Defenseman Jan Rutta, Lightning, 31. Where he went: Penguins, three years, $8.25 million.

Defenseman Zdeno Chara, Islanders, 45. Where he went: Announced his retirement. 

Defenseman P.K. Subban, Devils, 33. Where he went: Announced his retirement.

Forward Oskar Lindblom, Flyers, 25. Where he went: Sharks, two years, $5 million.

Forward Sonny Milano, Ducks, 26. Where he went: Signed a tryout agreement with the Flames.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NHL free agency, rumors 2022: Ranking top 25 UFAs who hit the market