NHL Free Agency: Kadri, Klingberg top list of best available UFAs
We are a week into the NHL’s Free Agent signing period, and even though most of the top players have already found new homes there are still some pretty good players (and relatively big names) remaining on the market.
Let’s take a look at 10 of the most significant.
1. Nazem Kadri. It is a little surprising that Kadri is still available as he was one of the top players to the UFA market. Coming off a career-year offensively and playing a major role on the Avalanche’s run to a Stanley Cup, Kadri figured to be one of the big earners in free agency. And he still probably will be. It is just taking some time. There was a report over the weekend that Kadri is wanting to play for a contender and might need some teams to clear salary cap space before signing him. We will see if that ends up being true. As good as Kadri is, he is not without his risks on a free agent contract. He is already 32 years old, and for as good as his 2021-22 season was there is no guarantee he repeats that production, especially on a team that is not as loaded as Colorado’s is offensively.
2. John Klingberg. After Kris Letang re-signed in Pittsburgh it made Klingberg that top defenseman on the open market, and arguably the only top-pairing defenseman. And he remains unsigned more than a week in. That is odd, and might suggest that the market for him is not as strong as originally thought. If teams think they can add a top-pairing defenseman, they are going to jump at that chance.
[Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker]
3. Nino Niederreiter. This one is also a little surprising. Niederreiter is an excellent middle-six forward that drives possession and will score 20-25 goals for you over the course of an 82-game season. Not a superstar, but a heckuva player that will make any line (and team) he plays on better.
4. Paul Stastny. Stastny will turn 37 early this season but is still, very quietly, a really productive player. Strong two-way presence that can drive possession and chip in second-line offense. On a one-year deal this would be a solid add for a contender that needs center depth.
5. Danton Heinen. Heinen was a really good find for the Penguins a year ago in free agency, but they were clearly afraid of what his arbitration number would look like. So they did not qualify him an offer and allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent. A better defensive player than he gets credit for, Heinen can be a 15-20 goal scorer in the right spot.
6. Phil Kessel. His goal scoring has dried up, but he is still a really good playmaker and can help out on a power play. If you are not expecting him to carry your offense there is still a good contributor here offensively.
7. Evan Rodrigues. Through the first two months of the 2021-22 season Rodrigues was scoring like a top-line player and stunning the league. He cooled off considerably in the second half, but still finished with 19 goals and 43 total points. Maybe he does not repeat those numbers, but he is still a really good two-way player that will work on any team’s bottom-six.
[Related: Best NHL Free Agent Signings So Far]
8. P.K. Subban. Like Kessel, you are getting a former star at the end of his career that you are going to have to play in a specialized/sheltered role. And that is fine, because Subban can still shoot it from the point and still has some speed from the back end. As long as you have reasonable expectations and a coaching staff that does not expect him to play 25 minutes a night you can still get a good player here.
9. Jonathan Dahlen. Really intriguing player here. Dahlen is going to turn 25 in December and has just one year of NHL experience. He was a dominant offensive player in Sweden and scored 12 goals in 61 games in his first taste of NHL action on a bad Sharks team. Maybe this year’s Mason Marchment or Michael Bunting on the UFA market?
10. Johan Larsson. Larsson is not going to bring a lot of offense to your team, but you might not find a better defensive forward on the open market at this point. If he brings that and can chip in 10 goals you have a heckuva a bottom-six forward.