Top NHL Free Agents Remaining

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We are a couple of days removed from the start of free agency. Day one saw a number of signings made with some of the big fish choosing their new homes for the next few years. While most of the top names already made their decisions there are still a couple of names out there that are still looking for a new home next year.

Jake Gardiner D

Jake Gardiner is the top free agent available and the best defenseman yet to find a home next season. Gardiner is 29-years-old and just finished his 8th pro season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the Leafs cap situation, it is safe to say that Gardiner won’t wear a Leafs jersey next season.

Gardner has played 551 NHL games and registered 45 goals and 200 assists. His previous cap hit with the Leafs was $4.05 million. His next contract should be a bit more than that. He is a top-four defenseman and the best left-handed defender on the market. He should see his next contract with an AAV of around $6 Million.

Potential Suitors: Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Winnipeg Jets

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Marcus Johansson C/W

Marcus Johansson has battled injuries throughout his nine-year career. Johansson spent the majority of his time with the Washington Capitals. In addition to playing for the New Jersey Devils and, most recently, the Boston Bruins. Johansson is a versatile forward who can play all three positions. There was rumored to be a lot of interest in the 28-year-old Swede but the Bruins are not one of them.

Johansson was a 20-goal scorer twice in his career. Both occurred when he played a full 82-game season. His last contract had an AAV of $4.583 million over three years. Johansson would upgrade any teams middle six forward group and if he stays healthy he is worth the money.

Potential Suitors: New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers

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Ryan Dzingel C/W

Ryan Dzingel was the other Ottawa Senator traded to Columbus at the trade deadline. The 27-year-old forward just finished his fourth NHL season. Dzingel was on his way to receiving a big pay raise up until he got traded. In his 21 games with Columbus, he still managed to put up 12 points. However, he didn’t look as dominant as he did when he was with Ottawa.

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The Ohio State product has reported interest from his hometown Chicago Blackhawks but is unwilling to take a discount to play in the windy city. It would make sense for Dzingel to sign a short term deal in hopes to get a bigger payday a few years down the road.

Potential Suitors: Colorado Avalanche, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders

Micheal Ferland LW

Michael Ferland finished up his fifth NHL season with the Carolina Hurricanes after spending the previous four years with the Calgary Flames. Ferland is only 27 and does not appear to be returning to the Hurricanes. 

Ferland is a big, strong power forward who has back-to-back 40 point seasons under his belt. His last contract carried a $1.75 million cap hit. Last I checked, Ferland is asking for just north of $5 million AAV. There are teams out there who can afford that but with the style that Ferland plays, it doesn’t really make sense for a long term deal. Most teams looking at Ferland should offer him a deal of around three or four years.

Potential Suitors: Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche

Joe Thornton C

Jumbo Joe is still available and is looking to continue his NHL career. Entering what will be his age 40 season, Thornton showed that he still has game left in the tank. Last season, he scored 16 goals and registered 35 assists in 73 games. While Thornton hasn’t scored 20 goals in a season since the 2010-11 season he is still a valuable asset for the right price.

His last contract with the Sharks was a one-year deal with a $5 million AAV. His next deal should be nowhere near that amount. The market for a 40-year-old center isn’t really there. But if Thornton would sign for around $1 million then some teams may take another look at him. He could also choose to take the league minimum of 700k to stay with San Jose.

Potential Suitors: San Jose Sharks

Chris Bugajsky covers the Dallas Stars, the NHL and the NHL Draft for Full Press Coverage. Follow Chris on twitter @CBugajsky14.

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