The first full week of NHL free agency has begun, and there still are several quality players still without contracts for the 2016-17 season. Here are five of the best free agents who have yet to sign:
Radim Vrbata, right wing
Vrbata didn’t have a particularly good 2015-16 campaign with just 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 63 games. But the 14-year veteran still would be a quality third-line addition to just about every team given his offensive skill. He’s a five-time 20-goal scorer and set a career high of 31 goals just two seasons ago. Vrbata is a low-risk, medium-reward free agent teams should take a chance on.
Jiri Hudler, center
Hudler tallied 46 points (16 goals, 30 assists) in 72 games between the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers last season. The 11-year veteran would provide depth down the middle and plenty of experience (83 career playoff games and one Stanley Cup title) to a contending or up-and-coming team. He’s also very good at mentoring young players, and his versatility (able to play the wing, if needed) is valuable as well.
Matt Cullen, center
Cullen made a surprisingly strong impact for the Penguins en route to a Stanley Cup title last season. He scored 16 goals and added 16 assists in a bottom-six role. With the Pens not having much salary cap space, it’s possible Cullen could take his talents elsewhere for 2016-17.
Brandon Pirri, center
Pirri posted 29 points in 61 games between the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks in 2015-16. The Ducks acquired him at the trade deadline, and he scored five goals and added two assists in nine regular-season games for them. Pirri has yet to fulfill his potential as a second-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009, but his playmaking ability makes him one of the best free agents left on the market. The NHL, more than ever, is trending toward speed and skill throughout the lineup, and Pirri would add plenty of those qualities to a team’s third or fourth line.
Kris Versteeg, right wing
Versteeg scored four goals in 14 games for the Los Angeles Kings last season after they acquired him from the Florida Panthers near the trade deadline. He totaled 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) in 77 games between these teams. Versteeg is another good bottom-six option for teams in need of scoring depth, and he brings the added benefit of two Stanley Cup rings and the playoff experience that comes with it.
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