Last year’s stacked unrestricted free agent group gave us David Backes, Andrew Ladd, Kyle Okposo, Milan Lucic and Keith Yandle, to list just a handful of the top names. And while Steven Stamkos didn’t make it to July 1 unsigned, he did reach the early free agent negotiation window, so he was essentially part of the UFA class. Don’t expect anything close to the same star power this summer. The class shapes up to be one of the weakest in years, at least in terms of top-end value, and several coveted names have already been snapped up, such as goalie Ben Bishop. The Washington Capitals will provide most of the fireworks. They’ve re-signed T.J. Oshie but still have three big-ticket UFAs in Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner, and Justin Williams.
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Here’s a look at the top names out there, with salary info provided by capfriendly.com. Ages are as of July 1, 2017.
1. KEVIN SHATTENKIRK, D, 28
2016-17 cap hit: $4,250,000
Right-handed blueliners in the prime of their careers who can play 20-plus minutes a night get PAID on the open market. Shattenkirk is also one of the sport’s premier offensive defensemen. He should earn as much coin as anyone this summer, even if he had a spotty playoffs.
2. ALEXANDER RADULOV, RW, 30
2016-17 cap hit: $5,750,000
Boom-bust signing went boom for Habs. He brought offense and infectious energy from the KHL, and his agent says he wants to re-sign. More than just a complementary scorer. Makes teammates better and can take over games. He’s posturing for a long-term deal, which could spook Montreal, but he’s still a decent bet to end up back there.
3. KARL ALZNER, D, 28
2016-17 cap hit: $2,800,000
This is Alzner’s set-for-life window. He’s a big, rugged, experienced defenseman in his prime who can play top-pair minutes. As the best shutdown guy in a weak year for UFA blueliners, he’s a prime candidate to be overpaid. It won’t be his fault. The market will create a bidding war, driving up his price.
4. MARTIN HANZAL, C, 30
2016-17 cap hit: $3,100,000
Hanzal is injury prone but possesses great size and two-way acumen. He’d make for an OK No. 2 center and a championship-caliber No. 3 center with an organization chasing a Cup.
5. JOE THORNTON, C, 37
2016-17 cap hit: $6,750,000
Still a masterful two-way center and puck distributor. But how long will he take to recover from ACL and MCL tears? For that reason, he’s more likely to remain in San Jose than head to L.A., as has been rumored.
6. JUSTIN WILLIAMS, RW, 35
2016-17 cap hit: $3,250,000
Remains a steady secondary scorer, and he continues adding to his legacy as a clutch playoff performer.
7. RADIM VRBATA, RW, 36
2016-17 cap hit: $1,000,000
Still producing in his mid-30s. Wants to keep playing and has expressed interest in returning to the Coyotes.
8. PATRICK MARLEAU, LW, 37
2016-17 cap hit: $6,666,667
If he doesn’t finish his career as a lifetime Shark, look for him to sign with another California team and not uproot his family. He seems more likely to depart than Thornton, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them stay together.
9. ANDREI MARKOV D, 38
2016-17 cap hit: $5,750,000
Just keeps producing impressive offense as he creeps toward his 40s. Wants to stay in Montreal, which would require a discount but seems likely to happen. Is Marc Bergevin willing to give Markov term, though? Maybe a run at Alzner would make more sense.
10. JAROMIR JAGR, RW, 45
2016-17 cap hit: $4,000,000
Jagr claims he wants to play until he’s 50. Will he make it? Still durable and can play on a scoring line. No denying he makes Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov better in Florida.