Following a massive first day of free agency late last month, not to mention several more signings since, it may seem that there aren’t many big-name free agents left on the market. Yet, quietly there is still and abundance of quality players left unsigned. This includes ten of PHR’s Top 50 UFA’s i.e. 20% of the players that we believed were the best available. It also includes another 13 players who played in 40+ games out of 56 this past season. There’s also Bobby Ryan, who was on pace for 22 points in 53 games before season-ending injury, which would have made him the highest scoring player still unsigned, and Artem Anisimov, whose nine points in 19 games is the second-best per-game mark among remaining UFA’s. With a nice round number of 25 top players still unsigned, which still ignores plenty of other capable NHLers, how many of these can be expected to play in the NHL next season? Time is running out and so are roster spots. Late-offseason signings are not impossible and a fair number of PTO’s are expected in camp this year, but realistically how many of these players will be able to land an NHL deal?
The top available name may also be the hardest to predict because his market is just one team and he isn’t ready to play. Future Hall of Fame goaltender Tuukka Rask (No. 14) remains a free agent and at 34 and recovering from major surgery it is fair to be skeptical that he will ever play again. The career Bruin reportedly will only play in Boston and recent comments by some of his teammates suggest that they expect him to do so at some point this year. But with Linus Ullmark signing a substantial contract to play alongside rookie sensation Jeremy Swayman, do the Bruins need Rask, especially coming in cold mid-season?
While Rask stands out as the only high-end goalie left available, the same cannot be said for forwards. Kyle Palmieri (No. 16), Tyler Bozak (No. 35), Casey Cizikas (No. 36), Zach Parise (No. 37), Nikita Gusev (No. 41), Alex Chiasson (No. 47), and Eric Staal (No. 48), as well as the aforementioned Ryan and Anisimov are all unsigned. Several of these names – Palmieri, Cizikas, Parise – have been linked to the New York Islanders, but no deals have been announced.