For the first time since 2019, the NHL's annual free-agent market will open July 1 at noon ET.
On Dec. 23, we published our way-too-early rankings of the top players for the 2023 NHL free-agent market. With the annual trade deadline recently passed, it's time to revisit our listing.
Several notable players are no longer available after signing contract extensions. They include Boston Bruins winger David Pastrnak, Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin, New York Islanders center Bo Horvat, Dallas Stars forward Joe Pavelski and Vancouver Canucks winger Andrei Kuzmenko.
Nevertheless, a number of noteworthy stars remain unsigned. They include New York Rangers winger Patrick Kane, Toronto Maple Leafs center Ryan O'Reilly and Boston Bruins winger Tyler Bertuzzi.
The following is our revised look at this summer's top-15 unrestricted free agents. We've included a brief honorable mention list. Our assessment of each player is based on their previous and current performances.
Shayne Gostisbehere, Carolina Hurricanes: Gostisbehere is a proven puck-moving rearguard who recently reached the 35-point plateau for the sixth time in his nine-season NHL career. Clubs looking for offense from the blue line could turn to the 29-year-old "Ghost Bear."
Ryan Graves, New Jersey Devils: A big shutdown defenseman who can also chip in offensively, the 6'5", 220-pound Graves is among this season's plus/minus leaders with plus-28. The 27-year-old should draw attention from clubs seeking more defensive stability on their blue line.
Max Pacioretty, Carolina Hurricanes: A six-time 30-plus goal scorer, Pacioretty has been twice sidelined this season by a torn Achilles. It could create uncertainty regarding the 34-year-old left winger's future. He could still generate some interest if fully recovered by July 1.
Damon Severson, New Jersey Devils: The 28-year-old Severson spent most of his previous eight seasons as a top-four, puck-moving defenseman. However, he tumbled down the Devils' depth chart this year. That could affect his value in this summer's free-agent market.
James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers: A seven-time 20-plus goal scorer, the 6'3", 208-pound left winger has managed just nine goals and 24 points in 46 games this year. At 33, van Riemsdyk's best seasons are behind him. Still, he could garner some interest from clubs seeking an experienced, affordable middle-six forward.
15. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
The past three seasons have been difficult for Chicago's Jonathan Toews. The 34-year-old center missed the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season because of chronic immune response syndrome. Then 2021-22 saw him tally a career-low 37 points through a full season.
This year, he's been sidelined since Jan. 28 because of long-COVID symptoms.
Toews is among the greatest players in Chicago history. He captained the team to three Stanley Cups, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2009-10 and the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2012-13. He's earned his spot on this list, but his recent illnesses raise concerns over whether he'll continue his career.
Completing an eight-year, $84 million contract, Toews wouldn't get anything that lucrative even if he were healthy. He's given no indication if he intends to continue playing, either. If he does, it's uncertain if it'll be with a rebuilding club in Chicago or a playoff contender.
He'll turn 35 on April 29, making him eligible to sign a one-year, bonus-laden contract for next season. That type of deal would make him enticing to contenders interested in his leadership and two-way skills but who are leery about investing too much for too long in an aging star.