This year’s free agent class doesn’t compare with the star power available during last summer’s frenzy, but there are still players who could make an impact. However, you will find a common thread among this year’s free agents: they are mostly older, veteran types who, statistically speaking, should only have another year or two of solid production.
Two members of the Washington Capitals, Kevin Shattenkirk and Justin Williams, feature prominently in the group with a third, defenseman Karl Alzner, figuring to garner a high amount of interest. A fourth, T.J. Oshie, was taken off the market on Friday after he inked an eight-year, $46 million deal to remain in the nation’s capital.
Here’s a look at the top 50 free agents (ages as of Feb. 1, 2017). Rankings are determined by age-adjusted production projections using both traditional (goals, assists, points, ice time and save percentage, if applicable) and advanced stats (shot percentage, point shares, etc.) for the 2017-18 season, and then comparing that to what is available in free agency. Forwards are compared to other players at their position, so a skater playing right wing would not be compared to centers, nor would he be compared to a defenseman.
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1. Kevin Shattenkirk, D, 28 years old, $4.25 million cap hit in 2016-17
His 56 points last season were the fourth-most among blue liners with almost half (24) coming on the power play. Add in he skates over 20 minutes a night and it is easy to see why this 28-year-old right-handed defenseman is going to be the most sought-after free agent on the market.
2. Joe Thornton, C, 37, $6.75 million
Thornton is slowing down, but he still plays a steady 18 minutes per game with enough two-way play to impress: the Sharks saw 53 percent of all even-strength shot attempts in their favor with Thornton on the ice — and that’s after adjusting for zone starts. Only 10 other centers were as good skating at least as many minutes.
The only question is how long will it take for him to recover from the anterior cruciate ligament and MCL tears he disclosed after the team’s first-round playoff loss against the Edmonton Oilers.
3. Alexander Radulov, RW, 30, $5.75 million
The Montreal Canadiens took a risk when they signed the former first-round pick fresh off a stint in the KHL and they were rewarded with a 54-point season. Now other teams will take notice of Radulov’s effect on his teammates.
With the 30-year-old Russian on the ice, the team scored 3.7 goals per 60 minutes. But those same linemates scored just 2.5 per 60 without him.
4. Justin Williams, RW, 35, $3.25 million
A steady secondary scorer, Williams scored more points per 60 minutes at even strength (2.24) last season than Alex Ovechkin (2.17) and added to his legacy as a clutch performer after scoring nine points in the playoffs.
5. Patrick Marleau, LW, 37, $6.67 million
He has scored 52 goals over the past two seasons, including 27 in 2016-17, with 17 of those coming off deflections, tip-ins, wraparounds or off his backhand.
6. Jaromir Jagr, RW, 45, $4 million
Jagr jokes he wants to play until he’s 50, and, at this point, it’s hard to doubt him. He played a full 82-game season for the Florida Panthers last season, scoring 16 goals with 30 assists. Fourteen of those points came skating alongside Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, a trio that also put 56 percent of even-strength shot attempts in the team’s favor. That dropped to 48 percent without Jagr on the ice.
7. Andrei Markov, D, 38, $5.75 million
Markov, even approaching 40 years old, can still clear a crease. With him on the ice, the Montreal Canadiens allowed just 1.51 goals per 60 minutes after adjusting for score effects and special teams, significantly lower than they did with him on the bench (2.29).
8. Thomas Vanek, LW, 33, $1.5 million
Vanek is coming off a 48-point season with 11 of those points either goals or primary assists on the power play. During his time with the Detroit Red Wings (he was traded to Florida in March) he clearly helped the team create traffic and quality shots in front of the net.
9. Karl Alzner, D, 28, $2.8 million
The value of a stay-at-home defenseman is waning, but there is no denying Alzner, when healthy, can skate big minutes against top competition.
He led the team in penalty-kill minutes — 250, 27 minutes more than forward Jay Beagle, who had the second-most on the team — while on the ice for the third-lowest goals against per 60 minutes in the league (4.57) among defenseman playing at least 200 minutes shorthanded last season.
10. Steve Mason, G, 29, $4.1 million
His latest campaign was his first since 2012-13 with a below-average save percentage but he finished strong with a .927 save percentage over his last 20 starts of the season.
11. Radim Vrbata, RW, 36, $1 million
Vrbata had a hand in 82.5 percent of the even-strength goals scored by the Arizona Coyotes when he was on the ice last season, the seventh-highest share among forwards playing at least 1,000 minutes. The league’s most valuable player, Connor McDavid, was right behind him at No. 8.
12. Sam Gagner, C, 27, $650,000
The former first-round pick in the 2007 draft has bounced around the past few seasons but had a resurgence with the Columbus Blue Jackets, scoring 18 points with 32 assists in 2016-17, setting a career high in points scored.
He should have had even more. Based on shot location, his plus/minus should have been plus-15, five points higher than his actual plus/minus by season’s end (plus-10).
13. Ryan Miller, G, 36, $6 million
Miller isn’t the same netminder that won the Vezina Trophy in 2009-10, but his league-average save percentage (.914) for the Vancouver Canucks was achieved despite facing the third-most shots against per 60 minutes (32.4). Only Buffalo’s Robin Lehner (33.7) and Arizona’s Mike Smith (34.1) were tasked with a harder workload in 2016-17 among goaltenders playing at least 3,000 minutes.
14. Kris Versteeg, LW, 31, $950,000
Versteeg completed his fourth straight season with double-digit goals and almost matched a career high for points-scored on the power play (14, one less than 2008-09). He would help any team looking to increase its shot volume on the power play — he ranked 18th among forwards for unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes with the man advantage (22.4) last season, with a majority coming from just above the right faceoff dot.
15. Trevor Daley, D, 33, $3.3 million
The two-time Stanley Cup winning blue-liner scored 19 points last season skating over 20 minutes a night, with time on both the power play (1 minute and 38 seconds per game) and on the penalty kill (2 minutes and 22 seconds per game).
16. Brian Elliott, G, 32, $2.5 million
Elliott ended on a low note in Calgary — his .910 save percentage was his lowest since the 2012-13 season — but he is just one year removed from leading the league in save percentage, a feat he has accomplished twice in this nine-year career.
The good news is he improved dramatically in the second-half of the season, improving his save percentage from a woeful .892 before the all-star break to an above-average .924 over the 25 games after.
|Before the all-star break||24||9||12||2||0.892|
|After the all-star break||25||17||6||1||0.924|
17. Dennis Wideman, D, 34, $5.25 million
It’s easy to discount Wideman’s value based on last season — he had a career low 18 points, one fewer than last season — but there was some bad luck involved. Based on shot location, his plus/minus should have been positive (plus-1) rather than his actual minus-6.
18. Mike Condon, G, 27, $580,000
Condon isn’t a star (.914 save percentage in 38 starts last season) but he is young enough for optimism about future improvement. Since 2005-06, there have been just two other netminders in addition to Condon that have played 90 or more games in their first two seasons with 40 or more quality starts (above-average save percentage in a game), former rookie of the year Steve Mason and former MVP Carey Price.
19. Cody Franson, D, 29, $3.33 million
Injuries limited the right-handed defenseman to 68 games last season for the Buffalo Sabres, but Franson should rebound from his 2016-17 campaign which saw him score on just two of his 82 even-strength shots on net (2.4 percent).
He’s also valuable on the penalty kill. In 56 shorthanded minutes he was on the ice for 80 shot attempts against per 60 minutes. That increased to 93 per 60 with him on the bench.
20. Patrick Sharp, LW, 35, $5.9 million
Sharp was limited to 48 games last season due to injury, but when healthy the three-time Cup winner can score. And it’s unlikely he will go without a power-play point again — his shot volume with the man advantage was higher in 2016-17 (14.3) than the year before (13.9), which resulted in six power-play goals.
21. Mike Fisher, C, 37, $4.4 million
The Nashville Predators captain scored 18 goals with 24 assists last season, and outscored opponents 5-0 when skating on a line with Auston Watson and Colton Sissons, roughly 3.7 goals per 60 minutes at even strength. When those two skated away from Fisher, they were on the ice for 1.7 and 1.8 goals per 60 minutes, respectively.
Fisher also finished the season with a team-high 6.1 points per 60 minutes on the power play.
22. Chris Kunitz, LW, 37, $3.85 million
The primary linemate of Sidney Crosby is coming off a season that saw him score nine goals in 71 games but his shots per game (1.9) remained steady when compared to his 17-goal campaign in 2015-16. Plus, he has been productive when skating without Crosby — Kunitz has been on the ice for 2.21 goals per game (1.8 per 60 is average for top-six skaters) with 52 percent of even-strength shot attempts in Pittsburgh’s favor over the last three years.
23. Martin Hanzal, C, 30, $3.1 million
Hanzal is injury prone but he took his highest rate of even-strength shot attempts (10.7 per 60) last season since 2012-13 and provided a net-front presence on the power play.
24. Jonathan Bernier, G, 28, $4.15 million
He had a good year for the Anaheim Ducks (.915 save percentage over 33 starts) but faced his lowest rate of shots against (25.2 per game) since the 2012-13 season.
25. Nick Bonino, C, 29, $1.9 million
The 29-year-old won his second Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins this season and would be a welcomed addition to any team looking to bolster their bottom six.
Bonino took more than a third (36.7) of his even-strength faceoffs in the defensive zone and tallied a point on over 76 percent of the goals scored while he was on the ice.
26. Michael Stone, D, 27, $4 million
27. Michael Del Zotto, D, 27, $3.88 million
28. Dan Girardi, D, 33, $5.5 million
29. Jared Cowen, D, 26, $3.1 million
30. Drew Stafford, RW, 31, $4.35 million
31. Roman Polak, D, 31, $2.25 million
32. Matt Hunwick, D, 32, $1.2 million
33. Brendan Smith, D, 28, $2.75 million
34. Daniel Winnik, C, 32, $2.25 million
35. Brian Boyle, C, 32, $2 million
36. Dmitry Kulikov, D, 26, $4.33 million
37. Dwight King, LW, 27, $1.95 million
38. Jordan Weal, C, 25, $0.65 million
39. Tyler Pitlick, RW, 25, $0.73 million
40. Tommy Wingels, RW, 29, $2.48 million
41. Brian Campbell, D, 38, $1.5 million
42. Francois Beauchemin, D, 37, $4.5 million
43. Mark Streit, D, 39, $2.5 million
44. Jiri Hudler, LW, 33, $2 million
45. Jarome Iginla, RW, 39, $2.67 million
46. Kyle Quincey, D, 31, $1.25 million
47. Shane Doan, RW, 40, $3.88 million
48. Mike Ribeiro, C, 37, $3.5 million
49. Ron Hainsey, D, 36, $2.83 million
50. Brian Gionta, RW, 38, $4.25 million