We’re just over a week removed from seeing the Colorado Avalanche hoist their third Stanley Cup in franchise history and now we flip the script to key offseason dates. After the NHL Draft on July 7th and 8th, free agency is set to begin on July 13th and the news and rumors are heating up. There’s no shortage of talent among this class of unrestricted free agents, with plenty of big-name players set to hit the crowded open market. The hockey world is set to be flipped on its head over the next couple of weeks as we hit one of the best dates on the NHL calendar.
Top 2022 NHL Unrestricted Free Agents
1. Johnny Gaudreau (Left Wing)
The Calgary Flames have a few decisions to make when it comes to their top players. They come into this season with some serious cap issues and players wanting a payday. One of them is fan favorite and captain Johnny Gaudreau, who had by far the best season of his career. He had a career-high in goals (40) and assists (75) and tallied 115 points, also a career-high. Gaudreau also had 14 points in 12 playoff games this past season. His performance earned him the honor of being on the NHL All-Star First Team. Calgary wants to bring him back but with their money issues, it’s a real possibility Johnny Hockey hits the market.
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2. Filip Forsberg (Center)
Heading into the offseason, the Nashville Predators were set on re-signing Filip Forsberg for the foreseeable future. The trade for Ryan McDonagh made it more clear that the Predators want the 27-year-old to return to try and contend next year and beyond. Like Gaudreau, Forsberg heads into free agency coming off his best season yet, also having a career-high in goals (42), assists (42), and points (84). There have been rumors that both sides haven’t been able to meet in the middle when it comes to the right deal but they are still in talks of trying to get it done.
3. Kris Letang (Defenseman)
It would be very hard to imagine Kris Letang wearing colors other than black and gold for the Pittsburgh Penguins but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. The 35-year-old veteran is still going strong, having one of the best seasons in his career in 2021-22, setting a career-high in assists (58) and points (68) while also netting 10 goals. That placed him 7th in the Norris Trophy voting. The Penguins have some salary cap issues to work through but Letang might be the safest to rejoin the team. If that’s not the case, he will have a big market for contending teams.
4. Nazem Kadri (Center)
Nazem Kadri played himself into a healthy contract as one of the best unrestricted free agents this offseason. He had a career year with 28 goals and 59 assists for 87 points. Kadri also had a postseason to remember, leading the Avalanche to their first Stanley Cup since 2001. In 16 playoff games, he found the back of the net seven times while tallying 8 assists. His numbers would probably be even better if he didn’t have to miss time due to suffering a thumb injury during the Western Conference Final. Colorado has a few key players to re-sign or replace so it’s very likely that Kadri finds a new team for the 2022-23 season.
"The number I hear starts at $8 and could go as high as $10 million" – @RealKyper
Teams mentioned by Kypreos/Friedman: Kraken, Bruins, Coyotes, Capitals, Flames (if Gaudreau leaves)
— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL News & Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) July 4, 2022
5. Evgeni Malkin (Center)
The Penguins have another longtime franchise player on the market and this time it’s at the center position. Evgeni Malkin has been a part of three championship teams alongside Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang in Pittsburgh. He’s been the core of this team for 16 years while tallying 444 goals and 702 assists in 981 games. Malkin has won the Calder Trophy, Art Ross Trophy twice, and the Hart Trophy along with a Conn Smythe.
Malkin has been injury-prone over the last two seasons but he can still make an impact on ice when healthy, scoring 20 goals and having 6 points in seven playoff games in the 2021-22 campaign. There’s no shortage of accolades for the soon to be 36-year-old but his time in Pittsburgh may be done if the two sides can’t come together soon.
Other Notable Unrestricted Free Agents
Ondrej Polat (Left/Right Wing)
John Klingberg (Defenseman)
Evander Kane (Left Wing)
Andre Burakovsky (Left Wing)
Claude Giroux (Right Wing/Center)
Darcy Kuemper (Goaltender)
Vincent Trocheck (Center/Right Wing)
Andrew Copp (Forward)
Jack Campbell (Goaltender)
David Perron (Right Wing)