The launch of the NHL free agent signing phase is less than a week away and already two of the biggest names have been taken off the list, thanks to Ilya Kovalchuk's signature with the Los Angeles Kings and defender John Carlson's resumption at the Washington Capitals.
That does not mean that on the 1st of July there are no first-class players ready to conquer the free market.
In This Issue of the PHT Power Rankings, We Take A Look At The Top 20 free agents have been made available, starting with what may possibly be one of the biggest UFAs released to the open market in recent history.
1. John Tavares, C – This is a breeze for the top of the list. Tavares is not only by far the best free agent this summer, he is one of the best players in the NHL. Whether he actually comes to the open market or not, remains to be seen. Usually players like him land where they are, and the New York Islanders still seem to be the favorite to get him back. But he has a long list of teams he talks to during the open interview phase, and he would help make each of them an instant contender.
[Related: Pros and cons for each team on John Tavares’ list]
2. James van Riemsdyk, LW ̵
3. Paul Stastny, C – Stastny was one of the most powerful players to change teams at the time of the close and will be a popular player on the open market. The Winnipeg Jets would love to keep it, but they have plenty to do under the salary cap to make it happen. He's going to be 33 years old this season, but he's still a remarkably consistent 20-goal, 50-point center, with strong possession numbers in recent years. He is not a center number one, but if he centers your second or third line, your team is in pretty good shape. Given the lack of depth on the free agent market after Tavares and van Riemsdyk, he is in a good position to get another big payday in his NHL career.
[Related: The Jets’ Paul Stastny problem]
4. Joe Thornton, C – This is a challenge. Big picture, Thornton is one of the best players ever and a truly dominant two-way center. A slam dunk hall of famer. I would argue that two years ago he should have won the Hart Trophy when the Sharks went to the Stanley Cup final. Now that he's only a few days away from his 39th birthday, his game has apparently dropped off that level and he's coming from a season shortened in 2017-18. The injury will be a problem. Age will be a problem. But here's the thing with Thornton: When he was healthy last season, he was still very good. He was in the lead in 82 games with 62 points, still riding at elite level and still impressing on the whole ice. He would have to be almost a one-year contract at this point, because anything else would probably be too great a risk, but he can still help someone. Health Allowed
5. James Neal, LW – Very similar to van Riemsdyk, only perhaps rather as productive. In the end, you'll get 25 goals and a striker who "plays with one edge." Edge means he's probably only one shift away from taking a bad punishment or doing anything that flirts with crossing the line into dirty territory. Good, productive player who has a deadly shot and will add an insult.
6. Rick Nash, LW – He had another difficult postseason in 2018, this time as a member of the Boston Bruins, but he is still a really good two-way player, in all phases of the game can help. He's probably just a 20-goal winger, but he can be a penalty shootout, possession and just a solid allround player. You can crack his playoff production in the last few years if you want – and you would not be wrong, that's what it is – but he's going to help a lot this year. (Nash uncertain about NHL return next season)
7. Mike Green, D – He is no longer a top pairing defender, but he can still help you to play your power and add some insult to the blue line. The downside: You have to assume that he will miss at least 10-15 games, and although he has never been as defensively defensive as his critics have always wanted to believe, he probably gives up a little more on the defensive than he once did. Now that Carlson has re-signed with the capitals, he's probably the most attractive option for a team that wants to improve his defense by a few points.
8. David Perron, LW – – Based on the way he played as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-2018, he would be one of the best players available this summer (and to be fair – he is still like this). But if you sign a free agent, do not sign it for what you did a year ago, sign it for what you will do for you this season. There is very little to say that Perron will copy his 66-point performance in 70 games. In other words, he's probably not as good as his regular season-point production from last season would suggest, and not as bad as his postseason fights (which means he's occasionally a healthy scratch).
9. Thomas Vanek, LW – Vanek has reached the point of his career where he has developed into a short-term pistol shooter in the past three seasons and in that time scored a 28-goal, 54-point – Tempo per 82 games.
10. Tyler Bozak, C – Bozak's career is an interesting one to look at. Initially he was considered a center that was He mostly ran only on Phil Kessel and only garnered points because he was next to an elite Goalkeeper played – that was also true, because his production outside of Kessel was hardly that of a quarter-liner, but in the past In recent years he has become a much better player and has even had some of him st years in the NHL in the last two seasons.
11. Calvin de Haan, D – He was only 33 games for the Islanders last season. Do not expect much attack from him, but he is a reliable defensive player who can pull the puck out of his zone and be a consistent defender.
12. Carter Hutton, G – The free-agent Goalie market is incredibly thin, but Hutton will probably get the most attention. He was great for the blues in limited work this season and finished with a League Best .931 save percentage. That's the good news. The questionable news is that he only played in 32 games. The other question mark: He is 33 years old this season and we still do not know how good he actually is that he has played only 138 games in the NHL.
13. Robin Lehner, G – Lehner was admitted to the open market when the Buffalo Sabers decided not to offer him a contract as a restricted free agent. Could be a good candidate for a team that needs goalkeeping assistance. He comes from a brutal 2017-18 season for the Sabers, but in his first two years with the team he was pretty good while playing behind a terrible team.
14. Patrick Maroon, LW – Maroon is a type of player who can appeal to both old-school hockey types and analysts. He is a big, physical player who also publishes consistently strong ownership and pretty good second-line productions. He's unlikely to repeat his two-year-old 27-goal stint in Edmonton two years ago (and he did not in the past season), but he still managed to score more points in fewer games in 2017-18.
15th Ian Cole, D – Cole played quite a role in two Stanley Cup winning teams in Pittsburgh, but that probably overestimated him more than anything else. He is a really good defender of the third pairing, a fearless shot-blocker and a solid though unspectacular player. If you meet those expectations, you will not be disappointed with what you get. If you expect him to change your defense significantly or anything else, you'll almost certainly wonder what happened.
16. Michael Grabner, RW – When the New York Rangers went into recovery mode last season and started selling their veterans, Grabner became one of the most sought-after players in the merchant market. There's a lot to like about what he brings to the table. He's one of the fastest players in hockey, scoring 27 goals each in the last two years and being able to take a penalty shootout. He's also likely to be a source of frustration because based on the number of outliers and inconsistencies he creates with his speed, you'll probably run away wondering how he did not score 35 or 40 goals.
17th Riley Nash, C – Nash was a good player for his entire career and was fortunate to have a career year (15 goals, 41 points) in a contract year for him. He has consistently posted strong numbers throughout his career, though his target this year is mainly due to a high percentage of shots, but there is reason to believe he can be a useful depth player.
18. Jonathan Bernier, G – While Nathan MacKinnon received much attention for the Colorado turnaround, one of the more underrated aspects was the simple fact that their goalkeeping situation was not a raging dumpster all year round. Bernier helped consolidate the position by appearing in half of the team's games and giving them on average a goalkeeping match, which he has done throughout his career. At this point, he is pretty much what he is; a solid veteran who can be a good backup or platoon partner with a different goalie who will take you through a season and fill in as a starter for longer periods of time.
19. John Moore, D – A thin crop of blue liners on the open market is likely to be beneficial for players like Moore. The Devils relied on him as top four defensemen for the past three years, including for more than 20 minutes per night in 2017-18. He was solid in that role, but is probably best served as a third-party pairing defender.
20. Derek Ryan, C – Ryan did not make his NHL debut until he was 29, but he has managed to make a good career for himself. His underlying numbers are enormous (he was a 57 percent Corsi player this season for the Carolina Hurricanes) and he has scored 26 goals in the last two seasons, including 15 in the past season.
More NHL Free Agency :
• Ilya Kovalchuk, Kings agree terms for three-year contract
• John Carlson receives 64-million-dollar figure as capitals lock defenders
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk at NBC Sports . Write him a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz .