Take away center Brad Richards — and several teams would like to — and the NHL’s free-agent class is pretty thin. Though there are some useful players available, Richards is the only elite player on the market among unrestricted free agents.
Here’s a list of the top 10 players available. This doesn’t include restricted free agents, whose teams have a right to match any offer sheet they sign with another team.
Brad Richards: The playmaking center led Dallas in scoring with 28 goals and 77 points in 72 games, missing 10 because of a concussion. A Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe winner with Tampa Bay in 2004, he’s likely to get a deal with an average annual value of $6 million to $7 million.
Erik Cole: The veteran right wing had 26 goals and 52 points for Carolina in 82 games but played 57 games over the previous two seasons because of injury. Good size, at 6 feet 2 and 205 pounds. Could be useful almost anywhere.
Andrew Brunette: The dependable left wing has missed only three games the last nine seasons. He had 18 goals and 46 points for Minnesota but will be 38 in August.
Simon Gagne: He scored 17 goals each of the last two seasons for Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, down from the 34 he scored for the Flyers in 2008-09.
Teemu Selanne: There must be a fountain of youth in Finland because he had 31 goals and 80 points in 73 games at age 40. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last week, delaying a return/retire decision. If he plays, it will be for the Ducks.
Ed Jovanovski: He’s 35 and played only 50 games for Phoenix last season but had 14 points and was plus-4 defensively. In a year teams are throwing money around to reach the salary cap floor he could get a sizeable deal.
Tomas Kaberle: A disappointment in Boston after being traded from Toronto, he had 11 assists in the Bruins’ Cup run. He averaged only 16 minutes per game in the playoffs. On the positive side, he’s well-rested.
James Wisniewski: His 51 points ranked him second on the Canadiens, but he had a minus-14 rating. He’s physical and has a good shot from the point. Reportedly near an agreement with newly aggressive Columbus.
Tomas Vokoun: He had a fine season for Florida, with a 2.55 goals-against average and solid .922 save percentage. He’s the best available.
Ray Emery: Risky but potentially rewarding. He was 7-2-0 with a 2.28 goals-against average and .926 save percentage for the Ducks, who signed him after Jonas Hiller fell ill. Less than a year after major hip surgery he helped them reach the playoffs but pulled a groin muscle and wasn’t effective in postseason play. He’s only 28.