The summer is typically not the best time to spend big, but NHL general managers might be convinced otherwise when the 2021-22 season wraps up. Quietly, it’s a very impressive list of free agents looking to cash in after one of the highest-scoring seasons on record in the salary cap era.
That extra $1 million on the salary cap? Yeah, that likely won't last long.
Here are the top pending free agents in the NHL in 2022:
1) Johnny Gaudreau
The Calgary Flames front-liner and MVP candidate will be coming off his most productive season, hitting triple-digit points for the first time and anchoring arguably the No. 1 line in hockey. It would be a shame if he left the Flames, but whispers of a return to the East Coast have always been there.
2) Patrice Bergeron
Though technically a pending unrestricted free agent, Bergeron will not function like one. It will either be the Bruins or retirement, most likely, for the future Hall of Fame centre, who showed in 2021-22 that he still has plenty of game left.
3) Marc-Andre Fleury
Like Bergeron, Fleury could walk away, too. He could also use his unrestricted status to choose one last spot for a championship run. Just one season separated from a Vezina Trophy, Fleury could be an enormous and low-risk addition for a contender.
4) Filip Forsberg
Forsberg will force either the Predators or another team to pony up, having contributed well over a point per game and reaching career highs in goals and points in 2021-22.
5) Evgeni Malkin
Malkin has had some less-than-stellar regular seasons of late, but can still score at a point-per-game pace. It’s very possible — even likely — that Malkin moves on from Pittsburgh after 16 seasons.
6) Nazem Kadri
Kadri slowed after starting on a triple-digit pace, but will leave little cash on the table after setting career highs in assists and points.
7) Kris Letang
Another Penguins legend likely on the way out, Letang will attract plenty of interest following one of his most productive seasons in Pittsburgh.
8) John Klingberg
Klingberg will run out the string on his seven-year contract with the Stars despite an evidently deteriorating relationship. He still has the chance to cash in having yet to turn 30.
9) Bryan Rust
Rust will be looking to maximize his earning potential having yet to cash in on his success and production. He would have 30-goal campaigns in each of his last three years if it weren’t for injuries and shortened seasons impacting his prime.
10) Claude Giroux
It will be interesting to see what Giroux’s priorities will be this summer. Is it another chance to win? Is it to pad the career earnings? Is it to play close to home?
11) Darcy Kuemper
It never seemed like a particularly dominant season, but the friendly confines of Colorado have helped Kuemper post some really solid numbers. Undoubtedly he’s managed to grow into the season and will surely have the opportunity to broker a lucrative long-term agreement.
12) Vincent Trochek
Just a really solid second-line player. Is it enough to earn a raise on his current $4.75 million salary?
13) Ville Husso
Emerging this season, Husso has some of the best numbers league-wide at the goaltending position. Is there a team willing to invest big on a goaltender without a proven long-term track record?
14) Evander Kane
Big talent, big ol' red flags. Kane has been a strong addition for the Oilers, perhaps as expected. Do they risk extending that partnership when it has soured at every stop so far for the veteran?
15) Andre Burakovsky
Burakovsky has earned at a rate that maybe exceeds his production, but still hasn’t been able to nail down a long-term deal after signing one- and two-year deals so far in Colorado.
16) Ben Chiarot
Chiarot is one of the more polarizing players league-wide after a dominant showing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and some brutal numbers compiled in regular-season action. The opportunity to cash in is there on a Florida team looking to make a deep run.
17) Valeri Nichushkin
Nichushkin is having an outstanding season from an underlying perspective, helping drive two-way play for the Avalanche. He won’t be without options in free agency.
18) Josh Manson
Mirroring Chiarot, a change in scenery and a deep postseason run could do wonders for his earning potential. Manson will command interest anyway, as a legitimate right-shot top-four defender.
19) Ryan Strome
Strome has found something with the Rangers that he couldn’t in stops with the Islanders and Oilers previously. It will be interesting to see how he handles free agency.
20) Ondrej Palat
Palat likely has to be the next body sacrificed in Tampa Bay — that is unless he’s willing to take a severe discount in order to stay.
21) Ilya Mikheyev
A dynamic two-way talent figuring out how to convert on his chances at the right time, Mikheyev seems to be looking for an opportunity to earn and play a role that might be slightly outside of his capabilities. That doesn’t mean he won’t be a solid addition.
22) Andrew Copp
Copp is a strong and versatile middle-six contributor who almost priced himself out of Winnipeg. He can tack more money onto his future earnings with a solid run in the postseason with the Rangers.
23) David Perron
A professional point-producer, Perron continues to deliver steady middle-six production. We’ll see what the market determines that's worth.
24) Reilly Smith
An original misfit, it appears Smith’s days are numbered in Vegas. He’s been a really solid - yet unspectacular - player for the franchise since its inception.
25) Jack Campbell
The Leafs netminder demonstrated early in the season that he could be dominant in short stretches, but still needs to prove he can handle the duties as a full-time NHL starter. A big postseason awaits.
26) Nino Niederreiter
It’s hard to imagine another team valuing Niederreiter more than Carolina will, given what he does for the team is largely unheralded.
27) Rickard Rakell
Rakell never seemed to hit his potential. There's no better chance to increase some market value by playing with Sidney Crosby in big games.
28) Mark Giordano
It’s been a ride for Giordano over the last calendar season. He exited the team he captained for many years for an expansion side, and was named captain there before being traded to his hometown team in Toronto. Priorities matter moving forward. Does he chase championships on bargain contracts? Does he look to go back to Calgary? Does he take the most money offered?
29) Mason Marchment
An awesome and surprising addition for the Panthers, Marchment ranks sixth in points per game among unrestricted free agents.
30) Calle Jarnkrok
If only he could use his price in the trade market to negotiate in the free market. Jarnkrok is playing out the string on one of the oddest contracts ever brokered, having earned $12 million on a six-year extension originally signed with the Nashville Predators. It’s time to cash in as much as possible.
Other UFAs: Phil Kessel, P.K. Subban, Alexander Radulov, Dustin Brown, Zach Aston-Reese, Justin Schultz, Calvin De Haan, Max Domi, Brett Kulak, Paul Stastny, Nick Paul, Ilya Lyubushkin, Chris Tierney, Tyler Motte, Nic Deslauriers, Ian Cole, Nikita Zadorov
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