Yesterday we looked at numbers 6-10 on the top-10 unrestricted free agents that will be available on July 1st. With that here are the top five players who will be available to the highest taker this summer.
5. Mike Green: $6.250 million, Washington Capitals
There was a time when Green was considered one of the best defencemen in the NHL. He has since seen his production drop off, but he can still be very valuable to many teams. Back during the 2008-09 season Green had 31 goals and 73 points in 68 games. He followed that up the following season with 19 goals and 76 points in 75 games.
Since then his offensive numbers have dipped, with his highest point total since coming last season when he had 38 points. This year he has 27 points in 39 games and is on pace for 50 points, which would be the highest total in five years.
He averages 19:05 of ice-time a night and can be very valuable on the power play. He currently is making over $6 million with the Caps and with his drop in production over the years, his dollar number should drop, but his numbers are back on the rise. So, the right team might be able to grab the defender at a decent price and cash in on his career rebound.
4. Justin Williams: $3.050 million, Los Angeles Kings
The Kings are currently underachieving this season after winning their second Stanley Cup in three years. The team sits three points out of the final Wild Card Spot in the West and team’s struggles on the ice may also extend to the front office.
The team will see last year’s Conn Smythe Trophy winner become a free agent. The team would like to have him back, but with youngsters Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli becoming restricted free agents, and the team’s priority, it may be hard for the Kings to accommodate Williams.
The 33-year-old has 13 goals and 25 points in 46 games. These numbers aren’t great, but that is also because the winger has been playing on the team’s third line alongside Kyle Clifford and Jarret Stoll and has also been used on the team’s second power play unit.
Williams had 25 points in 26 games during the post season last year and showed to be very valuable when the games mattered. He is on pace for 43 points this year which would be the same total he had last season. Williams can still be very valuable even though he is coming towards the end of his career. He would be a great fit on a second line or a top-three spot given the right team.
3. Johnny Boychuck: $3.6 million, New York Islanders
One of the most valuable acquisitions in the NHL this off-season was Boychuck. The Islanders acquired the blueliner from the Boston Bruins in a deal that seemed to help both teams. Bruins cutting salary, while Islanders upgraded on defence, something they really needed.
This season the 31-year-old has four goals and 24 points in 37 games, which leads all Isles blueliners. His 24 points is already one point more than his career high, set last season. He is on pace to shatter that number with 45 points.
He has been very valuable to the Islanders, he plays an average of 21:48 a game while playing in all situations. The team has the 12th best power play in the league which Boychuck has helped to achieve, scoring all four of his goals with the extra man.
The Islanders made it clear earlier this season that they would prefer to sign Boychuck to an extension, but the Edmonton, AB native would prefer to wait till the end of the season to make a decision. He has been a big part of the Isles success and the team is currently first in the Eastern Conference. The success of the team could help sway his decision, but until then one must assume that the right-hander will hit the market this summer and could be a very good pickup.
2. Antti Niemi: $4 million, San Jose Sharks
Despite the Sharks always struggling in the playoffs, especially during their collapse to the Kings last year after taking a three games to none series lead, Niemi has been one of the more consistent players on the team. This year the Sharks are second in the Pacific Division and Niemi has been a big part of that going 19-11-5 in 35 games this season.
He has a .912 save percentage, a 2.57 goals against average, and three shutouts. His numbers are respectable, but are actually among the worst of his career. His save percentage is the lowest it has been since the 2009-10 season, which was his first full season in the NHL. Meanwhile his GAA is the lowest since the 2008-09 season where he played just three games for the Blackhawks.
Over his career Niemi has a winning percent of .571%, but the 31-year-old has still been rumoured to be on his way out of San Jose. Part of the reason being the emergence of young goaltender Alex Stalock, who despite having a 2.65 GAA and .905 SP in 13 games, looks like he could be the future of the Sharks. So Niemi could be a hot commodity and the biggest goaltender on the market come July.
1. Martin St. Louis: $5 million, New York Rangers
Last season following an initial omission from his own general manager Steve Yzerman, on the Team Canada Olympic roster, St. Louis’ time in Tampa Bay came to an end. He left as the franchise’s all-time leader in assists and points.
He joined the New York Rangers, but only had one goal and eight points in 20 games at the end of the season. However, he added 15 points in 25 games in the playoffs, including three game winning goals, on the road to the Rangers birth in the Stanley Cup finals.
This year St. Louis is second on the Rangers in scoring behind Rick Nash. The 39-year-old has 14 goals and 36 points in 45 games. He will hit the open market this summer, but after it was made public that St. Louis had asked for a trade to the Big Apple back in 2009 and rumours he requested the trade last year, one would think now that he would rather stay in New York. However, if another team can fancy a good offer they might be able to lure out the Laval, QC native who at his age can still be an offensive threat.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.