Top 15 Free Agents & Predictions

For me, free agency has always had a holiday-type impact. Every year, my family gathers at our lake house for the Fourth of July holiday. And every year, I’m the one sharing the latest hockey news with a family full of fans. Twitter and internet-connected cell phones have made sharing breaking news so much easier.

In 2008, my friend called to tell me that the Red Wings signed Marian Hossa and that he hated me. He eventually came to his senses and rooted for the Red Wings in the 2009 Finals.

Milan Lucic
Milan Lucic could be staying out west. (Photo By: Andy Martin Jr)

In 2011, I subscribed my Twitter account to deliver tweets from Bob McKenzie as text messages. I purposely left my phone in the center console of my car, only to find that I had 100+ text messages of signings and reactions after the two-hour drive was over.

This hockey holiday has been a personal holiday for years. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve always tried to predict where the top free agents land before the signings begin on July 1st. So here’s this year’s attempt.

Enjoy the holiday weekend. Merry free agency to all!


detroit red wings logo

1. Kyle Okposo | LW

Prediction: Detroit Red Wings

2015-16 Team: New York Islanders

2015-16 Stats: 79 GP – 22 G – 42 A – 64 PTS

Why: After missing out on Stamkos, the Red Wings will turn their attention to power forward Kyle Okposo, who will cost a few million less than the Lightning center. Okposo will add some much needed size and toughness around the net to the Red Wings’ undersized lineup.



2. Loui Eriksson | LW

Prediction: Vancouver Canucks

2015-16 Team: Boston Bruins

2015-16 Stats: 82 GP – 30 G – 33 A – 63 PTS

Why: Though his number may not back up a $6 million-plus per season contract, Loui Eriksson is a top player on the market and will be paid as such. Looking to make a splash and add offense to the lineup, Vancouver will pay premium dollars for the Swedish winger. Philadelphia, Boston, and Carolina will also make a push for Eriksson’s scoring services.


Loui Eriksson
Joining the Sedins in Vancouver would be an ideal fit for Loui Eriksson. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)


3. Frans Nielsen | C

Prediction: New York Islanders

2015-16 Team: New York Islanders

2015-16 Stats: 81 GP – 20 G – 32 A – 52 PTS

Why: When Okposo decides to leave the island, New York will meet the demands of their other top unrestricted free agent, who, from all accounts, wants to stay with the Islanders. Look for Frans Nielsen to sign a five-year, $30 million contract with the Islanders, who will ultimately outbid the Sabres, Stars, and Flyers.



4. Milan Lucic | LW

Prediction: Edmonton Oilers

2015-16 Team: Los Angeles Kings

2015-16 Stats: 81 GP – 20 G – 35 A – 55 PTS

Why: This deal will be a head scratcher for the hockey public. Sure, Milan Lucic has ties to Peter Chiarelli, Taylor Hall was just traded, and Edmonton needs a winner to help their young players mature. But, the Oilers will overpay Lucic. He’ll get a multi-year contract north of $6 million per year that will look ugly in the latter years of the deal.


St. Louis Blues Logo

5. David Backes | C

Prediction: St. Louis Blues

2015-16 Team: St. Louis Blues

2015-16 Stats: 79 GP – 21 G – 24 A – 45 PTS

Why: Even though it will cost the Blues quite a few dollars to re-sign their captain to a long-term contract, David Backes will remain a member of the only team he’s ever known. Teams like the Flyers and Wild will drive the price up a bit, but ultimately, Backes will sign a relatively team-friendly deal to stay in St. Louis.



6. Brian Campbell | D

Prediction: Chicago Blackhawks

2015-16 Team: Florida Panthers

2015-16 Stats: 82 GP – 6 G – 25 A – 31 PTS

Why: Now that Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski are off the market, Brian Campbell remains as the best defenseman available. Campbell is still an effective defenseman at this stage of his career and would solidify Chicago’s top-four defensemen. The Blackhawks do not have a lot of cap space, but will find a way to fit Campbell in under the cap on a one-year deal.


Philadelphia Flyers logo

7. Troy Brouwer | RW

Prediction: Philadelphia Flyers

2015-16 Team: St. Louis Blues

2015-16 Stats: 82 GP – 18 G – 21 A – 39 PTS

Why: Simply enough, Troy Brouwer fits Philadelphia hockey. He’s a physical forward that would mesh well with Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek in the top-six. So when Philadelphia strikes out with Okposo, Eriksson, and Lucic, they’ll turn to Brouwer and sign him to a lavish $5 million-plus per season contract.


Winnipeg Jets Logo

8. Andrew Ladd | LW

Prediction: Winnipeg Jets

2015-16 Team: Chicago Blackhawks

2015-16 Stats: 78 GP – 25 G – 21 A – 46 PTS

Why: Teams looking to add size to their lineup will have a few options, won’t they? With money to spend, the Jets will bring their former captain back home to Winnipeg. Andrew Ladd will get a nice raise to roughly $6 million per year, but will sign for only three or four years.


Andrew Ladd of the Winnipeg Jets will return as a free agent.
This familiar sight could re-appear in Winnipeg soon. (Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)


Toronto Maple Leafs Logo

9. Eric Staal | C

Prediction: Toronto Maple Leafs

2015-16 Team: New York Rangers

2015-16 Stats: 83 GP – 13 G – 26 A – 39 PTS

Why: With Stamkos off the market, the Leafs will turn to another veteran center to help Auston Matthews learn the ways of the NHL. As a former Stanley Cup winner, Staal will bring great locker room presence to a young Leafs team. Plus, he’ll only cost half as much as Stamkos signed for.



10. Jiri Hudler | LW

Prediction: San Jose Sharks

2015-16 Team: Florida Panthers

2015-16 Stats: 72 GP – 16 G – 30 A – 46 PTS

Why: After coming up short in this spring’s Stanley Cup Finals, the Sharks will sign Jiri Hudler to a short-term contract in an attempt to reach the Finals once more. Hudler’s easy-going attitude and winning past will help the Sharks improve during the regular season and capture the Pacific Division title.


11. Mikkel Boedker | RW

Prediction: Calgary Flames

2015-16 Team: Colorado Avalanche

2015-16 Stats: 80 GP – 17 G – 34 A – 51 PTS

Why: In the analytics community, Mikkel Boedker was not as good of a player as his stats would suggest. Nonetheless, NHL teams will be looking to make a splash, and with so few quality players available, Boedker will be of interest to teams that miss out on the top tier of players. Look for Boedker to sign a similar deal as Michal Frolik did with Calgary.


New Jersey Devils Logo

12. Lee Stempniak | RW

Prediction: New Jersey Devils

2015-16 Team: Boston Bruins

2015-16 Stats: 82 GP – 19 G – 32 A – 51 PTS

Why: Before being dealt to the Bruins at the trade deadline, Lee Stempniak put up a solid season with the New Jersey Devils. And now with Taylor Hall on board, the Devils will look to bring back Stempniak with a complementary role in mind. He’ll get a nice raise and return to a familiar system in New Jersey.


detroit red wings logo

13. Darren Helm | C

Prediction: Detroit Red Wings

2015-16 Team: Detroit Red Wings

2015-16 Stats: X GP – X G – X A – X PTS

Why: After Pittsburgh rode team speed all the way to the 2016 Stanley Cup, teams will covet Darren Helm for his incredible speed and never quit hustle on the ice. Helm can play all forward positions and play on special teams, but will return to the Red Wings now that they do not have $10 million set aside for the Stamkos unicorn and can afford to pay market price for the fan favorite.


Darren Helm
With Steven Stamkos re-signing in Tampa Bay, Detroit can reallocate some cap space to re-signing one of their own. (Icon SMI)


Stars Primary Logo

14. Jason Chimera | LW

Prediction: Dallas Stars

2015-16 Team: Washington Capitals

2015-16 Stats: X GP – X G – X A – X PTS

Why: Though a fan favorite in DC, the Capitals simply cannot afford to keep Jason Chimera, especially after a career 2015-16 season. Likely on his last big contract, the veteran speedster will head south to sign with the Dallas Stars. The Rangers, Hurricanes, and Predators will also covet Chimera’s services.


15. Radim Vrbata

Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins

2015-16 Team: Vancouver Canucks

2015-16 Stats: X GP – X G – X A – X PTS

Why: Vancouver’s Radim Vrbata went from being an all-star one year to mightily underperforming during the next season. What’s the remedy? Sign with the Stanley Cup champions for cheap, play alongside Sidney Crosby, score 30 goals, and sign one more big contract the following offseason.


Think some of these players will land on different teams? Comment below with you predictions.