More NHL teams are locking up key players before free agency even gets close, making this one of the weaker unrestricted pools in recent history. That said, there are still some catches to be had, so here's a look at the top 10 free agents available:
Previous cap hit: US$3.75M
Skinny: A No. 1 centre with the Arizona Coyotes, Vermette eventually found his niche on the Chicago Blackhawks' third line and scored key goals on the way to the Stanley Cup. Vermette can score, win faceoffs and defend, making him the top centre on the market.
Previous cap hit: US$3.65M
Skinny: "Mr. Game 7" has thrived in the playoffs for the Carolina Hurricanes and Los Angeles Kings, winning the Cup three times in the process. He's the perfect addition for a contending team that needs a top-six winger and someone who's been there late in the playoffs.
Previous cap hit: US$6.08M
Skinny: Once a Norris Trophy finalist and the only defenceman since the 2004-05 lockout to score 30 goals in a season, Green fell out of the top four with the Washington Capitals this past season. A change of scenery could get him back producing like a top player.
Previous cap hit: US$2.75M
Skinny: Ramo probably has the chops to be a starter somewhere, but his options have dried up because of trades.
Previous cap hit: US$1.35M
Skinny: Beleskey doubled his career high in goals with 22 this past season for the Anaheim Ducks, who weren't willing to meet his contract expectations. Eight playoff games also raised the big winger's value, and someone will give him well over $4 million a year.
Previous cap hit: US$4M
Skinny: The veteran leaves the Pittsburgh Penguins after one injury-plagued season, so the question is how much he has left in the tank. If he can get back to previous form, Ehrhoff is a legitimate left-shooting top-four defenceman worthy of a few years on a new deal.
Previous cap hit: US$2.75M
Skinny: Sekera's career-high 44-point season in 2013-14 with the Carolina Hurricanes made him a prime deadline pickup for the Los Angeles Kings. They're cap-strapped, so another team will get a solid top-four offensive defenceman out of free agency.
Previous cap hit: US$3M
Skinny: If Beleskey is the new Ward — a power winger who piles up goals in the playoffs — then the original might be a team's second choice. Ward would love term and should get a raise from his expiring deal with the Washington Capitals after a strong post-season.
Previous cap hit: US$3.3M
Skinny: The versatile winger has put up 40 points four times in his career, including the past two seasons with the Winnipeg Jets. He's a second- or third-liner who can also kill penalties and at 27 is among the youngest unrestricted free agents.
Previous cap hit: US$3.38M
Skinny: One of four Chicago Blackhawks defencemen to play major minutes on the Stanley Cup run, Oduya is a salary-cap casualty. He'd make any playoff team's top four better and is a good veteran whose stability might go under-appreciated.
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