Ted Kulfan’s top 25 NHL unrestricted free agents

Detroit News

Detroit — The first day of unrestricted free agency in the NHL is always fascinating, and Wednesday’s start to the period isn’t likely to disappoint.

Though many teams are up against the salary cap ceiling, unable to wiggle free from hard constraints, there are still going to be some rich contracts and eyebrow-raising paydays for certain players.

Whether they prove to be smart signings will remain to be seen.

But there will be key players who’ll shift around and change the balance of the NHL.

The Red Wings, still stuck in a rebuild. aren’t likely to be major players in this particular market.

For the elite players in this class (and there aren’t many), the Wings aren’t a current prime destination. Also, the Wings aren’t in position to get hamstrung to long, expensive contracts at this point.

But just like last year, don’t be surprised if general manager Steve Yzerman makes some deft, under-the-radar signings to continue his recent bolstering of a gradually improving lineup.

Around the NHL, though, it should be much busier and louder.

Here are 25 of the top unrestricted free agents expected to hit the free agent market:

1. Dougie Hamilton

Age: 28

Position: Defense

2020-21 salary cap hit (Carolina): $5.75 million

Analysis: Hamilton has played great hockey the last couple of years, and given some recent contracts handed out, he’ll do well this week. But you wonder whether he can be the piece for a team to win the Stanley Cup.

2. Gabriel Landeskog

Age: 28

Position: Left wing

2020-21 salary cap hit (Colorado): $5.57 million

Analysis: Hard to imagine Landeskog and the Avalanche not working out a deal, but negotiations have been rocky. Whoever signs him gets a character guy who blends well into a lineup. Though, Landeskog has it made playing with his current linemates.

3. Zach Hyman

Age: 29

Position: Left wing

2020-21 salary cap hit (Toronto): $2.25 million

Analysis: The Toronto native is evidently signed and delivered to Edmonton. For the money he’ll sign for, it’ll be a pressure situation.

4. Ryan Suter

Age: 36

Position: Defense

2020-21 salary cap hit (Minnesota): $7.54 million

Analysis: Bought out by Minnesota, Suter will have plenty of options. He’ll be a nice, likely inexpensive, acquisition for some lucky playoff contender.

5. Kyle Palmieri

Age: 30

Position: Right wing

2020-21 salary cap hit (N.Y. Islanders): $4.65 million

Analysis: A great trade deadline acquisition. Seems to be a great fit. But can the Islanders fit Palmieri under the cap?

6. Phillip Danault

Age: 28

Position: Center

2020-21 salary cap hit (Montreal): $3.08 million

Analysis: An interesting case study. Danault is a premier defensive, shutdown center. So, exactly how much is/will that be, worth?

7. Tyson Barrie

Age: 30

Position: Defense

2020-21 salary cap hit (Edmonton): $3.75 million

Analysis: Gambled on a one-year deal in Edmonton, and it was a good fit and situation. Can he work out a longer deal with the Oilers?

8. Jaden Schwartz

Age: 29

Position: Left wing

2020-21 salary cap hit (St. Louis): $5.35 million

Analysis: Expectations are Schwartz will sign with expansion Seattle and inject some offense into a lineup that looks to need it.

9. Zach Parise

Age: 36

Position: Left wing

2020-21 salary cap hit (Minnesota): $7.538 million

Analysis: After being bought out by the Wild, Parise likely is headed to the Islanders and his former boss, GM Lou Lamoriello.

10. Alec Martinez

Age: 34

Position: Defense

2020-21 salary cap hit (Vegas): $4 million

Analysis: The Golden Knights aren’t likely to lose this Rochester Hills native, an underrated pro.

11. Philipp Grubauer

Age: 29

Position: Goaltender

2020-21 salary cap hit (Colorado): $3.33 million

Analysis: Good goalie, and he might double his salary. But there aren’t a ton of options out there.

12. Tuukka Rask

Age: 34

Position: Goaltender

2020-21 salary cap hit (Boston): $7 million

Analysis: Will miss the start of the season due to knee surgery. Likely to return to Boston.

13. David Krejci

Age: 35

Position: Center

2020-21 salary cap hit (Boston): $7.25 million

Analysis: Tough to imagine Krejci anywhere but Boston. But for a lot less.

14. Mike Hoffman

Age: 31

Position: Left wing

2021 salary cap hit (St. Louis): $4 million

Analysis: Gambled on one year with the Blues, and had so-so season. With that shot, though, some team will sign him to term this time around.

15. Tomas Tatar

Age: 30

Position: Right wing

2020-21 salary cap hit (Montreal): $5.3 million

Analysis: The Red Wings might be interested, and he’d be a good addition. Smart, crafty player who is a good guy in the locker room.

16. Frederik Andersen

Age: 31

Position: Goaltender

2020-21 salary cap hit (Toronto): $5 million

Analysis: A few teams are looking for goaltending, and Andersen would fit the bill. But is he completely healthy?

17. Keith Yandle

Age: 34

Position: Defense

2020-21 salary cap hit (Florida): $6.35 million

Analysis: Playing for his hometown Boston Bruins would seem a likely destination at this point after being bought out by the Panthers.

18. Jonathan Bernier

Age: 32

Position: Goaltender

2020-21 salary cap hit (Detroit): $3 million

Analysis: The Wings traded his rights to Carolina, who desperately need veteran goaltending. Will they be able to work out a contract? Does Bernier want to play there?

19. David Savard

Age: 30

Position: Defense

2020-21 salary cap hit (Tampa Bay): $4.25 million.

Analysis: He won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning as a rental, and now could be going to the team Tampa defeated, the Montreal Canadiens.

20. Luke Glendening

Age: 32

Position: Center

2020-21 salary cap hit (Detroit): $1.8 million

Analysis: Glendening has attributes and skills that many teams would love to add, but it would be shocking if he’s not back with the Wings.

21. Blake Coleman

Age: 29

Position: Right wing

2020-21 salary cap hit (Tampa Bay): $1.8 million

Analysis: Would be a good fit with the Wings, and was coached by Jeff Blashill in junior. But with the term and salary Coleman could command on the market, it likely will not be with the Wings.

22. Nick Foligno

Age: 33

Position: Center/right wing

2020-21 salary cap hit (Toronto): $5.5 million

Analysis: This will be interesting. Foligno was acquired by Toronto at the deadline, and the Leafs are close to the cap ceiling. And Columbus doesn’t appear to be an option to return to anymore. This veteran’s options could be limited.

23. Sean Kuraly

Age: 28

Position: Center, left wing

2020-21 salary cap hit (Boston): $1.275 million

Analysis: Good, fourth-line fit with Bruins, but another team might be willing to pay significantly more.

24. Jon Merrill

Age: 29

Position: Defense

2020-21 salary cap hit (Montreal): $925,000

Analysis: The Red Wings traded Merrill at the deadline, and he did a good job in Montreal. The Canadiens might be willing to keep him at the right price.

25. Paul Stastny

Age: 35

Position: Center

2020-21 salary cap hit (Winnipeg): $6.5 million

Analysis: Would probably return to the Jets, even at a steep discount.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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