Top 5 NHL Forwards Remaining on the UFA Market

Most of the big names are off the board, but there's still some notable players left available on the UFA open market.
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USATSI_16014522

It was a busy first day of NHL free agency.

Over 160 players signed deals, marking a crazy start to an abbreviated summer. Even with the flat cap, teams weren't willing to mess around and while there weren't a ton of star talent this year, teams got aggressive to land the biggest fish as soon as they could.

With most of the big names off the board, there are mainly just secondary and depth guys left on the market. Whether you need someone to pinch in for 15 goals a year or a leader that can do something in the bottom six, there's some value to be found among the remaining crop of UFA forwards.

There are two players that won't be mentioned: Zach Parise and Kyle Palmieri. It's understood that if Krejci does return, he's sticking in Boston's top six. For the latter two, they've been linked to go the Islanders since July 28 and while the team looks to finish other contracts within the club, it's safe to say it's just a matter of time.

Here's a look at five UFAs still on the market:

Tomas Tatar, 30, LW 
Habs fans were hoping the team would use Tatar in the Stanley Cup final. Ultimately, he didn't look good in his five playoff games beforehand and didn't earn another chance. Tatar can be a true mystery. In a full season, he was on pace for 50 points despite a bit of a step back from his play the year prior when he had 61 points. His consistency can be an issue, but you can't ignore his play-making abilities. Tatar's 149 points in 198 games over the past three seasons is the most by a Canadiens forward by 25 points, so there's still something there. At around $4-million per season, Tatar can be a nice value pick for a team, but you need a good support system around him.

Nick Ritchie, LW, 25 
Ritchie wasn't qualified by the Bruins a decent 15-goal season, but he should land an NHL deal sooner rather than later. In a full season, Ritchie would have likely come close to 40 points, the best total of his career had it happened. He can be frustrating when he goes stretches without producing anything tangible, but 15-18 goals a year is definitely attainable and he did so on a Boston team that relied so heavily on its top line to score. If you need scoring depth, Ritchie can provide inexpensive help.

Derick Brassard, LW, 33 
What's next for Brassard, the sixth-overall pick by Columbus in 2006? Brassard has bounced around five teams in the past three seasons with limited success, but he's still a forward with nearly 1,000 games played and over 500 points accumulated. A full-season ask of 25-30 points isn't crazy even at this point in his career and is still a decent skater. Consistency has always plagued his career but teams seem to value his leadership, so we'll see what kind of deal he gets. 

Ryan Donato, LW, 25
Despite a promising start in Boston, Donato has seemingly struggled to find a permanent landing spot. Donato looked good to begin his career with nine points in 12 games with Boston and had 16 points in 22 games after his trade to the Wild in 2018-19. But since then, Donato has only posted 43 points in 102 games over the past two seasons and his value as a good scoring winger has diminished in a big way. But that's the type of low-risk, high-reward deal that can make a GM look smart. Clearly, he has the talent to score based on previous results and we can give him a bit of a break because of the poor team he played with in San Jose last year. But don't expect a big payday. A team needing someone to add some scoring depth to the middle-six could get him for cheap, but his consistency issues definitely raise concerns if you're spending a lot to bring him in.

Nikita Gusev, LW, 29
Gusev might be considered another failure over-hyped player to come out of the KHL, but he still isn't a total write-off just yet. Gusev had 44 points in 66 games as a rookie for a poor Devils team, but his shooting percentage dropped and he looked brutal at points near the end of his tenure in New Jersey. He played well for a few games in Florida to end the season but the team elected to let him go. Gusev can be a good playmaker, and his 31 assists in 2019-20 are a good indication. Gusev bounced around a variety of lines last season and never looked that comfortable, but bottom-six on a lousy team has a different feeling than bottom-six on a top team – especially when you made a career, both in the KHL and in international play, as a key offensive contributor. 

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