The Top 30 Unrestricted Free Agents of 2020

The 2020 market lacks the flash of last year's but still offers some marquee names at every position—and tremendous depth.
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Is the off-season upon us right now or still many months away? We won’t know until the NHL confirms whether it will resume the 2019-20 season. If that happens, we’ll see a summer post-season, and free agency won’t arrive until the fall. If the COVID-19 risk continues to prove too great, however, and this season gets cancelled, free agency should arrive at or close to its traditional summer date of July 1.

So how does the 2019 class look? Not overly sexy compared to the summer of John Tavares followed by the summer of Artemi Panarin, especially when a few of the top 2020 UFAs, most notably Nicklas Backstrom and Chris Kreider, have re-upped with their teams before going to market.

The remaining group includes one legitimate marquee forward, two true stud defensemen, a litany of top-four blueliners, a bunch of veteran goalie options and some middle-six forwards.

Ages listed as of July 1, 2020.

Alex Pietrangelo

1. ALEX PIETRANGELO, D, 30
2019-20 cap hit: $6,500,000

He’s a big, rangy, skilled leader with a Stanley Cup ring. He still defends at an elite level. He’d already set a career high with 16 goals and was three away from beating his personal-best point total of 54 when the NHL shutdown halted his progress with 11 games to go. His next contract may not look the prettiest in its final few years, but whichever team signs him can just decide to worry about that time when it comes. He’s a difference-maker in the short term. Do the Blues retain him? It may depend on what the salary cap projects to be next season, as he should command something in the Roman Josi range of $9 million-plus.

2. TAYLOR HALL, LW, 28
2019-20 cap hit: $6,000,000

A near lock to go to market, which simply does not happen for Hart-Trophy winners still in their 20s, so Hall’s free agency will be a significant event. He should command between $9 million and $10 million annually across a max term. He may not have increased his value as a Coyote, but he didn’t decrease it.

3. TOREY KRUG, D, 29
2019-20 cap hit: $5,250,000

More than just a power-play maven. Size doesn’t hinder his defensive effectiveness as much in today’s game, and he plays with feistiness. Could easily end up the top UFA ‘D’ prize should Pietrangelo re-sign. If Krug leaves Boston, the pull toward his beloved childhood team in Detroit should be strong.

4. MIKE HOFFMAN, LW, 30
2019-20 cap hit: $5,187,500

Ranks 16th in goals since 2014-15, his first full NHL season. Bloomed late, so he’s older than a lot of people realize, but he hasn’t lost his wheels yet. A great complementary asset.

5. TYSON BARRIE, D, 28
2019-20 cap hit: $5,500,000

When the Leafs replaced coach Mike Babcock with Sheldon Keefe, it saved Barrie’s season – and wallet. As a right-shot with excellent power-play acumen, he’ll have a long list of suitors.

6. EVGENII DADONOV, RW, 31
2019-20 cap hit: $4,000,000

Why don’t we talk about him more? Since returning to NHL for 2017-18, he’s 11th in scoring among right wingers, between Patrik Laine and Alexander Radulov. The Panthers will have to offer a significant raise to keep Dadonov.

7. ROBIN LEHNER, G, 28
2019-20 cap hit: $5,000,000

Proved 2018-19 wasn’t a fluke, which made sense given he first entered the NHL as an elite-tier prospect. Had to sign another prove-it deal last summer, but he’s earned a longer-term pact now. Would’ve been nice to see him get more than three games in as a Golden Knight.

8. TYLER TOFFOLI, RW, 28
2019-20 cap hit: $4,600,000

A trade to Vancouver finally gave Toffoli a chance to play in a less defense-oriented system, and the results probably earned him an extra million on his next contract. He ripped off six goals and 10 points in 10 games, teasing at what he might do if he lands in a good situation with a talented playmaking center.

9. BRADEN HOLTBY, G, 30
2019-20 cap hit: $6,100,000

Holtby does have a Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup, but his numbers have declined the past few seasons, so it’s difficult to imagine him matching the Sergei Bobrovsky contract of seven years and $70 million. With Ilya Samsonov arriving and looking like a future NHL star, the Capitals wisely used their UFA money to keep Backstrom, increasingly the likelihood that Holtby walks.

10. SAMI VATANEN, D, 29
2019-20 cap hit: $4,875,000

Has a heck of a time staying healthy – a 60-game season qualifies as a win with him – but moves the puck and can work a power play. Right-handedness will net him some extra bucks.

11. JACOB MARKSTROM, G, 30
2019-20 cap hit: $3,666,667

It appeared Markstrom had settled into a solid career as a stopgap starter who could consistently deliver good-but-not-great years, but this season he finally showed the ability that made him the game’s top goaltending prospect a decade ago. Instead of being courted as 1B or luxury backup, he might have earned himself a look as a starter going forward.

12. T.J. BRODIE, D, 30
2019-20 cap hit: $4,650,400

Not flashy, but he’s a mobile top-four type who moves the puck pretty well and, as a lefty, functions best on the right side. Optimal to pair him with a top-end No. 1, however, as he has struggled at times when not skating with Mark Giordano in Calgary.

13. MIKAEL GRANLUND, LW, 28
2019-20 cap hit: $5,750,000

It didn’t work out in Nashville, but Granlund is young enough to recapture his scoring touch in the right situation. Just a couple years removed being one of the game’s most dynamic young players. He came alive with seven goals in February.

14. JAROSLAV HALAK, G, 35
2019-20 cap hit: $2,750,000

Best envisioned for the exact role he occupies in Boston now: super-backup who plays more than the average No. 2 to keep the No. 1 fresh. Also, if your No. 1 gets hurt and you have Halak as a safety net, you barely miss a beat.

15. KEVIN SHATTENKIRK, D, 31
2019-20 cap hit: $1,750,000

Was better than his Ranger numbers indicated, making him less of a gamble than it may have seemed when Tampa signed him. Not surprisingly, he got his production back on track – just in time for another pay day.

16. ERIK GUSTAFSSON, D, 28
2019-20 cap hit: $1,200,000

Monster 2018-19 was clearly an anomaly. In a way, seeing his offensive production almost halved makes him more of a bargain. He can move the puck, and you no longer have to pay the premium of a 60-point defenseman.

17. BRENDEN DILLON, D, 29
2019-20 cap hit: $3,270,000

A throwback who defends with his big body and doesn’t get too cute with the puck. He’s also mobile enough that he can play alongside elite rushers, like Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson in San Jose and John Carlson in Washington.

18. ILYA KOVALCHUK, RW, 37
2019-20 cap hit: $700,000

He had little left in the tank as a King. But as a Hab, before being sent to the Capitals as a deadline rental, Kovalchuk was rejuvenated. He had the time of his life there. It’s debatable whether it makes sense from Montreal’s perspective to bring him back, but it would be fun to watch.

19. TRAVIS HAMONIC, D, 29
2019-20 cap hit: 3,857,143

Perpetually nicked up but plays a simple game that could stabilize a team’s middle pair or, ideally at this stage of his career, third pair. He’s a beloved teammate.

ERIK HAULA

20. ERIK HAULA, C, 29
2019-20 cap hit: $2,750,000

He’s a valuable two-way pivot with underrated goal-scoring skills when he’s on the ice. Might come at a discount because of the all the knee troubles he’s endured.

21. JUSTIN SCHULTZ, D, 29
2019-20 cap hit: $5,500,000

Schultz underwhelmed offensively in his contract year. But potential suitors should be encouraged that his most productive stretches as a Penguin came when Kris Letang was out long-term and Schultz was forced into a bigger role. Schultz finished 10th in the 2016-17 Norris vote when Letang missed half the season.

22. DYLAN DEMELO, D, 27
2019-20 cap hit; $900,000

Far from flashy, but DeMelo was a quietly effective defensive defenseman on a bad Ottawa team, to the point he became a tradable rental asset at the deadline. He’s been perceived as more of a sixth or seventh defenseman, but he can handle himself on a middle pair.

23. RADKO GUDAS, D, 30
2019-20 cap hit: $3,350,000

He’s a throwback, physical to the point he often crosses the line, and he offers little offense – but he’s not a statue out there, either. Brings nastiness to a bottom pair but is mobile enough that he’s not a liability.

24. THOMAS GREISS, G, 34
2019-20 cap hit: $3,333,333

Even if he hasn’t shown he can be a 60-game starter, he’s been quite good in a 1B role the past couple years. In this era of load management, that’s useful. Was terrible after the all-star break this year, but it was a small sample size.

25. CRAIG SMITH, RW, 30
2019-20 cap hit: $4,250,000

A great skater who shoots the puck a ton, gets around 20 goals every year and can augment most teams’ middle-six forward groups.

26. JASON SPEZZA, C, 37
2019-20 cap hit: $700,000

Mike Babcock was way off. With him out of the way, Spezza showed he has good hockey left in him. Among 531 skaters who logged at least 500 minutes at 5-on-5 this year, he ranked 28 in first assists per 60. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him re-sign with his hometown team in Toronto on another one-year deal.

27. CHRIS TANEV, D, 30
2019-20 cap hit: $4,450,000

Defensive D-man sacrifices his body a lot, and it’s taken a toll on him. Even if his value peaked a few years ago, however, he can still help most teams in a depth-pair shutdown role.

28.JUSTIN WILLIAMS, RW, 38
2019-20 cap hit: $700,000

He’s played well enough to rank higher on this list – eight goals in 20 games as a 38-year-old joining a team midway through a season! – but there’s no guarantee he returns.

29. ZDENO CHARA, D, 43
2019-20 cap hit: $2,000,000

He’s approaching the Chris Chelios Years. But, like Chelios, Chara is Hall-of-Fame-level special. If anyone has the fitness and motivation to return for an age-44 season, it’s Chara. You could make a case a cancelled 2019-20 would increase Z’s odds of returning. He’d want one more crack at the Cup.

30. MARK BOROWIECKI, D, 30
2019-20 cap hit: $1,200,000

He’ll never duplicate his seven-goal effort again. The bruiser scored on 11.1 percent of his shots, which is absurdly lucky for a defenseman. But even if he isn’t scoring, he’ll attract offers because of his extreme bodycheck output and leadership.

Other 2020 UFAs to watch: Justin Braun, Alex Galchenyuk, Josh Leivo, Joe Thornton, Derick Brassard, Vladislav Namestnikov, Brian Boyle, Ryan Reaves, Joel Edmundson, Andy Greene, Mikko Koivu, Conor Sheary, Marco Scandella, Corey Crawford, Patrick Maroon, Tyler Ennis, Carl Soderberg, Wayne Simmonds, Anton Khudobin, Cody Eakin, Ron Hainsey, Michael Frolik, Jesper Fast, Jimmy Howard, Jay Bouwmeester, Craig Anderson, Mike Smith, Corey Perry, Rocco Grimaldi, Zach Bogosian, Jimmy Vesey, Cam Talbot, Mike Green, Andrej Sekera, Patrick Marleau, Melker Karlsson, Jesper Fast, Kyle Clifford, Jon Merrill, Deryk Engelland, Nathan Beaulieu, Ryan Miller, Julius Nattinen, Dmitrij Jaskin, Pius Suter, Mikhail Grigorenko, Artyom Zub

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