LIST OF FREE PLAYERS UP FOR TRANSFER THIS SEASON

Some years, when we look ahead to the biggest names set to hit unrestricted free agency, we’re fairly certain many of them will re-sign with their teams before going to market. Examining the top players available in 2020, a few stand out as unlikely to leave their teams, such as Alex Pietrangelo and Nicklas Backstrom, but the man at the top feels like a long shot to stay. Not only does Taylor Hall play for a New Jersey Devils team likely to miss the playoffs, making him a potential trade-deadline rental target, but he also employs Darren Ferris as his agent, and Ferris is known as a guy who takes his clients to market. That should make things very interesting for the Hall camp between now and the summer.

Here’s an early look at the top 30 UFAs for 2020. The class isn’t loaded with elite-tier talents, but it’s a deep group. I’ll update this list several times between now and July 1 and may add some UFAs from European leagues in the coming months if any project to be top-30 targets.

Ages listed as of July 1, 2020.

1. 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 at least $10 million annually across seven years.

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

He’s a big, rangy, skilled leader with a Stanley Cup ring and, though he turns 30 in January, he’s still defending at an elite level. 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. More likely to remain a Blue than not, however.

3. NICKLAS BACKSTROM, C, 32
2019-20 cap hit: $6,700,000

Has been so good for so long that he feels older than he is. Still has many useful years left, especially because he plays such a smart two-way game. Tough to imagine the Caps not re-signing him, though.

4. 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 before July 1.

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

Top-20 in goals since 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.

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

Is he still going to command a deal comparable to Sergei Bobrovsky’s? Holtby does have a Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup, but his numbers have declined the past few seasons. Given Washington has Ilya Samsonov positioned to take over as its starting goalie, it will likely choose Backstrom over Holtby.

7. 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. He still has several months to puff his trade value back up. As a right-shot with excellent power-play acumen, he’ll have a long list of suitors.

8. CHRIS KREIDER, LW, 29
2019-20 cap hit: $4,625,000

Enduring a bit of a down year but, because he mixes, size, physicality and speed with his goal-scoring, he’s effective in multiple ways. He seems like a final piece for a contender rather than a building block for a basement-dwelling team.

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

Proving 2018-19 wasn’t a fluke, which makes sense if we factor in his entire career, as 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. Will it be Chicago that gives it to him?

10. 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 Mark Stone and Patrik Laine. The Panthers will have to offer a significant raise to keep Dadonov.

11. JAKE MUZZIN, D, 31
2019-20 cap hit: $4,000,000

Muzzin isn’t elite at anything but he’s pretty good at everything and delivers thunderous hits. Time will tell how quickly his body will age in his 30s given his heavy game, but he’s undeniably one of the top UFA blueline options.

12. JEAN-GABRIEL PAGEAU, C, 27
2019-20 cap hit: $3,100,000

Brings outstanding value as a disruptive penalty killer and, on a good team, he’d be a perfect third-liner who can score goals. Once he gets his big raise on his next deal, however, he’ll face much higher expectations.

13. 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 as good as any goalie in the league in a 1B role the past couple years. In this era of load management, that’s quite valuable.

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

It hasn’t worked 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.

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

A fun buy-low pick. Toffoli’s goal-scoring has cratered in recent seasons, but he’s languished on some terrible L.A. teams. Might he return to 30-goal prowess on a team with an elite playmaking center?

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

A similar option to Greiss. Halak is a year older but also has better experience as a starter, so they offer roughly the same value.

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

In line for a sneaky-good pay day. Has a heck of a time staying healthy but moves the puck and can work a power play. Right-handedness will net him some extra bucks.

18. 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. Back to producing high-end offense and doing so in a contract year.

19. 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 paired with Mark Giordano in Calgary.

20. ZACK KASSIAN, RW, 29
2019-20 cap hit: $1,950,000

Could be the toughest UFA to appraise in 2020. Unique skill set as a hulking, old-school power forward, with good enough hands that he was a first-round pick back in the day, but if his big year is so directly tied to his all-world linemates, what is he worth on another team?

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

Schultz has certainly underwhelmed in his contract year. But potential suitors should be encouraged that his most productive stretches as a Penguin have come 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. JOSH LEIVO, LW, 27
2019-20 cap hit: $1,500,000

Give him a chance and he produces. Across the past three seasons, among 373 forwards with 1,000 or more minutes played at 5-on-5, Leivo ranks 97th in goals per 60. It’s wild to think he was treated like a glorified AHLer in his Toronto days.

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

Persistent knee troubles are a real shame, as he’s a valuable two-way pivot with underrated goal-scoring skills when he’s on the ice. He’ll come at a discount because of the health concerns.

24. ALEX GALCHENYUK, LW, 26
2019-20 cap hit: $4,900,000

Bounces from one doghouse to the next and one trade-rumor mill to the next. Still, he’ll be a young UFA at 26 and isn’t out of upside. It’s just a matter of finding the right way to use him – and improve his hockey sense. Could be one of the summer’s best bargains.

25. 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.

26. 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 middle-pair shutdown role.

27. DERICK BRASSARD, C, 32
2019-20 cap hit: $1,200,000

For a guy who bounces around a lot, Brassard has a lot to offer. He can score a little bit as a middle-six center, he has oodles of playoff experience, and he’s not afraid to lay the body on the forecheck.

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

Has never hit the ceiling that was promised when he was the game’s No. 1 netminding prospect a decade ago. But Markstrom has settled in as one of the more consistently decent goalies in the sport. He can find another gig as a seat-warming starter on a rebuilding team or can function as a luxury backup on a contender.

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

Ranked on merit, but he won’t play for anyone other than Boston if he gives the can one more kick. Still a guy you want on your team as a leader and a blunt weapon for playoff warfare.

30. VLADISLAV NAMESTNIKOV, LW, 27
2019-20 cap hit: $4,000,000

In a UFA class high on backup goalies and defensive defensemen, a finesse forward like Namestnikov stands out more than usual. Has translated increased opportunity into decent production with the Senators.

OTHER 2020 UFAs to watch: Joe Thornton, Joel Edmundson, Andy Greene, Mikko Koivu, Conor Sheary, Marco Scandella, Corey Crawford, Patrick Maroon, Brian Boyle, Travis Hamonic, Justin Braun, Erik Gustafsson, Tyler Ennis, Carl Soderberg, Wayne Simmonds, Anton Khudobin, Cody Eakin, Brenden Dillon, Ron Hainsey, Michael Frolik, Jesper Fast, Jimmy Howard, Jay Bouwmeester, Craig Anderson, Mike Smith, Corey Perry, Rocco Grimaldi, Zach Bogosian

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