When defenceman Erik Karlsson opted to re-sign with the San Jose Sharks, it removed a significant amount of pizzazz from this year’s free-agent class. He was atop the list of potential unrestricted free agents entering the summer.
But Christmas will still be coming on July 1 for several NHL teams when free agency opens. Here is one look at the top 25 players available:
1. Artemi Panarin, right wing, Columbus: He is the most dangerous offensive players among potential unrestricted free agents, with 116 goals in his first four NHL seasons.
2. Matt Duchene, centre, Columbus: There has been plenty of chatter about Duchene ending up in Nashville, but he will have multiple options.
3. Anders Lee, centre-wing, N.Y. Islanders: He has scored 25 or more goals four times in his first five full-time seasons. He might lead the league in teams interested in signing him because he won’t require a huge money commitment.
4. Mats Zuccarello, left wing, Dallas: The Stars’ offence became far more dangerous after he arrived in a trade and joined the second line. He was tied for the team lead in playoff points with 11 in 13 games.
5. Tyler Myers, defence, Winnipeg: With Karlsson gone, teams looking to add a high-profile blueliner don’t have many places to turn to. Myers, with his six-foot-seven frame, looks even more attractive.
6. Jake Gardiner, defence, Toronto: Given how few defencemen are available, Gardiner might have 10 to 12 suitors. He has defensive flaws, but he can move the puck effectively.
7. Joe Pavelski, forward, San Jose: The marriage between the Sharks and Pavelski seems strong, but we thought that about Patrick Marleau, too, before he signed with Toronto two off-seasons ago.
8. Sergei Bobrovsky, goalie, Columbus: With Roberto Luongo gone, Florida looks like a likely destination for Bobrovsky.
9. Corey Perry, right wing, Anaheim: At more than $8 million (all figures U.S.) per season, Perry was a drain on Anaheim. At $2 million, plus bonuses, he is an intriguing possibility. Wouldn’t he be a quality fit for a Nashville team looking to improve its second line? Perry might still be a 20-goal scorer.
10. Robin Lehner, goalie, N.Y. Islanders: Lehner found his game with the Islanders. He should be inclined to stay on the Island. Will Carolina make a push to bring him there?
11. Marcus Johansson, forward, Boston: Two seasons ago, he had 24 goals and 58 points for Washington. His skating fits well into the faster NHL.
12. Micheal Ferland, right wing, Carolina: He can score goals and play with an edge, and that will earn him a nice raise from his $1.75-million contract.
13. Justin Williams, right wing, Carolina: At 37, he isn’t going to be looking to move unless the Hurricanes lowball him. He is important to the team in the dressing room and on the ice.
14. Gustav Nyquist, right wing, San Jose: He has some puck wizardry in his game, and he has also scored 20 or more goals four times, including each of the past two seasons.
15. Brett Connolly, right wing, Washington: At 27, Connolly’s game is coming together. He scored a career-high 22 goals last season and added two more in seven playoff games.
16. Semyon Varlamov, goalie, Colorado: The goalie market will have enough buyers to make Varlamov an intriguing option. Would he be a good option for Columbus to bring in to play with Joonas Korpisalo?
17. Joonas Donskoi, right wing, San Jose: With 14 goals in each of the past two seasons, Donskoi could be a big help for a contender looking to strengthen their third line.
18. Wayne Simmonds, right wing, Nashville: Teams have to be wary because he didn’t look like Simmonds of old this past season. But he offers a physical side, with a net-front presence and some scoring potential.
19. Anton Stralman, defence, Tampa Bay: At 32, he is known as a smart, dependable defenceman. But injuries are a concern and his best days are behind him. Teams will be interested if he will sign a shorter-term deal.
20. Brian Boyle, centre, Nashville: Boyle, 34, is the ultimate role player, someone with quality leadership skill and a knack for winning faceoffs and killing penalties.
21. Petr Mrazek, goalie, Carolina: Even though he has been important to Carolina’s playoff success, he won’t have many options in the free-agent marketplace. The best place for him is probably Carolina.
22. Curtis McElhinney, goalie, Carolina: McElhinney showed during these playoffs he might be the perfect backup goalie. Should have several suitors.
23. Valtteri Filppula, centre, N.Y. Islanders: At 35, he can still be a valuable contributor, a versatile, skilful player. Considering he scored 17 goals last season, he could be a nice fit for a contending team.
24. Richard Panik, right wing, Arizona: At 28, he could be a prudent addition for a team needing some secondary scoring. He is capable of scoring 14-18 goals per season.
25. Carl Gunnarsson, defence, St. Louis: Several teams are looking for veteran defencemen. Gunnarsson played 19 playoff games for the Stanley Cup champions.