- Craig Custance
With the trade deadline wrapped up, teams viewing the bigger picture soon will be turning their attention to their free agents. That's not necessarily a good thing for those looking to use free agency this summer as a way to restock their franchise. There are good players on the top 25 unrestricted free-agent list below, but it only thins out from there.
"I have the preliminary list," said Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray, who is going to have a lot of money to work with this summer. "You can look at that and say, 'OK, we have 10 guys on that list we like, they can sign between now and then.' So I don't get too excited about that list."
With teams as diligent as ever about signing their players to long-term contracts before they hit free agency, the number of available quality players is already a small one. Supply and demand will put general managers in a tough spot.
"Obviously, it's getting tougher and tougher," Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon said during a quick chat Tuesday.
Like Murray, Tallon is going to have money to spend this summer.
"There's some assets we're interested in," he said. "We've identified who we like, who fit into our player allotment, where they would fit into our organization and how they would help our young guys develop quicker."
This list, like Murray's preliminary list, is going to change between now and July 1, but here's an early look at the top 25 unrestricted free agents for this summer, ranked in order of the most value they'll provide their next team:
Note: All cap hit data is courtesy of CapGeek.com.
At this point in Miller's career, he has to decide where he thinks he has the best chance of winning a Stanley Cup. "That's what it comes down to," one NHL source said. "That is the determining factor." It's hard to argue there's a better spot than the one Murray sent him to before the trade deadline. The Blues really like Jake Allen, but are firmly in the middle of a Stanley Cup window, and Miller gives them the best chance to win. It might be the perfect marriage. If the Ducks decide to let Jonas Hiller walk this summer, Anaheim is another city that would intrigue Miller, who spends offseason time in California. The problem there is that Ducks GM Bob Murray has no shortage of goalie options in the system. Miller's future may hinge on how things go this postseason in St. Louis.
Craig Custance takes an early look at the top 25 NHL free agents this upcoming offseason. St. Louis Blues goalie Ryan Miller and Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny lead the list.