By: Nick Lanciani
12:01 PM ET on July 1st (precisely) marks the start of the NHL’s free agency period, so of course, you’ve found yourself scavenging the Internet for the freshest hot takes and the best indications of where players will end up. Likewise, you probably just want to know who’s available out there (and I’m not talking about Tinder).
Well fear not, because I’m here to set things straight with a short series of posts about the Top-5 free agents in every category you can think of (UFA forwards, UFA defensemen, UFA goalies, RFA forwards, RFA defensemen and RFA goalies) in this latest edition of Numbers Game posts. RFAs are fun, RFAs are cool, but here’s the thing, other general managers will hate you forever apparently if you offer sheet one of their guys. Also, shouts to you if you’re still reading these. That shows commitment. And heart. And grit.
1. D Tyson Barrie (13-36-49 totals with the Colorado Avalanche)- $2.600 million cap hit, 24 years old
Colorado Avalanche general manager, Joe Sakic, is going to have quite the offseason to manage squashing the rumors about the Avalanche trading Tyson Barrie and whatnot. But hey, if you’re an opposing GM and you’re reading this, go ahead and give Barrie’s agent a call if Colorado can’t figure things out soon enough. I’ll wait. Barrie had a breakout 53 point season in 2014-2015 and is managing around the same stats and style of play. Hard hitting when you need him, depth scoring when you need it. Come to think of it, maybe I can get the rest of the DTFR guys here to submit an offer sheet (that’s how this stuff works, right?), I mean, why not?
2. D Rasmus Ristolainen (9-32-41 totals with the Buffalo Sabres)- $925,000 cap hit, 21 years old
Don’t let the Buffalo Sabres float under your radar in case there’s a chance things don’t work out for them and Rasmus Ristolainen (who doubled his points total this season from 2014-2015). Plenty of people would tell you the Sabres are doing everything in their power to keep him around and that’s a good thing, but if you wanted to be that guy, be that guy. The only thing that might weigh him down is his plus/minus (which is an outdated stat). In three seasons, it’s gone from a minus-15 to a minus-32 to, most recently, a minus-21. But then again, he plays for the Sabres.
3. D Hampus Lindholm (10-18-28 totals with the Anaheim Ducks)- $894,166 cap hit, 21 years old
This season was the first season, in his three career seasons with Anaheim, that Hampus Lindholm amassed less than 30 points. Although he only missed the mark by two. If you’re a fan of the Ducks and think they’re a good team, then you might suggest his numbers are inflated. But when a 21 year old comes into the league and upends Cam Fowler in his first three seasons, you know he’s legit for Anaheim. Lindholm is due for a big deal that’ll lock him up, however there’s always a chance some other team could meddle with Anaheim’s plans.
4. D Michael Stone (6-30-36 totals with the Arizona Coyotes)- $1.150 million, 25 years old
Tied with Danny DeKeyser on my list for the oldest pending RFA mentioned by yours truly, Michael Stone has improved by far in his first five career NHL seasons with the Arizona Coyotes. In 81 games during the 2014-2015 season, Stone had 3-15-18 totals. This season, Stone doubled everything with 6-30-36 totals in 75 games played. Need I say more if you’re interested in luring away talent for your blue line?
5. D Dmitry Orlov (8-21-29 totals with the Washington Capitals)- $2.000 million cap hit, 24 years old
In his first full season with the Washington Capitals, Dmitry Orlov had 8-21-29 totals. This season beat his 3-8-11 totals in 54 games in 2014-2015 and his 3-16-19 totals in 60 games played in 2011-2012. Nearing his prime, Orlov would be ready to move on from Washington if they don’t seem to have the room and someone else is interested in utilizing his services and time.
D Danny DeKeyser (8-12-20 totals with the Detroit Red Wings)- $2.188 million cap hit, 25 years old
There’s not much else in the RFA defensemen outlet store, so sometimes this is what you got to get. Then again, the Detroit Red Wings should lock up Danny DeKeyser for as long as they can, while locking out Kyle Quincey from the Joe Louis Arena (and Little Caesars Arena, just to be safe).
D Cody Ceci (10-16-26 total with the Ottawa Senators)- $894,166 cap hit, 22 years old
I’ll be completely partial and throw it out there that I’m a fan of the underdog in Cody Ceci. In three seasons, his points have increased from nine in 49 games played in 2013-2014 to 21 points the next season, to 26 points this season. He’s only 22, so as long as you get him out of Ottawa, there’s a good chance there’s still hope with him. All joking aside, the Senators shouldn’t make the mistake of letting another quality, low cost, high reward defenseman get away too soon.