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. I’ll be done with these— for now.
1. G Petr Mrazek (27-16-0-6, 2.33 GAA, .921 SV% with the Detroit Red Wings)- $737,500 cap hit, 23 years old
Petr Mrazek is the only starting goaltender of this bunch and he’s due for a payday with the Detroit Red Wings. The only problem is, they still have Jimmy Howard and are paying him a bunch. So while Mrazek’s in the waitroom, you might as well give him a call if you’re a GM that needs a starting goalie that hasn’t even reached his full potential or tapped into his best play.
2. G Darcy Kuemper (6-7-0-5, 2.43 GAA, .915 SV% with the Minnesota Wild)- $1.250 million cap hit, 25 years old
The Minnesota Wild would be smart to keep Darcy Kuemper around long enough to turn him into a valuable asset that they could cash in, which sounds exactly like what they’re planning on doing. Let’s just say that Kuemper’s not a starter if Devan Dubnyk goes down with an injury, but until you find a rental replacement, he’ll be able to hold you over.
3. G Calvin Pickard (7-6-0-1, 2.56 GAA, .922 SV% with the Colorado Avalanche)- $850,500 cap hit, 23 years old
Calvin Pickard has the chance to be a decent backup, but is nowhere near the projections of taking over the number one spot in Colorado just yet. In a related story, the Avalanche should really keep him and get him a defense, just in case Semyon Varlamov gets hurt again and/or Pickard plays better than Varlamov for whatever reason.
4. G Anders Nilsson (10-13-0-2, 3.12 GAA, .901 SV% with the Edmonton Oilers/St. Louis Blues)- $1.000 million, 25 years old
Anders Nilsson has played in 52 career NHL games over three seasons and has never ended a season with a GAA less than 2.75, so yeah, offer sheet him all you want. Whoever owns him would be glad to get a 7th rounder (at best).
5. G Kristers Gudlevskis (0-0-0-1, 1.00 GAA, .969 SV% with the Tampa Bay Lightning)- $608,333 cap hit, 23 years old
Kristers Gudlevskis has had two solid starts to his NHL career as the presumptive backup to Andrei Vasilevskiy once the Tampa Bay Lightning eventually (probably) move Ben Bishop or lose him at the 2017 expansion draft to Las Vegas.
Me if I were still playing DekHockey (I forget my stats, good GAA, decent SV%)- $0 cap hit
I mean, seriously, there’s only 14 RFA goalies available (if that by 12:01) and there’s hardly enough to make a top-5 from them.