It’s time for NHL Free Agent Frenzy.
NHL Free Agency officially starts Wednesday, July 13 at 12 pm ET, when unrestricted and restricted NHL Free Agents can put pen to paper on contracts with new teams.
An NHL free agent is a player whose contract has expired and wants to explore offers from other teams. In order to declare himself a “UFA”, a player must be at least 27 years old or have at least seven years of experience in the NHL.
NHL unrestricted free agents became eligible to talk with teams after the NHL Entry Draft last week. While players may interview with teams following the NHL Draft, deals can’t be negotiated until July 13.
Many players and teams work out verbal arguments prior to the start of NHL free agency, however, which is why many big signings occur on opening day. The craziness of July 13 is what makes NHL Free Agent Frenzy so much fun.
Without further ado, here’s a look at the top five NHL free agents for 2022.
*The following list only includes UFA’s
5. Claude Giroux, Florida Panthers
Claude Giroux isn’t necessarily a name you would expect to end up on NHL Free Agent Frenzy. The longtime Philadelphia Flyer finally decided to leave Broadstreet in 2021-22 to chase a Stanley Cup with a more talented team. Giroux signed with the Florida Panthers in 2022, but unfortunately Florida choked in the NHL playoffs after an outstanding regular season. That leaves Giroux once again as a UFA chasing a Stanley Cup before he ultimately hangs up the skates.
Giroux is the highest-paid NHL unrestricted free agent in 2022, which complicates the free agency process. Giroux made $8.26 million on his last contract with the Flyers, which is a tough cap hit for any team to endure. Although Giroux had a great season in 2021-22 with 21 goals and 65 points, he’s the one UFA on this list we see taking a decrease in pay on his next deal. Giroux is 34 years old and wants to go somewhere where he can win a Stanley Cup. Expect Giroux to take a bit of a pay discount in order to go to a contender in NHL Free Agency.
4. Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Oilers forward Evander Kane is the most controversial among NHL free agents in 2022. Kane has been accused of sexual assault and domestic violence by his ex-wife. Furthermore, he had a gambling addiction that led to bankruptcy. If a team chooses to look past those off-ice issues, they’ll be getting a pretty good hockey player. And you bet there will be a team that completely ignores Kane’s off-ice history. Because even with his off-ice issues public and well-known in the hockey space, the Oilers still gave the power forward a contract last season.
Kane produced at near a point-per-game rate in Edmonton, recording 22 goals and 39 points in 43 regular-season games. He also added 13 goals and 17 points in 15 playoff games. It certainly helped that he was playing with McDavid, but Kane has hit 30 goals in his career before. The 31-year-old made just over $1M annually on his contract with the Oilers, so it’s easy to see why he wants to test the waters in free agency. Despite his off-ice issues, Kane’s impressive playoff performance will likely land him a hefty contract.
3. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Will Patrice Bergeron actually leave the Boston Bruins? It’s hard to imagine Bergeron in any other jersey besides the Spoked B considering what he’s done for the franchise. The 36-year-old has spent the entirety of his 18-season NHL career in Boston, winning one Stanley Cup and capturing five Selke Trophies. Bergeron is a UFA, however, and has yet to re-up with the Bruins. We think Patrice ends up in Beantown when all is said and done, but we still need to list him on this list of top NHL free agents due to his skill.
Bergeron is coming off his best offensive season in three years, recording 25 goals and 65 points in 2021-22. His defensive play, however, is what makes him such a sought-after NHL free agent. Bergeron won a record-breaking fifth Selke Trophy in 2022 as the NHL’s best defensive forward. Bergeron’s two-way game and leadership ability transcend any numbers on the scoresheet.
What makes Bergeron an intriguing player in NHL Free Agent Frenzy, though, is the fact Boston hasn’t made it past the second of the playoffs in three straight years. The Bruins are almost at a point of rebuilding, and it’s unclear where exactly Bergeron fits in. The veteran made $6.87M on his previous contract, so if the B’s can’t afford him, Bergeron may elect to chase a second Stanley Cup with a team built to win right now.
2. Nazem Kadri, Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri is among the top NHL free agents after winning the Stanley Cup in 2022. Players that play a big role in Cup wins are often among the highest-paid players on NHL free agency day. Kadri scored 28 goals and 87 points in the regular season for Colorado before adding seven goals and 15 points in 16 playoff games. Kadri likely made NHL GMs across the league lick their chops with his playoff hat trick performance against St. Louis days after receiving racial threats from their fans.
While Kadri may not be the most talented NHL free agent this summer, there’s an argument to be made that he’s the most valuable. The 31-year-old plays a physical style that can get under opponents’ skin. Kadri’s aggressive play style has led to suspensions in the past, but he cleaned up his act in the 2022 Playoffs. His previous contract only paid him $4 million yearly, so he’s clearly looking for a huge (and deserving) pay bump this summer.
1. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Calgary Flames left-winger Johhny Gaudreau is by far the most talented NHL Unrestricted Free Agent in 2022. Despite spending the first nine years of his career in Calgary, Gaudreau announced Tuesday night he would not be returning to the Flames. The surprising announcement comes days after the Flames reportedly made an offer to Gaudreau that would have made him one of the highest-paid NHL players.
After the Flames suffered another early playoff exit in 2022-23, Gaudreau appears to be in win-now mode. The 28-year-old superstar is coming off a career-best 40-goal, 115-point regular season that catapulted him into the NHL MVP conversation. He’s also a leading candidate for the NHL 23 cover. Gaudreau’s previous contract only paid him $6.75 million annually, so he’s about to cash in big-time on his incredible year.