NHL Free agency is just hours away. Consequently, there are a lot of players available to sign with new teams. This article will focus on the top five unrestricted NHL free agents from the winger position. They will be hitting the open market on Saturday (if they are not re-signed by their current team beforehand).
Please understand that Patrick Marleau is listed at center and at wing. Hence, he will be on two different lists. We’ve also included Ilya Kovalchuk who is free to talk to teams, but it has to be sign-and-trade- with the Devils.
There are some pretty good NHL free agents that will be going to new teams. So let’s take a look at the top five free agent wingers list.
5. Radim Vrbata
Vrbata is interesting because he had a solid campaign in Arizona. Management was less than impressed to be honest. Defense was a sore spot but it is hard to ignore the 25 goals and 30 assists.
Alas, he is now 36. Does a team take a chance on him not knowing what may come next? It is an excellent question. Vrbata is one of those wingers that can crater after putting it together for a year or two. We saw it in Tampa, Vancouver, and even Arizona at times. Despite this, he will be sought after once the top few options find destinations. Vrbata could get a multiple year deal.
4. Patrick Marleau
Marleau was allegedly offered a two year deal by San Jose. Whether that is true is pure speculation. On the other hand, it is the sign of a leak or two from the press. Like we mentioned previously, the forward is capable of a 30 goal season even now.
If he gets top minutes with a little slant to the offensive zone, Marleau will be fine. Will he stay with San Jose is the big curiosity? He could be off the market in day one or it could take several days. This depends on how things play out. Do some of the big dominoes fall right away? Nobody knows that answer just yet.
3. Justin Williams
After all, Williams has carved out a nice consistent career path. He also shows a propensity to produce in the playoffs. Hence, the winger is called “Mr. Game 7” for a reason. He even had nine points in 13 playoff games for Washington.
On the other hand, Williams is in the 35+ territory. The free agent has been right around 50 points or so the past few seasons. How long can that continue? Furthermore, will teams be tempted to play him more than 15 minutes a night?
He’s likely going to receive offers from teams since they will value how he can create offense. He is a pretty good two-way winger so expect a multiple year deal for him. This is a weak free agent class and that should help Williams. Someone may even offer him a three or four year contract possibly.
2. Ilya Kovalchuk
The problem is this. What does Kovalchuk actually want? That is right. We said it! The enigma wrapped in a riddle is that the Russian sniper is indecisive. That is the belief anyway. Can he go to a team that will let him go home to play in the Olympics? Has he lost anything off that one-timer? Those are just a few questions.
Teams will definitely come calling on him as he could be a very good power play threat. Kovalchuk’s last full season was an 83 point campaign followed by the shortened season. Can he score 25-30 goals plus? Note, that we keep on asking questions.
Despite his KHL performance, he is 34. Knee and back injuries have taken some toll. How healthy will he be? On the other hand, it is Kovalchuk and that will get teams clamoring. Remember, New Jersey has to sign him first then trade him to the desired team. There is also the possibility that the winger could just wait another year. Stay tuned!
1. Alexander Radulov
After a few seasons in Nashville, Radulov took a four year break before playing seven games and the playoffs. Then he went on another four plus year vacation from the NHL. In that time, he piled up some of the best numbers the KHL has ever seen. That is aside from Sergei Mozyakin, of course.
Few knew what to expect from the Russian when he signed a one year deal with Montreal. He delivered 54 points in 76 games under a more defensive system. That is the argument anyway. His 16 power play points were quite good. The only concern was shot output at less than two per contest. He did miss the net almost half the time. That was a bit high.
However, Montreal and Radulov appear far enough apart that he will test the market. He could command top dollar at almost 31 years old. How many years does the winger sign for? Keep an eye on this one.