Another NHL season is officially in the books, which means it’s already time to talk free agency! This year’s crop of UFAs may not be the most exciting we’ve ever seen, but there are still some very talented players that will likely be finding themselves in a new home to start the 2023/24 NHL season. Here are our Top 5 UFAs heading into the free agency period.
5) Patrick Kane
The risk here is obvious, but so is the reward. Kane will be 35 in November and has some serious hip issues to deal with, but for the right price, he could be just what a team needs come playoff time. The postseason run didn’t work out in New York, but Kane proved that he can still produce in the big moments, adding six points in seven games. He’s not going to give you a lot on defense and at this point of his career, he won’t be looked at as the go to guy. However, if a competitive team can grab Patrick Kane as a complimentary piece for a relatively cheap price tag, it could pay off in spades.
The Big Question: What kind of money will Showtime be asking for at this point in his career, and is he healthy enough to be worth it?
4) Dmitry Orlov
After playing in Washington for the first ten and a half years of his career, Orlov was shipped to Boston at the trade deadline as a rental last season. The 31-year-old exploded offensively with his new team, putting up 17 points in 23 games and 8 in 7 playoff appearances. Now, he’ll be looking to cash in on a weak free agency market for blueliners. Although he only stands at 5’11, Orlov is a tough, former Champ that can play both ends of the ice and knows how to perform in big games. Despite his high scoring rate with the Bruins, Orlov isn’t known as a guy who puts up a ton of points, which may make him a little less expensive. His highest-scoring season was last year with 36 in 66 games.
The Big Question: Will teams think that he hit his scoring peak in a small time period with an extremely talented roster or is he just now finding the confidence to excel offensively?
3) Ryan O’Reilly
He didn’t play as many games for the Maple Leafs as Toronto fans would have hoped for, but O’Reilly’s impact on the team was undeniable in the postseason. Given that he’s proven he can still get it done at an elite level though, it’s going to be very tough for the Leafs to keep him around. The 32-year-old centremen may be past his prime in the points category, but he brings so much more to the table. O’Reilly’s experience, toughness, and leadership will all be selling points for any team looking to improve in free agency. At this point of his career, you’d also have to assume he’d be wanting to sign with a playoff-ready team, as he’s been in the postseason for five straight years.
The Big Question: Which teams is O’Reilly willing to sign with?
2) Ivan Barbashev
There isn’t a player in the league that raised his stock in the playoffs more than Ivan Barbashev did. After a deadline deal took him to Vegas from St. Louis, Barbashev was quickly thrown into the Golden Knights’ Top 6, and from there, he didn’t look back. To finish out the regular season, Barbashev posted 16 points in 23 games with Vegas. In the playoffs, he took his game to another level alongside Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault, putting up 18 in 22. Vegas had a fantastic run to the Cup this year, and the mid-season acquisition of Barbashev definitely played a role in getting them there. Now a 2-time Stanley Cup Champion at 27 years old, Barbashev is looking to get paid.
Vegas won’t have the funds to keep him around, but there should be a large amount of interest for the 6’1 Russian winger. Injuries and inconsistency did plague him a little in the first few years of his career, but Barbashev is definitely worth the risk and the money for a team looking to get better right now.
The Big Question: Can Barbashev be this type of player for the next 5+ years?
1) Tyler Bertuzzi
If teams are wondering how effective Tyler Bertuzzi can be, they should look no farther than the seven playoff games he played in this year with Boston. The Bruins’ season obviously ended in a shocking defeat, but Bertuzzi wasn’t the one to blame, as he put up a team-leading ten points in the series. Additionally, Bertuzzi’s impact is never just on the scoresheet, as he’s also proven himself to be a tough customer and an absolute pest to play against. After being slightly hidden behind some tough years in Detroit and Covid-19 mandates, Bertuzzi officially arrived during his short stint with the Bruins.
Although he has said how much he loved it in Boston, the winger will be entering free agency with an open mind and a lot of interest from other teams. Tyler’s one of those guys that is best suited for playoff hockey, and it’s because of that, among other factors, that we rank him as 2023’s top UFA.
The Big Question: Will he end up staying in Boston?
Honorable Mentions – Alex Killorn, Vladimir Tarasenko, Michael Bunting, Max Domi.
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