2022 NHL free agents: Ranking best available players by position originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The 2022 NHL free agent class isn’t loaded with a bunch of superstars, but there is plenty of talent available at every position.
A total of 13 unrestricted free agents tallied 50 or more points last season. There are multiple top-four defenseman hitting the open market. Several talented goaltenders, including four starters on playoff teams from 2022, are UFAs as well.
Here’s our ranking of the top free agents (UFAs only) by position.
Nazem Kadri, COL
Claude Giroux, FLA
Evgeni Malkin, PIT
Vincent Trocheck, CAR
Ryan Strome, NYR
Kadri tallied a career-high 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) in 71 games for the Avalanche. As the top center available, the 30-year-old veteran should generate a ton of interest.
Giroux is 34 years old but still is a productive offensive player. He tallied 65 points (21 goals, 44 assists) in 75 games between the Flyers and Panthers last season. He’s also a versatile forward with the ability to excel at both center and right wing.
Malkin is a future Hall of Famer and has played his entire career with the Penguins. Malkin still scores close to a point-per-game rate, but durability is the real concern for teams interested in pursuing him. He has missed more than 70 games since the start of the 2020-21 campaign. He’s also 35 years old.
Trocheck is a solid two-way center who plays a physical style of hockey. He can give you between 45 to 55 points and defend the opponents’ top-six forwards. Trocheck is a solid second- or third-line center for a playoff team.
Johnny Gaudreau, CGY
Filip Forsberg, NSH
Ondrej Palat, TBL
Andre Burakovsky, COL
Evander Kane, EDM
Gaudreau is set to cash in big time, whether he remains with the Flames or signs somewhere else. It will be a deserved raise for the Boston College product, who just finished tied for second in the league in scoring with a career-high 115 points (40 goals, 75 assists). He’s a superstar player and one of the top three left wingers in the world.
Forsberg has been one of the most consistent goal scorers of the last decade. He has averaged 27.4 goals per season since the start of 2014-15, including a career high 42 goals last season. He’s one of the few first-line caliber goal scorers available in free agency.
Palat is 31 years old, and it’ll be interesting to see if he gives the Lightning a hometown discount. He has played a crucial role in Tampa Bay’s enormous success over the last 10 years. The 2011 seventh-round pick has tallied 94 points in 138 career playoff games with the Lightning, including two Stanley Cup titles in four Cup Final appearances.
Kane should generate plenty of interest, too. The Oilers signed him in late January and he was highly productive, posting 39 points (22 goals, 17 assists) in 43 games. Kane was even better in the playoffs, scoring 13 goals in 15 games. With eight seasons of 20-plus goals, there aren’t too many more consistent offensive players hitting free agency.
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Bryan Rust, PIT
Rickard Rakell, PIT
Reilly Smith, VGK
Valeri Nichushkin, COL
Phil Kessel, ARI
Rust has been an important part of the Penguins’ success over the last six years. He has scored an average of 22.75 goals in the last four seasons. The main concern with Rust is durability. Injuries have caused him to play 60 or fewer games in each of the last three campaigns.
Rakell scored 20 goals between the Ducks and Penguins last season. He’d be an ideal fit as a third-line winger on a contender.
One of the most intriguing free agents is Nichushkin, who revived his career in Colorado over the last three years. He set career highs with 25 goals and 27 assists for the Avalanche last season. His offensive skill set and power forward playing style make him an attractive free agent target.
Kessel is 34 years old, but tallying 54 points on a horrible Coyotes team last season was actually a pretty impressive achievement for the two-time champion. He can still be an effective offensive player for a top-tier team.
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John Klingberg, DAL
Kris Letang, PIT
Josh Manson, COL
Ben Chiarot, FLA
Nick Leddy, STL
Klingberg and the Stars weren’t able to work out an extension during the season and Dallas decided to keep him through the trade deadline. It was a risk, because now he can leave the Stars for nothing. Klingberg is a legit top-four defenseman, but his offensive production has decreased over the last couple seasons.
Letang has spent his entire 16-year career in Pittsburg with three Stanley Cup titles over that span. He will likely be in the Hall of Fame someday. He’s still a fantastic player, tallying 68 points (10 goals, 58 assists) in 78 games last season at age 34.
Manson was an excellent pickup for the Avalanche. The Northeastern product brought toughness, penalty killing and a strong defensive skill sit to Colorado.
Chiarot and Leddy are two highly experienced, defensive defensemen who contenders always covet. Leddy has Stanley Cup-winning experience with the Blackhawks.
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Ville Husso, STL
Darcy Kuemper, COL
Jack Campbell, TOR
Marc-Andre Fleury, MIN
Casey DeSmith, PIT
This year’s goalie free agent class is not as strong as the 2021 group, but there are still a few good options for teams in need of an upgrade between the pipes.
Kuemper is coming off a Stanley Cup title with the Avalanche, but he didn’t exactly perform at a high level throughout the playoffs. The Avalanche finished with a .903 playoff save percentage as a team — the worst of any Cup winner in the salary cap era. But with a .918 career save percentage and plenty of postseason experience, Kuemper should have plenty of potential suitors.
Husso was fantastic for the Blues last season, posting a 25-7-6 record with a .919 save percentage and a 2.56 GAA. Normally, re-signing him would be an easy decision for St. Louis. But the Blues have already committed an average of $6 million per season to goalie Jordan Binnington through the 2026-27 season. How much many do they really want to spend on netminders when other areas of the roster also need improving.
It’ll also be interesting to see if Campbell remains with the Maple Leafs or if a rival team gives him a better offer. If Campbell does depart, Toronto will be pretty weak in net.