Who’s Still Left in NHL 2023 Free Agency?

The 2023 NHL free agent pool looked destined to be one of the deepest in recent history originally featuring such players as Dylan Larkin, Nathan MacKinnon, David Pasrtnak, Bo Horvat and Jonathan Huberdeau. Though now that they have all inked new extensions with their respective clubs, it’s diminished the group of players substantially. It still looks like some intriguing names will make it to market, but the goldmine 2023 once was will longer come to fruition.

So who’s left?

Top UFAs

Vladimir Tarasenko

Somehow, Valdimir Tarasenko is already 31 years old. It feels like he just broke into the scene as one of the league’s premier snipers though he’s in his tenth NHL season, spent almost exclusively with the Blues until he was dealt to the New York Rangers ahead of the 2023 trade deadline. He still knows how to produce offense, but his health is in question after udergoing multiple shoulder surgeries and hasn’t played a full campaign since 2016-17. When he’s healthy more often than not, he still seems good for at least 30 goals and 40 points a season. It’d be unwise to sign him to a longterm deal, but any team that takes a gamble on his medical future could be rewarded big time.

Patrick Kane

Even as Patrick Kane sits at 1,163 career NHL games, he is somehow still well over a point-per-game guy, racking up 1,225 along the way. While his overall play has slipped quite a bit during the 2022-23 season, he just posted a 92-point campaign last year and will have no problem finding a suitor during the offseason, whether it be with the Rangers or elsewhere.

Ryan O’Reilly

The 32-year-old center is still one of the top two-way centers in the game, and considering both Bo Horvat and Dylan Larkin are off the table, he rises to the top of the free agent center list. Though with 14 seasons under his belt already, it could just be a matter of time before the decline hits hard. To tailor this to the Flyers, they’re going to be desperate for an addition at center, but already have two-way center Sean Couturier supposedly returning from a two year absence next season. In their primes, O’Reilly and Couturier would be a hell of a duo (thanks Ron Hextall) but at this point, the risk just may not be worth the reward.

Tyler Bertuzzi

Bertuzzi is one of those guys that seemingly has all the talent in the world, but the injury bug just doesn’t stay away long enough for him to truly capitalize on it. He did hit 30 goals last season and will finish out the 2022-23 campaign on a stacked Boston Bruins team, so he has a chance to pad his stats and prove to teams he’s still worth a big contract this summer.

Max Pacioretty

Speaking of players who just can’t stay healthy, 34-year-old Max Pacioretty fits that bill as well. He’s currently recovering from his second achilles tear in less than a year and hasn’t played a full 82-game season since 2015-16 (though did play all 71 games during the 2019-20 pandemic-shortened campaign with Vegas.) Overcoming his injury is going to be a tall task, and at his age, who knows if he even attempts another comeback. Though he’s still a very solid offensive producer when healthy, so if he does choose to return to the NHL, there will be interest in his services, but not for anything more than a cheap one year deal.

Top RFAs

Alex DeBrincat

All the rumors upon his trade out of Chicago last summer seemed to indicate Alex DeBrincat would be hesitant to sign an extension with his new team, and so far he’s held true to his word. The Senators are obviously going to to their best to re-sign him, but if they don’t they’ve got a 25-year-old trade chip who’s posted 20 goals and 54 points in 63 games on his new team. They should have no problem recouping the assets they gave up for him last summer if negotiations go south.

Pierre-Luc Dubois

You can take the Flyers out of this one. No way does Dubois play for John Tortorella again. The 24-year-old center seems poised to end up with his hometown Montreal Canadiens during the offseason, at least that’s what all the rumors have been suggesting for seemingly years now.

Jesper Bratt

One of the two big RFA fish the New Jersey Devils have to sign is 24-year-old Jesper Bratt. He’s slowly but surely developed into a top winger, posting 26 goals and 73 points in 76 games last season and 25 goals and 58 points through 63 games during the 2022-23 outing. While some national correspondents have made it seem like an extension is imminent, it has yet to happen as of this writing.

Timo Meier

The other big name that is under team control of the Devils is newly acquired Timo Meier. His $10 million qualifying offer is a hard pill for any team to swallow, but for a player that has been eclipsing 30 goals and hovers just shy of a point-per-game, it’s not an unbelievable number. Can they retain both Bratt and Meier without sacrifices being made elsewhere on the roster? Given the flat cap sticking around for at least this offseason, they’re sure going to try but it could be a difficult ask.

Vince Dunn

Dunn has carved out a nice little niche for himself with the Seattle Kraken. He’s currently in the middle of a career year registering 11 goals and 49 points in 64 games. He’ll go down as one of their most significant picks during the expansion draft and considering he’s serving as their top left-handed defenseman, there’s seemingly no reason why Seattle won’t retain him this summer.

Best of the Rest

Sean Monahan UFA

Monahan has dealt with his fair share of injuries over the last handful of seasons, though he originally seemed to find a breath of fresh air with the Canadiens before a foot injury has kept him out of the lineup since early December. If Montreal lets him walk and Monahan is actually cleared to play, some team will probably take a chance on him due to the shallow center options, but it’s probably a safe bet he’s no longer the player he was during his earlier days in Calgary.

Jesse Puljujarvi RFA

Puljujarvi got dealt to the Hurricanes at the deadline, ending his tumultuous time with the Oilers and giving him a fresh start he’s been desperately seeking. Whether or not Carolina attempts to re-sign him is TBD, but if not, any team who could acquire the soon-to-be 25-year-old on the cheap will have a worthwhile rehab project on their hands. All the underlying numbers paint a solid picture for Puljujarvi, but he has yet to translate that into tangible success on the score sheet.

John Klingberg UFA

Klingberg’s stock has fallen quite a bit over the last few seasons after his role was diminished with the Stars and a mess of a short run with the Ducks. though as a right shot defenseman who regularly flirted with 50 points per season, he’ll surely have a landing spot somewhere, provided he doesn’t ask for an obscene amount of money again.

Matt Dumba UFA

Matt Dumba’s play has been a bit of a mixed bag this season, which isn’t good considering he’s in a contract year. He’ll turn 29 shortly after the start of free agency and is already making $6 million a season. He’ll undoubtedly have suitors as a right-handed defenseman, but his value may not be has high as it once was.

Shayne Gostisbebehere UFA

If you accept Shayne Gostisbehere for what he is, a depth defenseman who’s all offense and very little actual defense, then teams can limit their expectations accordingly. He was essentially given carte blanche in Arizona as their de facto top guy, which led to his best point totals since 2017-18. In a right situation -a team like Carolina, ironically enough- where he can play his game without dragging the entire team down with him would be ideal for best results.

Damon Severson UFA

The third and last notable right-handed defenseman on the list is New Jersey’s Damon Severson. Remember how we said the Devils might have to make sacrifices to their roster if they opt to keep Meier and Bratt? Severson may be where they have to cut their losses. While he hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations he entered the league with back in 2014, he can still be a serviceable player, often compared to Rasmus Ristolainen. He’s only making $4.1 million per season on his current deal, so he could be in the market for a slight pay raise this summer.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: lohud.com


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