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Top NHL free agents to sign and those to avoid – ProHockeyTalk

It's almost over us.

The few days in early July, when 31 NHL general managers are preparing to dive their heads first into the free agency pool to add the last missing piece to their Stanley Cup puzzle. It can be an exciting time until everyone realizes less than a year later that the pool was too low for such a dive and everyone is back with a lot of headaches because they pay top dollar for players who have almost always played their best hockey for another.

In this week's PHT Power Rankings, we take a look at the 20 best free agents available and try to separate them into the players who will be the big money they need to get, the players who can be overpaid, but still useful and the players who will carry a significant risk and probably should be avoided.

For the location!

Best Values ​​

] 1

. Artemi Panarin – He will not be cheap, but he is superstar talent, one of the most productive players in the whole hockey side he arrived at NHL, a player who changed games and still at an age where he had to have several years of elite production in front of him. If you can sign him, you definitely have to sign him because you won't regret it.

2. Joe Pavelski – Under his summit, Pavelski was one of the best shooters in the league and a criminal underrated player. As he began to move further into his 30s, the goal score began to fall because that is what happens when you get older. The aspect of his game saw a resurgence last season with 38 goals in 75 games for the Sharks. It is well. What is not great is that the resurgence was driven almost entirely by a 20.2 shooting rate that was not only the highest of his career but also well above his career average (12.5 percent). If you expect him to duplicate it at his age of 35, you will be in for a massive disappointment. Still, if he average the same number of shots per Play this coming season and just shoot at his career average, look at about 25 goals. Combined with everything else he brings to the ice, you still get a hell of a player and because he probably won't get a 5-7 year contract given his age, there's still a great value to be had here.

3. Jake Gardiner – A few bad Game 7s will ruin his reputation among some in Toronto, but it would be idiotic to define his career (or define him as a player) based on it. He is the top defender in the market now, when Erik Karlsson has been signed in San Jose.

Boom or Bust

4. Sergei Bobrovsky – We have to put Bobrovsky on a level all by himself because he has the potential to be a worthy one signature, but also perhaps an overpayment, which also carries a significant risk. I just don't feel strong enough about any of these levels to put him comfortably in.

He has been one of the best targets in his era and has two Vezina Trophies and an elite gem percent to prove it . [19659002] He has occasionally carried Columbus Blue Jackets through the regular season.

He has also flopped spectacularly in the playoffs and becomes 31 at the beginning of the 2019-20 season.

He is the best goalkeeper available (and one of the best players available) and will probably end up in Florida with a big contract.

His career will probably not crumble immediately because he is 31 years old, but how many years of elite play does he have in him? It is a valuable question to ask.

Potential overpays (but still good)

5. Matt Duchene – Duchene may be the second largest "name" on the market after Panarin and if it was a ranking of just plain talent and who could have the greatest influence this coming season, he would probably be number two or third in the list. But when you sign a free agent, you not only get the player's current production level. You get the contract, the age, the likely decline and everything that comes with it.

My biggest problem with Duchene is that he is likely to receive a $ 9 or $ 10 million salary on a long-term contract and I'm not sure he is a $ 9 or $ 10 million player for another six or seven year. Or even in a season. He is not in possession, he has never really been an elite point producer, and he is not a cornerstone player your team will be built around. He is still an excellent player and a good complementary piece, but will probably have a contract that is a level above what he really is (and will eventually be in the future) as a player. Such is the life of the free agency.

6. Gustav Nyquist – He was still a great possession-driving player on some forgettable Detroit teams over the past few years and he has to score 20-25 goals for you. Do you want to pay more than you want for him? Probably, but he will also help your team.

7. Mats Zuccarello – He comes from a productive season when he was fresh, and he is still a creative playmaker, but he is set to come to his 32-year-old and at any time You are dealing with players on the wrong side of 30 in the open market you risk overpaying both in the short and long term, especially when they are not genuine elite in an area.

8. Anders Lee – An excellent net-front presence on power play and a total wrecking ball around the curl. But how secure are you in a seven-year-old (or eight-year-old, if it is the islanders who re-write him), contract for a 29-year-old forward who plays a physically demanding style and must not be graceful with his own skill? You can get a pair of 30 goal seasons out of him, but he can also be a buyout candidate before the contract ends.

9. Robin Lehner – He was never as bad as his last season in Buffalo looked, but if you pay him for the season, he had this last season for Islanders you might put yourself in disappointment.

] 10. Justin Williams – Of course, age is a concern, but you know what you get. What you get is great two-way games, 20 goals, 50 points and a durable player who will be in your lineup every night. Eventually, Dad breaks time at all, but Williams hasn't really shown any signs of slowing down. Yet.

11. Ryan Dzingel – Everything depends on the term. He must be a good second line player and not turning 28 to March, so you still get a player who is somewhat closer to his highest level of performance than most of the free agents available.

12. Micheal Ferland – He is more than just a big body that delivers hits; he can play and he can score some goals and he can do a lot of really good things on the ice. But there is at least one team out there looking at St. Louis Blues and believe that they have to pay a premium to get bigger and more physical just to get bigger and more physical.

13. Brett Connolly – A good player who comes from a career year in a franchise class where he becomes any Plan B when the best players are signed. It's a recipe for a bad contract.

Risky signatures

14. Marcus Johansson – If he is fresh, you get a productive top-six forward, but injuries have tracked his career in the last two years . The latest history of head injuries is about.

15. Anton Stralman – At one point, not long ago, he was the perfect shutdown, defensive defender of the modern NHL. But he is 33 years old and comes out of an injury-shortened season. How much has he left in the thought?

16. Wayne Simmonds – During his summit he was probably one of the two or three best powers ahead in the league. He is no longer the player and the decline is much right. If you can get him at a cheap price to be a bottom-six depth player, you may still be able to squeeze some values ​​out of him.

17. Corey Perry – The ducks had virtually no choice but to buy the rest of his contract this offseason. He is a shelf from his previous self and comes out of an injury-shortened season where his production completely disappeared. Is there any chance of a rebound? Maybe, but don't expect much from one.

18. Alex Chiasson – He scored 22 goals, but almost everyone came as a result of getting a significant ice age with Connor McDavid and / or Leon Draisaitl. They do not bring him to his new team.

19. Tyler Myers – He is not a bad player, but he is the exact player that a desperate general manager tries to save his job with a bad team, Give a long-term contract to the free agency, leaving it to the next general manager to try to get rid of.

20. Patrick Maroon – Always pay attention to the free agent role player who comes from the current Stanley Cup champion who scored a few big goals during this round.

Current teams or busts

] Joe Thornton – Thornton still has something to offer a team, but let's be honest who is only one team he has to play for (San Jose Sharks), so it really doesn't make sense to rank him

Niklas Kronwall – Take everything we said about Thornton, and simply replace "San Jose" with "Detroit." [19659038] –

Adam Gretz is an author of Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports . Put him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ Saved .

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