The Hockey News – Top 10 Free Agents

10. Willie Mitchell , D, $3.5 million
Mitchell , 33, battled through an injury-plagued season at the worst possible time. Not sure he’ll be able to command $3 million again, but assuming he recovers from his concussion, he can still be a top shutdown guy.

9. Antero Niittymaki , G, $600,000
Another guy who comes relatively cheap. Niittymaki outplayed Tampa Bay No. 1 Mike Smith this season. He’d push for minutes in places like Philly (where’s he’s been before) and Washington, and be the perfect backup in places like Calgary and Buffalo.

8. Johnny Boychuk , D, $500,000
Boychuk , 26, rose well up the Boston depth chart by season’s end. He was second only to captain Zdeno Chara in minutes played in the post-season and was the team’s No. 2 scorer from the blueline. He’ll expect a raise, but nothing too taxing for a top-four blueliner.

7. Anton Volchenkov , D, $2.5 million

Volchenkov , 28, is one of the best shutdown/shot-blocking guys in the world. He’ll be looking to double his salary on a five- or six-year deal. If Mike Komisarek could sign for $22.5 million over five years last summer, Volchenkov will be looking for something in the $25-million area.

6. Dan Ellis , G, $1.75 million

Ellis may have lost the Nashville Predators starting job to Pekka Rinne , but the soon-to-be 29-year-old still had a better save percentage than Jonathan Quick , Marc-Andre Fleury and Niklas Backstrom . Ellis is another guy who will want to go some place he has a chance to steal minutes and even take over the No. 1 spot. But he won’t command many dollars to do so.

5. Ilya Kovalchuk , LW, $6.39 million

The premier goal-scorer on the market – and maybe No. 2 in the world behind Alex Ovechkin – will hit free agency looking for mucho dineros for about a decade’s worth of work. And that’s why he’s so far down this list. He might net you 50 goals, but his all-around game is suspect and you can buy three 20-goal scorers for the same price as one Kovalchuk .

4. Paul Martin , D, $3.83 million
The most underrated defenseman in the league, Martin, 29 , battled injuries much of the season. But he’s sneaky-good at both ends of the ice and will surprise the fans of whichever team signs him, unless it’s New Jersey.

3. Zbynek Michalek, D, $1.25 million
A poor man’s Volchenkov, the unheralded Michalek , 27, is a shot-blocking machine who’d be a bigger name if he wasn’t a Phoenix Coyote. The only question is who will earn more next season, Zbynek or his younger brother Milan , who makes $3.5 million with the Ottawa Senators?

2. Patrick Marleau , C/LW, $6.36 million
Like Kovalchuk, Marleau , 30, will be expensive: just not as expensive. He won’t command a long term like Kovalchuk and is also a more complete player who can line up at center or wing. Look for Marleau to net about $7 million a year for five years and average 35 goals and 80 points.

1. Tomas Plekanec , C, $2.75 million

Plekanec took a gamble last summer…and won. Coming off a paltry 39-point season in 2008-09, Plekanec was willing to sign a multi-year deal as an RFA, but ultimately accepted the Habs’ one-year offer. Then he went out and added 31 points to his previous season’s total to lead the Canadiens with 70 points this year. Now the 27-year-old is set to cash in big-time. He’s got No. 1-center potential, but would instantly be one of the best No. 2s in the league.

11 Responses to The Hockey News – Top 10 Free Agents

  1. pezzz123 says:

    This list is really poor. Any list that hasn't Kovalchuk as #1 isn't worth reading.

    Plekanec #1? Seriously? The guy is good, but come on. He's seriously overhyped. No, he's not a potential 1rst line center. And no, he's not one of the best 2nd line centers in the league. Sorry, but I'd take Malkin, Briere, Sharp, Bergeron, Richards, Zetterberg, Pavelski, Lecavalier and Kesler over him as 2nd line centers. That puts him pretty far on the list.  

    Willie Mitchell might not even play hockey next year and he's in the top 10? Come on.

    I really like Johnny Boychuk, he's a good young physical d-man and played great for Boston down the stretch, but before Gonchar and Kubina? Really? Even before guys like Andy Sutton, Dan Hamhuis and Tony Lydman? 

    And Nittymaki? He's a good goaltender, he's not gonna cost a lot and be a great bargain for the team that signs him. But no top 10. Matt Lombardi? Alex Ponikarovsky? Colby Armstrong? Alex Tanguay? Matt Cullen? Alex Frolov?

    Enough already. That list sucks real bad.

  2. inurface says:

    agreed this list is horrible
    maybe a american noob from phoenix wrote it?

    i was thinkin of having a top 10 list somethin like

    1 kovalchuk
    2 marleau
    3 niedermieyer
    4 whitney
    5 volchenkov
    6 plekanec
    7 nabokov
    8 gonchar
    9 frolov
    10 turco

    im sleepy but i know this list is better then wht tht so called hockey writer (journalist) posted

  3. mojo19 says:

    I have to agree with you, there are 10-20 Johnny Boychuck's available every year.

    Plekanec over Kovalchuk…. uh…. what?

    and ya Nittymaki is a solid back up, that warrants being a top 10 UFA

  4. Mapleleaves says:

    Some people being on there is just dumb but the only reason i can think of the order of the top players beiing different is may they take into account salary, kovy wants to much. Marleau may not be moving far from what some are saying so that drops him too, i dont really know the reasoning.

  5. FlamingHomer says:

    I think the writer is basing the order by desirability not talent. He does say that Kovalchuk is the best goal scorer on the market but at the $$$ he wants, very few teams would have an interest in taking that on. There should be less debate about the players listed and their order if you look at it that way.

  6. Boston_Bruins says:

    Yeah even from being a Bruins homer it's kind of crazy to put Boychuk over some of those guys after playing 50 games. He was great here but it's not like he's a top guy or anything. He's already 26.

  7. inurface says:

    even so based on desirability tht list may be even more way off…..(yea kovalchuk/marleau would drop but man how many others would jump up) and plekanec would still not be in top 3……sure top 10  but keep in mind what salaries he would want..4.5million around for one yr heroics,,,,,,,,,,,, also he was dead in the last 2 playoff rounds vs pit and phi……………


    I'm a HABS fan and I even think Plekanec is overrated.. I think he just a had a great year in a contract year…I think hes worth 4-4.5 million per year.


    Kovalchuk will end up outpricing himself out of the NHL if hes not carefull.. I would like MTL to sign Lombardi and Ellis( after they trade Halak or Price)…

  10. Kev_Leafs says:

    I assume you mean Dan Ellis and not Matt Ellis.  That being said, I think a player like Matt Ellis is what they need.  Beyond Lapierre they seemingly lack the tenacity and aggression needed in the playoffs – but they did win two huge series, so…  

    Also, though likely cheaper, I don't think Lombardi would address Montreal's size issue.  Lombardi and Plekanec are similar statured two-way players – but Plekanec puts up more points (.65 vs .53 ppg).  I think Frolov might be a better acquisition for the Habs.  He's a bigger two-way player and has similar points to Plekancec's.  He'd probably cost more than both though.  But, if you want the hometown connection then the decision is a no-brainer.


    Ya I meant Dan Ellis… he could be the next Craig Anderson.. I like Lombardi because hes fast and a very good skater.. he would be a good depth forward, and plus hes French Canadian so the fans would love him.

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