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Ranking the Top Value Free Agents

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Get ready for free agency with our market value rankings

Buffalo Sabres v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images

With only a couple days to process the NHL draft, the free agency period has snuck up on us. Not to worry though, because we have you covered with the annual projected market value rankings.

The Buffalo Sabres headed into today with some interesting names circulating in rumors, and one familiar name, Zemgus Girgensons, reportedly returning with the club.

Unrestricted free agency, of course, can conjure up some regrettable contracts. On top of that, the flat cap situation in the NHL this season will put an emphasis on making good decisions over the upcoming hours, days, and weeks.

In order to determine who are the best value targets, I weighed each free agent’s goals above replacement over three seasons, applied regression curves based on age, and crossed it with Evolving Hockey’s contract projections.

I divided all free agents into tiers, and ranked the top names available. Short term contracts generally garner more value since long term deals can be a hindrance, and obviously higher GAR and lower cap hits are more favorable. So in short, these rankings are the players who will make the most impact per season and dollar over the entirety of their projected contracts.

Without further ado, here are the rankings:


Top 6 Forwards

  1. Ilya Kovalchuk | 37 | $2.328 million AAV | 1 year
  2. Tyler Toffoli | 28 | $6.545 million AAV | 7 years
  3. Evgeni Dadonov | 31 | $7.001 million AAV | 6 years
  4. Taylor Hall | 28 | $8.543 million AAV | 7 years
  5. Jesper Fast | 28 | $2.969 million AAV | 3 years
  6. Anthony Duclair | 24 | $3.351 million AAV | 2 years
  7. Mikael Granlund | 28 | $6.525 million AAV | 7 years
  8. Mike Hoffman | 30 | $6.557 million AAV | 5 years

Bottom 6 Forwards

  1. Nick Cousins | 26 | $3.042 million AAV | 4 years
  2. Dominik Kahun | 24 | $2.912 million AAV | 2 years
  3. Josh Leivo | 27 | $2.171 million AAV | 3 years
  4. Craig Smith | 30 | $4.422 million AAV | 3 years
  5. Vinnie Hinostroza | 26 | $2.43 million AAV | 3 years
  6. Joe Thornton | 40 | $2.137 million AAV | 1 year
  7. Johan Larsson | 27 | $3.074 million AAV | 4 years
  8. Conor Sheary | 28 | $3.526 million AAV | 4 years
  9. Jimmy Vesey | 27 | $3.302 million AAV | 4 years
  10. Patrick Marleau | 40 | $1.709 million AAV | 1 year

Honorable Mentions: Tyler Ennis, Mattias Janmark, Carl Soderberg, Derek Grant, Josh Archibald, Matt Nieto, Derick Brassard, Erik Haula, Vladislav Namestnikov, Cody Eakin


Top 4 Defensemen

  1. TJ Brodie | 30 | $4.909 million AAV | 3 years
  2. Chris Tanev | 30 | $3.286 million AAV | 3 years
  3. Alex Pietrangelo | 30 | $9.071 million AAV | 7 years
  4. Torey Krug | 29 | $7.376 million AAV | 5 years
  5. Andy Greene | 37 | $3.188 million AAV | 3 years
  6. Erik Gustafsson | 28 | $6.038 million AAV | 5 years
  7. Sami Vatanen | 29 | $4.581 million AAV | 3 years
  8. Tyson Barrie | 28 | $7.154 million AAV | 7 years
  9. Ron Hainsey | 39 | $2.183 million AAV | 1 year
  10. Travis Hamonic | 29 | $5.211 million AAV | 5 years

Honorable Mentions: Cody Ceci, Justin Schultz, Dmitry Kulikov, Joakim Ryan


Bottom Pair Defensemen

  1. Jan Rutta | 29 | $824k AAV | 1 year
  2. Christian Folin | 29 | $841k AAV | 1 year
  3. Matt Benning | 26 | $1.225 million AAV | 2 years
  4. Nathan Beaulieu | 27 | $1.543 million AAV | 1 year
  5. Slater Koekkoek | 26 | $2.135 million AAV | 3 years
  6. Trevor van Riemsdyk | 28 | $856k AAV | 1 year
  7. Jon Merrill | 28 | $1.802 million AAV | 1 year
  8. Troy Stecher | 26 | $1.96 million AAV | 2 years
  9. Radko Gudas | 30 | $3.077 million AAV | 3 years
  10. Michael Del Zotto | 30 | $1.327 million AAV | 1 years

Honorable Mentions: Zach Bogosian, Deryk Engelland, Kevin Shattenkirk, Mark Pysyk, Ben Hutton, Cody Goloubef, Mark Barberio, Alex Biega, Anthony Bitetto, Mark Borowiecki