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Each NHL Team's Top Free Agent in 2015

Lyle RichardsonFeatured ColumnistJuly 20, 2014

Each NHL Team's Top Free Agent in 2015

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    With this summer's NHL free-agent market all but picked clean of quality talent, it's worthwhile to look toward next summer's crop of potential free agents. Each player on this list has varying levels of value to his respective team. Some are established stars, some are promising talent, and others are valuable role players. 

    Several factors will determine the cost of re-signing these players. In addition to experience and skills, there is the level of free agency. Some are unrestricted free agents, while others are restricted free agents. Of the latter, several will have arbitration rights next summer. 

    Here's a look at the top potential free agent for each NHL club next year, his respective value and the projected cost to re-sign him.

Francois Beauchemin, Anaheim Ducks

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    Andy Devlin/Getty Images

    Current contract: Three years, $10.5 million with $3.5 million average cap hit.

    Why he's their top free agent: Beauchemin is among the Ducks' most experienced defensemen, helping them win a Stanley Cup in 2007. He's a physical blueliner who can log a lot of ice time. Beauchemin's experience and leadership make him a valuable part of Anaheim's defense corps.

    He was second on the team in average ice time last season (23:05) and fourth in plus/minus (plus-26 rating). He was the team leader in even-strength (18:14) and short-handed ice time (3:11). 

    Projected new contract: Given Beauchemin's age (34), management could offer up a deal similar to his current contract. Having spent most of his nine-year NHL career with the Ducks, he might accept it. 

Mikkel Boedker, Arizona Coyotes

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Current contract: Two years, $5.1 million with $2.55 million average annual salary. 

    Why he's their top free agent: Having overcome being rushed into NHL action early in his career, the 24-year-old Boedker has matured into one of the Coyotes' most reliable scorers.

    He reached a career-best 32 assists and 51 points last season, ranking second overall among Coyotes scorers in both categories. As Boedker approaches his playing prime, he could be capable of more 50-plus point seasons.

    Projected new contract: Boedker will be a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights. The Coyotes could re-sign him to a seven- or eight-year extension worth around $5 million per season.

David Krejci, Boston Bruins

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    Current contract: Three years, $15.75 million with $5.25 million average annual salary.

    Why he's their top free agent: A skilled playmaker, Krejci has been the Bruins' most consistent offensive forward. He's had four seasons of netting 62 points or more.

    The 28-year-old Czech center led the Bruins in scoring in 2013-14. Since 2008-09 he has been among their top scorers. He was their leading playoff scorer (23 points) during their Stanley Cup run in 2011 and again in 2013 (26 points) when they advanced to the Cup Final.

    Projected new contract: Given Krejci's offensive skills and consistency, re-signing him will be expensive. The Bruins could offer up a seven-year contract at an annual average salary of $7 million.

Drew Stafford, Buffalo Sabres

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    Andy Devlin/Getty Images

    Current contract: Four years, $16 million with $4 million average annual cap hit.

    Why he's their top free agent: Of the Sabres' pending free agents next summer, Stafford has been with the club the longest. He's also a former two-time 50-plus-point winger. Despite his poor start last season, The Buffalo News' John Vogl reported in April that Stafford rebounded with a strong second half (21 points in his final 32 games) and regained the alternate captaincy he'd been stripped of at the start of the season.

    Vogl speculates the Sabres could keep the 28-year-old this season to mentor their young players before shopping him at the trade deadline. An improved performance on his part, combined with his experience and leadership, could make him a worthwhile retention for the rebuilding Sabres.

    Projected new contract: New Sabres general manager Tim Murray could be reluctant to re-sign Stafford to a long-term deal. If Stafford is willing to stay and depending on his performance, he might receive a one- or two-year deal for around the same annual salary of his current deal. 

Curtis Glencross, Calgary Flames

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    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Current contract: Four years, $10.2 million with $2.55 million average annual cap hit.

    Why he's their top free agent: The 31-year-old Glencross is among the few experienced players with leadership ability on the rebuilding, young Flames. He's also a physical two-way winger, though his style often sidelines him with injuries.

    Glencross has three seasons with 40-plus points. Though he missed most of last season to injury, he still managed 24 points in 38 games.

    Projected new contract: Glencross accepted a “hometown discount” on his current contract. NBC Sports' Mike Halford cited an interview that Glencross recently gave to Sportsnet Fan 960 radio indicating he'll seek a more lucrative deal from the Flames. Given his age and injury history, they could offer up another four-year deal, raising his annual salary to $3.75 million. 

Andrej Sekera, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    Current contract: Four years, $11 million with $2.75 million average annual salary.

    Why he's their top free agent: Having been acquired from Buffalo last year, Sekera shone in his first season with the Hurricanes. Skilled at both ends of the rink, the 28-year-old was their top defenseman in 2013-14.

    He netted a career high in points (44) in 74 games, finishing third in team scoring and second in assists (33) and power-play points (15). Sekera also led the Hurricanes in average ice time (23:40), while Yahoo Sports indicates he was their leader in blocked shots (127).

    Projected new contract: Sekera was among the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable 2013-14 for the Hurricanes. Another performance as good as or better than last season's will ensure he attracts plenty of interest in next summer's free-agent market. It could cost the Hurricanes a seven-year deal worth $5.5 million per season to re-sign him.

Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Bill Smith/Getty Images

    Current contract: Three-year entry-level contract worth an average cap hit of $764,167 per season.

    Why he's their top free agent: Only 21, Saad is quickly becoming an invaluable part of the Blackhawks offense. He netted a respectable 27 points in 46 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

    Last season he tallied 19 goals and 47 points. He also finished third in team playoff scoring with 16 points in 19 games.

    Projected new contract: The Blackhawks already have more than $65 million invested in 15 players for 2015-16. That means Saad, who lacks arbitration rights, could receive a short-term contract worth around $2.75 million annually.

Brad Stuart, Colorado Avalanche

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    Andy Devlin/Getty Images

    Current contract: Three years, $10.8 million with $3.6 million annual cap hit.

    Why he's their top free agent: Though acquired from the San Jose Sharks this summer, Stuart is the most experienced of the Avalanche defensemen. He brings years of NHL skill and leadership to a mostly young Avalanche blue line.

    Stuart is a solid defensive blueliner who can also chip in offensively if needed. The 34-year-old also has considerable postseason experience, winning a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008.

    Projected new contract: Stuart turns 35 in November. Even if he gives a strong performance this season, the Avalanche will be reluctant to re-sign him to a long-term deal. They could offer Stuart a two-year contract close to his current annual salary.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Current contract: Two years, $11.25 million with $5.625 million average annual salary.

    Why he's their top free agent: Bobrovsky ranks among the league's top goaltenders. The 2013 Vezina Trophy winner is arguably the biggest reason the Blue Jackets became a playoff contender.

    Last season he posted a 32-20-5 record with a 2.38 goals-against average. His .923 save percentage and five shutouts ranked among the league leaders. At 25, Bobrovsky's best seasons remain ahead of him.

    Projected new contract: Coming off a two-year bridge deal next summer, Bobrovsky will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. The Blues Jackets will have to spend big to keep him, perhaps a seven- or eight-year deal worth upwards of $7 million per season.

Jason Spezza, Dallas Stars

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    Glenn James/Getty Images

    Current contract: Seven years, $49 million with $7 million annual cap hit.

    Why he's their top free agent: Though only acquired earlier this summer by the Stars, Spezza is the best player among their pending free agents next summer. His 25 goals and 66 points last season with the Senators would have ranked third among Stars scorers.

    Though hampered in recent years by injuries, Spezza remains a consistent offensive threat. In his 11-year NHL career, he has scored 21-plus goals eight times and 55 or more points nine times. At 31, he still has several productive seasons left.

    Projected new contract: In an interview with Sportsnet's Pat Pickens, Stars GM Jim Nill said he's “pretty confident” he'll re-sign Spezza. The former Senators captain could be centering the Stars' second line this season. While Spezza won't get another deal as lucrative as his current one, he could receive a four- or five-year contract worth around $6 million per season.

Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings

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    Mike Carlson/Getty Images

    Current contract: Two years, $1.9 million with $950,000 average annual salary.

    Why he's their top free agent: Recalled from the minors last November, Nyquist became one of the Red Wings' top scorers last season. The 24-year-old winger's offense helped the injury-ravaged team clinch a playoff spot.

    Nyquist's 28 goals were tops among Detroit scorers. His 48 points in only 57 games were good for third overall in team scoring, only one point behind leading scorers Daniel Alfredsson and Niklas Kronwall. All but nine of his points came at even strength. 

    Projected new contract: The Wings have a blossoming star on their hands. Management could wait until next summer to re-sign him, giving the team more time to fully evaluate his performance. Another strong season could result in a long-term extension worth upwards of $5 million per season.

Nail Yakupov, Edmonton Oilers

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Current contract: Three-year entry-level contract worth an average cap hit of $925,000.

    Why he's their top free agent: Only 20, Yakupov holds considerable promise as a scoring winger. He tied for the scoring lead among NHL rookies in 2013 with 31 points in 48 games.

    He struggled through his sophomore season, with only 24 points in 63 games. He has plenty of time to develop into a proven NHL sniper and should be motivated to elevate his play in 2014-15.

    Projected new contract: Yakupov could seek a long-term extension akin to those signed by teammates Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins when they came off their entry-level deals. Unless he has a stunning breakout performance this season, he'll likely receive a two-year contract worth around $2.5 million annually.

Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers

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    Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    Current contract: A three-year entry-level deal worth an annual base cap hit of $894,167.

    Why he's their top free agent: Selected third overall in the 2011 NHL draft, Huberdeau tied for the rookie scoring lead during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season with 31 points in 48 games. That performance garnered him the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

    Huberdeau struggled through an injury-hampered sophomore season, with only 28 points in 69 games. Given the 21-year-old's potential, however, he remains arguably the most promising of the young Panthers.

    Projected new contract: Huberdeau is coming off an entry-level deal and lacks arbitration rights. The Panthers could offer up a two- or three-year deal worth upwards of $3 million, depending upon his performance in 2014-15.

Justin Williams, Los Angeles Kings

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    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

    Current contract: Four years, $14.6 million with $3.65 million average annual salary.

    Why he's their top free agent: Over the past four seasons Williams was a model of consistency. He had two 50-plus-point seasons and tallied 43 points last season. He finished second in team scoring in 2011-12 and third in 2010-11, 2012-13 and 2013-14.

    He's also been clutch in the playoffs, netting 15 points in 20 games during the Kings' 2011 Stanley Cup run. Williams' 25 points in 26 postseason games helped lift the Kings to another championship in 2014, as he earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

    Projected new contract: Williams turns 33 in October. The Kings could try to re-sign him to a three-year deal worth around $4 million annually. It could come down to Williams deciding if he wants to stick with a perennial Cup contender or test the market for more lucrative offers.

Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Current contract: Three-year entry-level contract worth an annual cap hit of $900,000.

    Why he's their top free agent: Of the Wild's promising young players, Granlund is arguably the most talented. Selected ninth overall in the 2010 NHL draft, the 22-year-old enjoyed a solid sophomore season in 2013-14. His 33 assists were third-best on the Wild last season, while his 41 points were fifth-highest.

    Granlund also acquitted himself well in his first stint in the NHL playoffs. He tied for the team lead in goals (four) and tied for third in points (seven).

    Projected new contract: Granlund is coming off an entry-level contract, meaning he'll lack arbitration rights. He could receive a two- or three-year contract worth around $2.75 million per season.

Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Current contract: Three-year entry-level contract worth an average cap hit (with bonuses) of $870,000.

    Why he's their top free agent: While the Canadiens must also re-sign promising Alex Galchenyuk, the gritty 5'9”, 180-pound Gallagher could be their priority next summer. He's a capable scorer who loves to agitate opponents and is unafraid to battle for pucks in the corners and in front of the net.

    Gallagher was a finalist for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year in 2013. He also tallied 41 points in 81 games last season and tied for third (11 points) in team playoff scoring.

    Projected new contract: The Canadiens tend to re-sign players coming off entry-level deals to short-term contracts. Gallagher could receive a two- or three-year deal worth $2.75 million annually.

Craig Smith, Nashville Predators

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    Current contract: Two years, $4 million with $2 million annual cap hit.

    Why he's their top free agent: Smith is a good skater and versatile forward who is capable of playing right wing and center. In only his third NHL season the 24-year-old had a solid breakthrough performance. 

    Smith's 24 goals led the Predators last season, while his 52 points were good for third overall. He also finished second in shots (215) and game-winning goals (four)

    Projected new contract: Smith is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer. That could give him leverage in negotiations with the Predators. Another strong performance could result in him doubling his salary on a four- or five-year deal.

Jaromir Jagr, New Jersey Devils

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    Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press

    Current contract: One-year contract with a $3.5 million base salary, $2 million in performance bonuses.

    Why he's their top free agent: Given the lack of reliable scoring punch on the Devils, they can ill-afford to part with the aging but still effective Jagr. Despite turning 42 last season, he proved still capable of producing some offensive magic. He led the Devils in points (67), game-winning goals (six), shots (231) and plus/minus (plus-16).

    The Star-Ledger's Rich Chere reported in April that Jagr's teammates voted him team MVP. He was also a finalist for the 2014 Masterton Trophy.

    Projected new contract: If Jagr has another season like he did in 2013-14, he'll earn another one-year deal from the Devils.

Brock Nelson, New York Islanders

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Current contract: Three-year entry-level contract at an annual cap hit of $900,000.

    Why he's their top free agent: The 22-year-old Nelson is a big forward (6'3”, 196 lbs) with strong two-way skills who can play both center and wing. He had a promising NHL debut in 2013-14, finishing fifth in goals (14) among Islanders scorers while scoring 26 points in 74 games.

    Projected new contract: Nelson will be coming out of an entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. He can expect a two-year contract worth around $2.5 million per season.

Derek Stepan, New York Rangers

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Current contract: Two years, $6.15 million with average cap hit of $3.075 million.

    Why he's their top free agent: Stepan has become the Rangers' top-line center. During the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, his 44 points led the Rangers in scoring.

    Last season he tied for first among Rangers scorers in assists (40) and finished second in points (57) and power-play points (18). He also finished second in team scoring during the 2014 playoffs with 15 points.

    Projected new contract: Having agreed to a two-year bridge deal in his previous negotiations with the Rangers, Stepan will seek a more lucrative long-term contract this time around. His eligibility for arbitration next summer also gives him leverage to get a deal he wants. Expect Stepan to get a seven- or eight-year deal worth around $5.8 million annually.

Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators

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    Current contract: Five years, $25.5 million with $5.1 million average annual salary.

    Why he's their top free agent: With Jason Spezza dealt to Dallas, Ryan is now the Senators' most established scoring forward. His debut last season with the team was hampered by injury and a lack of chemistry with Spezza, but he still managed 23 goals and 48 points in 70 games.

    Ryan is also a former four-time 30-plus goal scorer. The 27-year-old winger is now in his playing prime. If he stays healthy and clicks with center Kyle Turris next season, he could reach 30 goals for the fifth time.

    Projected new contract: Having acquired Ryan via trade last summer, Senators management will try to re-sign him. Unfortunately, the budget-conscious club might be unable to match or exceed what he could get via free agency next summer. It could take a five-year deal worth more than $7 million per season to keep him in Ottawa. 

Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Current contract: A one year, bonus-laden deal with a base salary of $2 million.

    Why he's their top free agent: Of the Flyers' free agents next summer, Timonen remains the most skilled and experienced. Despite turning 39 last season, his 35 points in 77 games made him the Flyers' second-highest scoring defenseman. He was second on the Flyers in average power-play ice time (3:25).

    Projected new contract: Retirement could be beckoning for Timonen after this season, especially if the Flyers can add experienced depth to their defense. Still, they could try to coax him back for one more season. Depending on his performance, he could receive another offer similar to this year's contract.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Current contract: Seven years, $35 million with $5 million average annual salary.

    Why he's their top free agent: In his 10-year NHL career, Fleury won 35 or more regular-season games six times. He also had a save percentage of .910 or higher six times. He backstopped the Penguins to consecutive Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009, winning a championship the second time.

    Last season Fleury tied for second among the league leaders in wins (39) and was among the leaders in shutouts (five). Though he has struggled in recent postseasons, he had a solid .915 save percentage and a 2.40 goals-against average in 13 games during the 2014 playoffs.

    Projected new contract: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Rossi reports the Penguins are confident of eventually re-signing Fleury, who has expressed a desire to stay. The Penguins, however, have more than $42 million invested in just nine players for 2015-16. Fleury, who turns 30 in November, could face a shorter-term deal (perhaps three or four years) for the same salary of his current contract.

Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Current contract: Four years, $15.2 million with $3.8 million annual salary.

    Why he's their top free agent: The 30-year-old Niemi remains the Sharks' most experienced goaltender. In three of the past four seasons he has won 34 or more games.

    Over the same period his save percentage has been .913 or higher. His 39 wins last season tied for second overall among the league leaders. 

    Projected new contract: ESPN.com's Craig Custance reported in June the Sharks were shopping Niemi. CSNBayArea.com's Kevin Kurz reported backup Alex Stalock could challenge Niemi for the starter's job. If Niemi rises to the challenge, the Sharks could offer up another four-year deal, but he could seek a raise to around $5 million per season.

Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

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    John Russell/Getty Images

    Current contract: Three-year entry-level deal at an average cap hit of $900,000.

    Why he's their top free agent: Tarasenko is a rising young star on the talent-deep Blues. Despite being hampered by injuries, he continues to improve. A healthy 2014-15 should result in a significant boost to his numbers.

    He tallied 19 points in 38 games during his NHL debut in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Last season he scored 21 goals and 43 points in 62 games. During the 2014 playoffs he led the Blues in goals (four) and was second in points

    Projected new contract: Lacking arbitration rights, Tarasenko could receive a short-term offer similar to those that teammates David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Patrick Berglund received earlier in their careers. Depending on his performance next season, Tarasenko's new contract could average $2.75 million per season.

Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Scott Audette/Getty Images

    Current contract: Two years, $4.6 million with $2.3 million annual average salary.

    Why he's their top free agent: Bishop quickly established himself as the Lightning's starting goalie after joining the club in a late-season trade from Ottawa in 2013. He was among the biggest reasons the Lightning made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2011.

    Bishop finished the 2013-14 season among the NHL leaders in wins (37), goals-against average (2.23), save percentage (.924) and shutouts (five). He was also a finalist for the 2014 Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender. 

    Projected new contract: Bishop's agent will likely point to 2014 Vezina winner Tuukka Rask ($7 million per season) and fellow nominee Semyon Varlamov ($5.9 million annually) as comparable goalies in contract negotiations. Another solid performance by Bishop in 2014-15 could net him a lucrative seven-year deal worth more than $6 million per season.

Nazem Kadri, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Current contract: Two years, $5.8 million with $2.9 million cap hit.

    Why he's their top free agent: Leafs fans may believe goaltender Jonathan Bernier is their top free agent, but Kadri holds that honor. He has finished among the Leafs' top three scorers in each of the last two seasons. Only 23, Kadri has yet to reach his playing prime. 

    He collected 44 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Though he struggled last season, he still finished with 50 points in 78 games

    Projected new contract: Kadri has arbitration rights next summer. That, and another season among the Leafs' top three scorers, could ensure he receives a deal between five to seven years in length for around $5.5 million per season.

Chris Tanev, Vancouver Canucks

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    Current contract: One year, $2 million.

    Why he's their top free agent: The 24-year-old Tanev has steadily improved as an NHL defenseman over the past four seasons. On a club with aging stars, he is emerging as a promising young blueliner. Tanev's plus-12 and average short-handed ice time (3:00) were second-highest on the Canucks. He also averaged respectable overall minutes of ice time (20:44). 

    Projected new contract: Tanev recently re-signed another one-year contract. If his development continues through next season, he could earn a four-year deal worth more than $3 million per season.

Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

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    Current contract: Two years, $3.7 million with $1.85 million average salary.

    Why he's their top free agent: Despite his struggles last season, the 24-year-old Holtby has the skills to become a proven starting goaltender. He has won 23 games in each of the last two seasons and has a career .919 save percentage through four NHL seasons.

    Holtby has also acquitted himself well in playoff action. He has a career 2.04 goals-against average and .931 save percentage through 21 postseason games.

    Projected new contract: A bounce-back performance in 2014-15 will significantly improve his chances of landing a lucrative long-term deal. He could receive a five- or six-year deal worth more than $4.5 million per season.

Jim Slater, Winnipeg Jets

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    Current contract: Three years, $4.8 million with $1.6 million average salary.

    Why he's their top free agent: The Jets currently have all their core players and promising youngsters under contract next season. Of their remaining free agents next season, Slater is their most experienced. Though sidelined by a hand injury and a sports hernia the past two seasons, the 31-year-old remains a swift-skating, aggressive checking forward. He should remain a valuable part of their penalty kill.

    Projected new contract: Given Slater's age (he'll turn 32 in November) and recent injury history, he's unlikely to get a long-term contract. He can expect another two-year deal for roughly the same annual salary.

     

    All player statistics and news (except otherwise indicated) via NHL.com. All salary information via CapGeek.com.

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