The list of unrestricted free agents in 2011 and 2012 were/are pretty underwhelming. Aside from Brad Richards this summer and possibly Zach Parise next, there weren’t/aren’t many other game-changers. That’s not the case in 2013.
Needless to say, the free agent ‘class’, per se, is strong two years from now. Although some of the stars may not even make it to open market on July 1, 2013, it’s certainly fun to think about. - Sidney Crosby
The chances Sid actually becomes a free agent are very small – slim to none. Pittsburgh couldn’t just let him walk. But just think for a second what it would be like if he did hit the open market. At the age of 25, he’d be the biggest free agent in league history. 29 teams would be trying to make cap room. Twitter would explode. Chances are, though, Crosby will ink a new extension late next summer and this scenario won’t even come close to happening.
- Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf
Anaheim would certainly like to lock up Perry and Getzlaf to long-term deals next summer. Getzlaf is the team captain and has started a family in SoCal, so you can write in pencil he’ll be there for the long haul. Perry could be an interesting case, though. If he puts together two more great seasons, how much could he make on the open market? $8 million per year? If so, could the Ducks afford that? It’s hard seeing either of these players in another uniform.
- Shea Weber
This is the first summer that Weber can become UFA-eligible. Last week, both Weber and the Predators said the right things in relation to a long-term contract; but they also had that optimism in the spring and look what happened. Next summer, the All-Star defenseman has the power to head to arbitration, if he so chooses. Now, Nashville wouldn’t let Weber walk for nothing in 2013. But whether it’s with the Preds or another team, and Weber gets to July 1, 2013, 29 other teams would be lining up at his door.
- Great class of defensemen
This could be the summer that teams needing a puck-moving defenseman can really cash in. Tobias Enstrom, Mark Streit, Lubomir Visnovsky, Ryan Whitney and Marek Zidlicky are all slated to be UFA’s in 2013. It’s also the first summer Mike Green and Alex Goligoski can become UFA-eligible (if they’re not locked up past 2013 next summer). Not to mention, though he’s not known to be a puck-mover, Vancouver’s Alex Edler is unrestricted in 2013, too.
- Jarome Iginla
The Flames captain would be 36 years old by the time July 1, 2013, rolled around. With that said, he has put together 10 straight seasons of 30-plus goals. If he still has a few good years left in him, he will be sought after by teams needing some help on the wing. Iginla will either stay in Calgary forever or take this chance to sign with a Cup contender.
- Jordan Staal
At some point or another, you would think the Penguins will have to make a decision of who to keep and not to keep when it comes to, say, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and others. If Staal were on any other team, he’d at least be the second-line center; maybe even first-line. Right now, he’s one of the NHL’s premier defensive centers, while his offensive game is growing. In today’s world, Staal would make a killing in free agency.
- Jonathan Quick
It’s hard to imagine Los Angeles will have both Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier for the long haul, isn’t it? By the time Quick is a UFA in 2013, he’d be 26 years old. He’s not an elite goaltender by any means, but there are always a handful of teams looking for a netminder despite the market for goalies slowly drying out. Quick may be the best goalie available in 2013. Jimmy Howard is also a UFA, but if he’s still on an uptick, Detroit will re-sign him.
- Other notable free agents
Aside from the names mentioned above, here are some others that are slated for unrestricted free agency two years from now: Niklas Backstrom, Alex Burrows, Ryane Clowe, Scott Hartnell, Nathan Horton, Brendan Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, Tim Thomas, Stephen Weiss and Travis Zajac.
If they were to hit the open market this summer, they may be considered the best ones available. But as of now for 2013, they’re not.
After a couple down years for talent to be had on the open market, 2013 (and even 2014) look strong for free agency. Why is this? Well, part of the reason is that a few years ago players started signing long-term contracts, which minimized the crop of free agents for a few years.
As you can see, in a couple years big names will once again be looking to sign on the dotted line come July 1st.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.