Now that a full week has passed since the free agent market opened on July 1st, there are still very few quality players in the market. Unfortunately for most of these players, the fact that the salary cap was increased to $83.5 million for the 2023-24 season has severely limited teams’ ability to add more talent to their roster.
There are a few teams, such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Vegas Golden Knights that are currently nearing the limit to make significant additions; However, there are a number of teams that still have financial leeway. In this list, we’ll walk you through some of the best names left on the market, categorized by position.
Patrick Kane – his longtime colleague, Jonathan Toews, most likely on the road to retirement, but so far there is no indication that Kane will join him on this path. During the 2021-22 season, Kane continued to display his incredible offensive talent, which has spanned over the past decade, as evidenced by his 92 points in 78 games. Unfortunately for Kane, a groin injury seemed to haunt him, as he was only able to amass a total of 35 points in 50 games with the Chicago Blackhawks, including just nine goals. As the league approached the trade deadline, speculation grew that Kane might not be traded at all.
Proving the doubters wrong, in his last five games in a Blackhawks uniform, Kane scored three goals and seven assists in five games and soon joined the New York Rangers. Kane needed time to adjust to a new environment, as he scored a respectable 12 points in 19 games with the Rangers during the regular season. Most importantly, Kane continued his impressive career success, scoring six points in seven games for New York.
Vladimir Tarasenko – Now a former Rangers teammate, Tarasenko also has a year of depression by his standards. The previous season, Tarasenko finished with 82 points in 75 games, looking to position himself well in the market this season. Just like Kane, Tarasenko’s offensive numbers included just 10 goals in 38 games for the St. Louis Blues, before he was also traded to New York before deadline.
In 31 games with the Rangers, Tarasenko saw his offensive production improve slightly, but not much. In 31 games in New York, he scored eight goals and 13 assists, adding four more points in seven playoff games. Tarasenko was heavily associated with the Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes when the market opened, but was so frustrated with his shooting that he transferred his representation to CAA Hockey.
Thomas Tatar Tatar is one of the most interesting names still available on the free agency market, and it’s made it difficult for teams to decide exactly what kind of player they’ll get. In the regular season, he is usually good at scoring 20 goals and between 25 and 35 assists. Last season, Tatar played for the New Jersey Devils, scored 20 goals and 28 assists in 82 games, and had an impressive +41 rating at the end of the season.
Not only has he had above-average offensive production for most of his career, but his possession numbers are solid as well, as evidenced by his career ratings of 60.6 CF%. The main problem for Tatar is the completely different player that seems to come out during the playoffs. In his 52 career playoff games, Tatar has scored seven goals and six assists, worst odds of -14. This fact about Tatar has likely pushed play-off teams away from his team, and even rebuilt teams, as it likely generates little interest in his services as the trade deadline rolls around.
Matthew Doumba – The focal point of the Minnesota Wild defense over the past decade, Doumba looks like a different player after an impressive 2017-18 season. The offensive numbers were the most successful, scoring just 94 points in the last 209 games in a Wild jersey. But things aren’t that bad for Dumba, as he has consistently played more than 20 minutes in Minnesota, seen icy time on the penalty kick, and still holds a 90.5% oiSV.
Because of his hat-trick, Doumba will likely have played his last game for the Wild, and the two most interested teams will find themselves out of the final game picture for the next two seasons. The Arizona Coyote is said to be related to Dumba, giving him better access to power play time; The San Jose Sharks also considered adding him, citing Dumba as a possible replacement for Eric Carlson.
Martin Jones The free agent class of 2023 has long been considered weak, and the goal-oriented market is perhaps the lightest of all positions. Most of the quality names have already been signed to date, making Jones one of the best options still available.
During the 2022-23 season, Jones had a back-and-forth season. During an early January streak in Seattle, Jones produced a record of 7-0-0, and carried 0.926 SV% over that streak. The winning streaks that Kraken hit with Jones in the net eventually put the team into the playoffs, but Jones’ overall picture for the year wasn’t promising. Although Jones finished with an impressive 27-13-3 record, he finished the year with a 0.86 SV% and a 2.99 GAA. The base numbers also don’t bode well for Jones, as he finished GSAA at -21.4.