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Top 25 remaining unrestricted free agents

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

The first two weeks of NHL free agency saw several teams open their wallets, including huge first-day signings of Nathan Horton (Columbus Blue Jackets) and David Clarkson (Toronto Maple Leafs).

But plenty of key players remain on the open market and are looking for a home, either with the club they played for in 2012-13 or one that has a hole it's looking to fill.

Here's a look at 25 of the top unrestricted free agents still on the market:

Chad LaRose Carolina 35 GP 2-2-4 The gritty wing struggled with the Hurricanes last season, but reached double digits in goals in each of the previous five campaigns.  The 31-year-old could certainly help a club looking to add depth to its group of bottom-six forwards.
Alexei Ponikarovsky Winnipeg/
New Jersey
42 GP 4-5-9 The big wing was reacquired late in the season by the New Jersey Devils, who hoped his presence on the power play would help them qualify for the postseason. That didn't work out, but Ponikarovsky may be able to help a club in search of a power-play specialist.
Mikhail Grabovski Toronto 48 GP 9-7-16 Highly skilled offensive player didn’t see eye-to-eye with Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle and was bought out with four years remaining on his five-year contract. Wherever he lands, it’s imperative Grabovski is in a top-six role, where he’d be most effective. A three-time 20-goal scorer in Toronto.
Damien Brunner Detroit 44 GP 12-14-26 Has 44 games of NHL experience after signing as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings, but the 27-year-old Swiss wing is coveted by several teams and would fill a role as a top-six forward. Had nine points (five goals, four assists) in 14 playoff games, helping the Red Wings reach the second round.
Kaspars Daugavins Ottawa/Boston 25 GP 1-3-4 Speedy 25-year-old was acquired by the Boston Bruins from the Ottawa Senators in early March, but saw little action with one of the NHL's deepest teams and wasn't re-signed. He's been a solid point-producer at the AHL level but has just six goals and 15 points in 91 games during pieces of four NHL seasons.
Brenden Morrow Dallas/Pittsburgh 44 GP 12-13-25 The former Dallas Stars captain showed he can still produce after being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 15 regular-season games. Morrow's biggest asset is his leadership, which would be beneficial to any club.
Daniel Cleary Detroit 48 GP 9-6-15 Didn't put up the offense we've seen in years past, but this 34-year-old wing is scrappy and would provide leadership. Cleary is hopeful he will re-sign with the Detroit Red Wings, but if negotiations fall apart, he would be a valuable penalty killer and leader.
Milan Hejduk Colorado 29 GP 4-7-11 It's hard to envision Hejduk anywhere else -- he's spent his entire NHL career with the Colorado Avalanche -- but the 37-year-old hit the open market. Hejduk has played more than 1,000 NHL games and is 25 goals shy of 400 in his career.
Peter Mueller Florida 43 GP 8-9-17 The skilled center overcame previous health issues and appeared in all but two games for the Florida Panthers in 2012-13, when he had eight goals and nine assists. Mueller, 25, can thrive in the right environment.
Brad Boyes N.Y. Islanders 48 GP 10-25-35 The New York Islanders signed Boyes to a one-year deal last summer to see if he could rediscover his offensive game, and he did just that alongside John Tavares. Now looking for a new home, Boyes will be searching for a team in need of a top-six forward.
Kyle Wellwood Winnipeg 39 GP 6-9-15 Wellwood spent the past two seasons with the Winnipeg Jets and was a solid offensive player, collecting 62 points (24 goals, 38 assists) in 116 games. Much like Boyes, Wellwood needs to be in a top-six role in order to maximize production.
Scott Gomez San Jose 39 GP 2-13-15 Gomez had his contract bought out by the Montreal Canadiens at the start of the 2012-13 season and quickly caught on with the San Jose Sharks, where he had 15 points in 39 games. He likely won't find a long-term deal, but could be a low-risk/high-reward signing this summer.
Nik Antropov Winnipeg 40 GP 6-12-18 Antropov suffered a lower-body injury late in the season, which may have been one of the reasons why the Winnipeg Jets again missed the playoffs. Antropov could be a decent third-line center, considering he had 15 goals for Winnipeg in 2011-12.
Mason Raymond Vancouver 46 GP 10-12-22 Solid two-way player who probably won’t be on the market much longer. Raymond's best season with the Vancouver Canucks came in 2009-10, when he had 25 goals and 28 assists.
Simon Gagne Los Angeles/
38 GP 5-11-16 Gagne overcame a recent history of injury problems after being reunited with the Philadelphia Flyers, where he had 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 27 games. He may not receive anything longer than a one-year deal, but can still produce offensively.
Teemu Selanne Anaheim 46 GP 12-12-24 Selanne turned 43 in early July and is coming off a season in which he started to look his age, But the Anaheim Ducks are still waiting to see if Selanne wants to return for another season. He's working out, and if he decides to play another season, Anaheim is the only place he'd go.
Douglas Murray San Jose/Pittsburgh 33 GP 1-5-6 Hard-hitting veteran defenceman helped the Pittsburgh Penguins reach the Eastern Conference Final after being acquired from the San Jose Sharks. He's solid in his own end and will provide a veteran presence in any team's dressing room.
Ron Hainsey Winnipeg 47 GP 0-13-13 Hasn't scored a goal since the 2010-11 season, but has averaged more than 21 minutes per game for the Jets during the past two seasons, including nearly 23 in 2012-13.
Ryan Whitney Edmonton 34 GP 4-9-13 Whitney has had a tough time since suffering an ankle injury just after Christmas in 2010, and he was either a third-pairing defenceman or a scratch often in 2012-13. There's little doubt he will aim to prove Oilers brass wrong next season with whichever club is willing to give him a chance.
Wade Redden St. Louis/Boston 29 GP 3-4-7 After being bought out by the New York Rangers, Redden showed he's still capable of being a bottom-pair defenceman when he caught on with the St. Louis Blues before being shipped to the Boston Bruins at the NHL Trade Deadline.
Ian White Detroit 25 GP 2-2-4 White didn't dress for the Detroit Red Wings during the postseason, so he's out to prove he can be still be a quality top-six defender in the NHL. The 29-year-old has appeared in more than 500 NHL games.
Tim Thomas Boston/
N.Y. Islanders
Did Not Play The world-class 39-year-old goaltender opted not to play in 2012-13 and became an unrestricted free agent once the New York Islanders decided not to toll his contract. If and when Thomas signs, he'll have to show he can step right in and be a No. 1 goalie again.
Ilya Bryzgalov Philadelphia 19-17-3, 2.79 GAA It didn't work out for the Russian netminder in the City of Brotherly Love; his nine-year, $51 million contract was bought out with seven years remaining. Perhaps a change of scenery will help Bryzgalov get back to the form we saw in Phoenix.
Jose Theodore Florida 4-6-3, 3.29 GAA Ultimately, Theodore would like to stay with the Florida Panthers, but the team has Jacob Markstrom waiting in the wings. That means Theodore has to find work elsewhere, and he may have to settle for being someone’s backup.
Johan Hedberg New Jersey 6-10-3, 2.76 GAA Hedberg found himself without a job after the New Jersey Devils acquired Cory Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks. After being bought out, it's up to the 40-year-old to see if he can find work elsewhere in a backup role.

Author: Brian Compton | Deputy Managing Editor

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