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Top 10 free agents from Metropolitan Division

Islanders could be hit hardest when market opens July 1

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

The New York Islanders have three significant forwards who appear headed for unrestricted free agency, making them the Metropolitan Division team that could be most adversely affected when the market opens for signings on July 1.

Here are the top 10 potential unrestricted free agents from the Metropolitan Division:

1. Kyle Okposo, RW, New York Islanders

General manager Garth Snow has all but said the Islanders won't re-sign Okposo, who had 22 goals and 64 points this season often playing on John Tavares' right wing, because of salary-cap concerns. A 6-foot, 217-pound forward, Okposo, 28, would help any team looking for scoring from the wing, particularly one with a playmaking center capable of setting him up. The concern would be whether he can produce close to the same level without Tavares.

Potential suitors: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets

2. Frans Nielsen, C, New York Islanders

Unlike with Okposo, the door is not closed on Nielsen returning to the Islanders. Newsday reported that Snow has been talking to Nielsen's agent about re-signing the 32-year-old Danish center to a potential multiyear contract. Losing Nielsen, who had 20 goals and 52 points this season, would be tough for the Islanders. He plays in all situations and is versatile, being able to play in the middle or at wing on the top two lines. That would make him a valuable addition for several teams.

Potential suitors: Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs

3. Eric Staal, C/LW, New York Rangers

Being traded to the Rangers after spending his entire career with the Carolina Hurricanes didn't work out as well as Staal or New York hoped. Staal didn't have a point in five games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after he had three goals and three assists in 20 regular-season games after the trade.

Following a 2015-16 regular season when Staal's offensive totals (13 goals, 26 assists, 39 points) were his lowest since his rookie season of 2003-04, there is some question about whether his days as an elite player are over at age 31. Staal believes he still can excel in a top-six role, which he didn't get regularly with the Rangers. Perhaps a team looking for a less expensive alternative after losing out on Steven Stamkos will take a chance. Would the Hurricanes take him back?

Potential suitors: Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs

4. Jason Chimera, LW, Washington Capitals

Although Chimera is 37 years old, he remains one of the faster skaters in the League and matched his career high with 20 goals in 2015-16. The Capitals would like to bring him back but have salary-cap concerns with re-signing restricted free agent forward Marcus Johansson their biggest priority. With the Pittsburgh Penguins showing the importance of speed in the playoffs, Chimera is likely to draw a lot of interest from teams looking to upgrade their third line.

Potential suitors: Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets

5. Matt Martin, LW, New York Islanders

Martin, 27, had 365 hits to lead the League by a wide margin for the fifth consecutive season and appears bound for greener pastures because of the Islanders' budgetary concerns. Martin's physical game was a perfect fit on New York's fourth line with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck. Martin established career highs with 10 goals and 19 points this season. Would he be capable of producing more if given a bigger role?

Potential suitors: Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals

6. Matt Cullen, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

The question with Cullen is if he's going to retire after winning the Stanley Cup with the Penguins. He'll turn 40 on Nov. 2 but was a key contributor as Pittsburgh's fourth-line center with four goals and two assists in the playoffs after putting up 16 goals and 32 points during the regular season. If Cullen decides to play another season, the Penguins would be the best fit, but there might be other teams interested if he doesn't go back to Pittsburgh.

Potential suitors: Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals

7. Justin Schultz, D, Pittsburgh Penguins

Schultz, 26, is a potential restricted free agent, but with the Penguins not expected to make him the necessary one-year, $3.9 million qualifying offer before the 5 p.m. deadline on Monday, he would become an unrestricted free agent.

Schultz is still young -- he'll turn 26 on July 6 -- and the Penguins like what he did for them after they acquired him from the Edmonton Oilers. In fact, general manager Jim Rutherford said he'd like to see how Schultz progresses if given the opportunity to continue to work with assistant Sergei Gonchar. So maybe the Penguins will try to re-sign him at a lower price. If not, there will be other teams willing to give a right-handed defenseman with offensive upside a chance as a short-term, low-risk signing with the potential for a high reward.

Potential suitors: Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins

8. Ben Lovejoy, D, Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins probably won't be able to re-sign Lovejoy, who was solid in their top four during their Stanley Cup run. As a veteran and recent Cup winner, Lovejoy, 32, will have value to teams seeking depth and looking to get over the hump in the postseason.

Potential suitors: Anaheim Ducks, Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals

9. David Schlemko, D, New Jersey Devils

Schlemko, 29, was a surprise for the Devils this season, playing regularly in their top-four, getting some power-play time and establishing career highs with six goals, 13 assists and 19 points. He's probably better suited to play on the third pair on a better team but demonstrated he's capable of handling an increased role if needed because of injury.

Potential suitors: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, New Jersey Devils, Vancouver Canucks

10. Mike Richards, C, Washington Capitals

Richards, 31, didn't appear to have much left after joining the Capitals halfway through the regular season. After putting up two goals and three assists in 39 regular-season games, he had no points and struggled to keep up with the pace of play in 12 playoff games. But as a two-time Stanley Cup winner, he will draw interest.

Potential suitors: Arizona Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets, San Jose Sharks

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