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Top 15 forwards available via free agency

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

Potential unrestricted free agents can begin negotiating terms of contracts with teams on Thursday. They can't sign a contract until noon ET on July 1, when the free agent market opens. NHL.com is examining the top potential UFAs at each position.

There is a dearth of all-stars among the forwards who could potentially become unrestricted free agents on July 1, but there is at least some depth to the group, including two players who have won the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup multiple times.

Here is a list of the top 15 forwards who could hit the open market next week:

MIKE RIBEIRO, NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Previous cap charge: $1.05 million

Position: C

Ribeiro is coming off a strong rebound season with the Predators after a tough finish with the Arizona Coyotes on a personal and professional level that led to a buyout of his contract. He had 62 points, including 47 assists, in 82 games to help the Predators reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2012. Predators general manager David Poile told The Tennessean last month that he hopes Ribeiro wants to stay in Nashville, but there are some legal problems he is currently dealing with that may affect his future with the Predators, or elsewhere.

BRAD RICHARDS, CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Previous cap charge: $2 million

Position: C

Richards delivered what was asked of him in Chicago and he's getting his name engraved on the Stanley Cup again. He was primarily the Blackhawks' second-line center and established chemistry with Patrick Kane. He had 37 points in 76 games, and another 14 points in 23 playoff games. Kane said on the ice after winning the Stanley Cup that he hopes Richards stays in Chicago. Richards would like that, but the Blackhawks have some cap concerns. Richards won the Cup and the Conn Smythe with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.

ANTOINE VERMETTE, CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Previous cap charge: $3.1 million

Position: C

Vermette had a slow start in Chicago after getting traded from the Coyotes on Feb. 28, but he delivered in the playoffs with four goals, including three game-winners, two of which came in overtime. He won 58.9 percent of his faceoffs, the best percentage for anybody who played beyond the second round. Vermette was a healthy scratch to start the playoffs. Whether he redeemed himself enough to land a lucrative, multiyear contract remains to be seen. It's unlikely he will be back in Chicago because of the Blackhawks' cap issues.

MATT BELESKEY, ANAHEIM DUCKS

Previous cap charge: $1.35 million

Position: LW

Beleskey is one of the most talked about pending free agents and he should be getting a significant raise no matter which team he signs with because of the 22 goals he scored in 65 games with the Ducks this season. There is a risk with Beleskey because he hasn't proven himself over a stretch of multiple seasons. His 22 goals doubled his previous career high, and he shot 15.2 percent this season, also a career high. He had 33 more shots on goal than last season, but he scored 13 more goals.

MARTIN ST. LOUIS, NEW YORK RANGERS

Previous cap charge: $5.625 million

Position: RW

St. Louis' numbers dropped this season, creating doubt about his future. He is 40 years old and coming off a postseason in which he scored one goal in 19 games. He had 21 goals and 52 points in 74 regular-season games. His 52 points were his lowest output since 2001-02, when he had 35 points in 53 games.

MIKE FISHER, NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Previous cap charge: $4.2 million

Position: C

It seems likely the marriage between Fisher and the Predators will continue with a new contract. The Tennessean reported the sides are close to a two-year contract. Fisher has been with the Predators since getting traded from the Ottawa Senators during the 2010-11 season. He had 19 goals and 39 points in 59 games this season. He is 35 years old and 54 games away from 1,000 for his career.

UPDATE: Fisher re-signed with the Predators on Friday. It is a two-year contract with an average annual value of $4.4 million.

JUSTIN WILLIAMS, LOS ANGELES KINGS

Previous cap charge: $3.65 million

Position: RW

Williams is one of the most intriguing players who could hit the open market because of his playoff prowess. He is a three-time Stanley Cup champion and a Conn Smythe winner in 2014. He is one of the most clutch playoff performers in NHL history with a League-record 14 points in Game 7s. He is tied for the most Game 7 goals (seven) with Hall of Fame forward Glenn Anderson. His teams are 7-0 in Game 7. He had 41 points in 81 games this season, when the Kings did not make the playoffs.

CARL SODERBERG, COLORADO AVALANCHE

Previous cap charge: $1.008 million

Position: C

Soderberg, who was traded to the Avalanche by the Boston Bruins on Thursday for a sixth-round selection in the 2016 NHL Draft, had 44 points, including 31 assists in what was primarily a third-line center role this season. The 29-year-old had two productive seasons in Boston and likely will get a more lucrative contract.

UPDATE: The Avalanche signed Soderberg to a five-year contract Friday. The average annual value is $4.75 million per season, according a to report by Craig Custance of ESPN.com.

MICHAEL FROLIK, WINNIPEG JETS

Previous cap charge: $3.3 million

Position: LW

Frolik could be one of the most serviceable and durable forwards available. He had 42 points, including 19 goals, in 82 games with the Jets this season, when he played a lot on the top line with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little. He has proven his ability to play on any line, and he's missed four games in the past three seasons. He won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013, scoring 10 points in the playoffs in a fourth-line role. He's 27 years old.

JOEL WARD, WASHINGTON CAPITALS

Previous cap charge: $3 million

Position: RW

Ward wants to return to Washington, but the Capitals have some other business to tend to, such as re-signing restricted free agent goalie Braden Holtby and forwards Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Ward can play a power game on any line. He's a constant net-front presence and a threat to score 20-plus goals. He had 19 this season after scoring 24 on 18.0 percent shooting in 2013-14. He is 34 years old.

CHRIS STEWART, MINNESOTA WILD

Previous cap charge: $4.15 million

Position: RW

The Wild got decent value out of Stewart following a trade with the Buffalo Sabres prior to the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline. He had 11 points, including three goals, in 20 games to help the Wild secure the first wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. He had no goals in eight playoff games. Stewart has the ability to score and play a power game, but his production has disappeared at times. He's known to be streaky.

DREW STAFFORD, WINNIPEG JETS

Previous cap charge: $4 million

Position: RW

Stafford and the Jets could extend their commitment to each other before Tuesday. Nobody should complain if it happens. Stafford, 29, had a big impact with the Jets after arriving with defenseman Tyler Myers in the blockbuster trade that sent Evander Kane to the Buffalo Sabres. Stafford had 19 points in 26 games and found a home in the top-six forward group on a line with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele. He helped the Jets reach the playoffs.

ERIK COLE, DETROIT RED WINGS

Previous cap charge: $4.5 million

Position: LW

Cole, 36, had high hopes when he was traded to the Red Wings from the Dallas Stars prior to the deadline, but his season ended prematurely because of a spinal cord contusion that has put his career in jeopardy. He had three goals and three assists in 11 games before the injury on March 24. He didn't play again. The question now is can he return? If he can get over the injury, Cole is a valuable power forward who can rotate from a top-six role into a bottom-six role.

ERIC FEHR, WASHINGTON CAPITALS

Previous cap charge: $1.5 million

Position: C

Fehr proved himself as a capable third-line center with the Capitals this season when he had 19 goals and 14 assists in 75 games. He played in shorthanded situations, won 52 percent of his faceoffs, finished with a 50.48 shot-attempts percentage (SAT) and played a shutdown role against the opposition's top line on many occasions. Fehr was limited in the playoffs because of a shoulder injury. He had surgery on his elbow earlier this month, but is expected to make a full recovery in time for the start of the 2015-16 season.

MIKE SANTORELLI, NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Previous cap charge: $1.5 million

Position: C

The Predators had high hopes for Santorelli after acquiring him from the Toronto Maple Leafs in February. He performed below expectations with four points (one goal) on 43 shots on goal (2.3 percent), in 22 regular-season games. He was scratched for two of Nashville's six playoff games. Santorelli, though, had 29 points in 57 games with the Maple Leafs before the trade. He had 28 points in 49 games with the Vancouver Canucks in 2013-14.

Five more: Jiri Tlusty (Winnipeg Jets), Daniel Winnik (Pittsburgh Penguins), Maxim Lapierre (Pittsburgh Penguins), Curtis Glencross (Washington Capitals), Shawn Matthias (Vancouver Canucks)

All salary figures from nhlnumbers.com

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