During the lead-up to NHL free agency opening on Oct. 9, we’re taking a look the top UFAs at each position. Today, we’re examining the right wingers who could be on the move this off-season.
With a few exceptions, this year’s crop of forwards favours depth over difference-makers — and our ranking of right wingers follows that general trend, too. While those at the top of this list can bring vast upgrades to a team’s top six, many will likely factor into supporting roles.
If you’re looking for versatile wingers who have also played along the right side, including Conor Sheary, Mike Hoffman and Vladislav Namestikov, they’ve been listed in our top 10 left wingers. Forwards like Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Colin Wilson, Derick Brassard and Tyler Ennis can be found in our centre rankings due to their versatility and ability to play down the middle.
1. Evgenii Dadonov
2019-20 team: Florida Panthers | Age: 31
2019-20 stats: 25G, 22A, 47Pts in 69GP
2019-20 cap hit: $4M
Dadonov broke out in 2017-18 with a 28-goal campaign and matched it one year later, hitting the 70-point plateau in 2018-19. His 22 goals at the time of the season hiatus in March had him on track to match his goal-scoring numbers once again, and will have GMs looking closely at the top-six forward — though, a long-term deal with the 31-year-old probably isn’t in the cards.
New general manager Bill Zito has some important decisions upcoming when it comes to his two biggest free agents and goal-scorers in Mike Hoffman and Dadonov. Does he keep one? Neither? It feels unlikely he’d hang on to both, and trading for right winger Patric Hornqvist suggests he’s already made his decision.
2. Tyler Toffoli
2019-20 team: Los Angeles Kings + Vancouver Canucks | Age: 28
2019-20 stats: 24G, 20A, 44Pts in 54GP
2019-20 cap hit: $4.6M
Between sorting out his goaltending situation, settling up with a handful of RFAs and addressing fellow UFA Chris Tanev’s contract situation on the blue line, Canucks general manager Jim Benning has a lot on his plate this fall as he looks to build on the young club’s thrilling post-season success. It feels like re-signing Toffoli is right up near the top of his to-do list, as it should be. Toffoli found an instant fit with the Canucks upon being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings. His Vancouver tenure started with a four-game point streak and a point-per game pace in 10 games before the season stoppage, and though an injury early in the playoffs limited his post-season playing time, he marked his return with a three-point game against the Vegas Golden Knights and finished the post-season with two markers and four points through seven matchups with the Cinderella-like Canucks.
Toffoli has made it clear he’d like to stay in Vancouver.
“I want to stay in Vancouver, and that’s my No. 1 priority as of right now,” he told reporters earlier in September. “If things progress – and not in the right direction – then that’s when I have to think about going to a different place.”
3. Wayne Simmonds
2019-20 team: New Jersey Devils + Buffalo Sabres | Age: 32
2019-20 stats: 8G, 17A, 25Pts in 68GP
2019-20 cap hit: $5M
If there’s one player on this list who looks particularly poised for a rebound season, it’s Simmonds. It wasn’t so long ago that he was a force to be reckoned with in Philadelphia, a special combination of physicality and point production. He hit 50 or more points in four consecutive years with Philly (2013-2017) and reached 60 twice, but his numbers since those Flyers days haven’t looked good. Short stints in Nashville, New Jersey and Buffalo didn’t bring much success for the teams or the player, and now it’s clear a fresh start is needed. As a Scarborough native, there will always be rumours of a collaboration with the Maple Leafs — and considering the Leafs’ need for grit and depth, it does make sense as more than just a hometown connection.
4. Jesper Fast
2019-20 team: New York Rangers | Age: 28
2019-20 stats: 12G, 17A, 29Pts in 69GP
2019-20 cap hit: $1.85M
With the trade of Marc Staal and the buyout of Henrik Lundqvist, Fast is now the second longest-tenured Ranger behind Chris Kreider. He was a rookie back in 2013-14 when the club went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, and is now facing a crossroads in New York as the team embarks on another off-season of change.
The 2019-20 season saw him on pace for his most productive campaign yet — his previous personal best was 13 goals and 33 points in 2017-18 — but his efforts went unrewarded in the post-season as he was injured just one minute into New York’s Qualifying Round series against Carolina.
5. Craig Smith
2019-20 team: Nashville Predators | Age: 31
2019-20 stats: 18G, 13A, 31Pts in 69GP
2019-20 cap hit: $4.25M
He was never the team’s biggest star, but Smith has been part of the Predators fabric and a consistent presence down the right side for the last decade — he ranks fourth in games played in the franchise’s history.
After another disappointing season, general manager David Poile preached much off-season change to come, and confirmed earlier this week that his two biggest UFA forwards (Mikael Granlund and Smith) will in fact be hitting the open market.
Smith’s agent, Kevin Magnuson, told The Athletic‘s Adam Vingan that the camp is seeking a three-year pact in free agency:
“A three-year deal is our goal,” Magnuson told Vingan. “I think the number, because there are eight to 10 teams that have decent cap space, I think we won’t be too far off at the end of the day. He’s not going to be signing any blockbuster deals, but at the same time, he’s going to be in the market or a little bit above it, I think.”
6. Bobby Ryan
2019-20 team: Ottawa Senators | Age: 33
2019-20 stats: 5G, 3A, 8Pts in 24GP
2019-20 cap hit: $7.25M (bought out)
After finding success and enduring difficult stretches throughout his career in two different NHL markets, Ryan now has an opportunity to write what could be the final chapter of his NHL career after being bought out by the Ottawa Senators.
Ryan took a personal leave of absence for much of 2019-20 to enter the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, citing issues with alcohol abuse. His emotional return in February saw him tally a hat trick at home and his personal journey was recognized this fall as he was the recipient of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
The San Jose Sharks, who are shallow at the position, are rumoured to be interested.
In an interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia earlier this week, Ryan said that the Flyers would be high on his list in free agency should the opportunity arise:
“I think any kid that has a hometown team grows up thinking they would play there some time,” said Ryan, whose hometown of Cherry Hill, N.J., is just across the Delaware River from Philly.
“Really, the opportunity has never presented itself, I’m not sure if it will this time around, but if the Flyers were to make an offer or extend a camp invite, they’d move high on my list because of all the connections. For me, it’s one step at a time, just wait to see who makes an offer and go from there,” he continued.
“I’ve never had this opportunity, you know, to hopefully field offers, because when you’re a buyout person, you don’t know what’s going to come through for you,” Ryan said. “But just the chance to field some offers and take a look around, and for once control where you’re going to play the next few years. My outlook is positive, I’m just going to sit down with my wife and see what makes the most sense for us to finish it up.”
Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.
7. Corey Perry
2019-20 team: Dallas Stars | Age: 35
2019-20 stats: 5G, 16A, 21Pts in 57GP
2019-20 cap hit: $1.5M
No, he didn’t hoist the Cup at the end of it all, but you could still make the case the Corey Perry was one of the biggest winners of these Stanley Cup Playoffs. After being bought out by the Anaheim Ducks in June 2019 after 14 seasons with the Pacific club, Perry took a one-year offer from Dallas — a contract that turned out to be one of the Stars’ best off-season moves, along with securing fellow veteran forward Joe Pavelski.
Both had fairly quiet seasons… until the playoffs started. Perry reminded us all how much of a pain he is to play against (a seriously important quality to have on all contending rosters), and showed us that Scorey Perry is still in there, too. Both veterans came up clutch late in the Cup Final, with Pavelski scoring in three of six games and Perry putting up three goals — including the overtime winner to keep the Stars alive in Game 5.
Considering how close the Stars came to winning — and how big a part Perry played in that success — it would make sense for them to try to keep him in the fold for another run, but that could prove really difficult financially considering the team’s top two goal-scorers are RFAs (Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz) and everyone’s new favourite goalie, Anton Khudobin, is also a free agent.
8. Justin Williams
2019-20 team: Carolina Hurricanes | Age: 38
2019-20 stats: 8G, 3A, 11Pts in 20GP
2019-20 cap hit: $700,000
Williams took time to ponder his future and consider retirement last off-season, ultimately re-joining the Hurricanes midway through the campaign. We don’t yet know whether he’ll be back for another season, but it feels certain that if he does come back, it’ll be with Carolina and no one else. Still, considering his success in his extra shortened season, he’s more than worthy of a place on this list.
9. Michael Frolik
2019-20 team: Calgary Flames + Buffalo Sabres | Age: 32
2019-20 stats: 6G, 8A, 14Pts in 57GP
2019-20 cap hit: $4.3M
His numbers dropped significantly in 2019-20 and his tenure in Calgary was rocky near the end, but Frolik could still fill a bottom-six role in the league on a short-term deal.
10. Tyler Pitlick
2019-20 team: Philadelphia Flyers | Age: 28
2019-20 stats: 8G, 12A, 20Pts in 63GP
2019-20 cap hit: $1M
A late bloomer in the NHL, Pitlick was one of the more consistent bottom-six forwards in Philly this season — an area that we saw struggle this past post-season. Philadelphia was undoubtedly a strong fit, but could also choose to fill that depth position with a younger player making the jump into the lineup. Fellow depth players like Nate Thompson and Derek Grant are also up for new deals, giving GM Chuck Fletcher plenty to think about.
More left wingers to watch: Josh Leivo (VAN), Melker Karlsson (SJS), Stefan Noesen (SJS), Tobias Rieder (CGY)
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