NHL free agency 2022: Ranking the top 30 unrestricted free agents available this summer

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The 2021-22 NHL season is not quite wrapped up, but for some teams that didn't make the postseason or were eliminated, the focus is already on the offseason. 

This year's free agent class is not exactly overflowing with strong candidates to be signed, but there are still a number of notable headliners to pay attention to as free agency gets set to start on July 13. 

Johnny Gaudreau is coming off a sensational season with the Flames, but between his deserved pay raise and Matthew Tkachuk also needing a new contract, it's unclear whether or not Calgary can re-sign him. 

There's the trio of Penguins — Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Bryan Rust — who are set to be free agents, with the potential of the core in Pittsburgh breaking up

In Boston, the future of Patrice Bergeron is up in the air, as their captain is facing an offseason of questions regarding the possibility of retirement, or leaving the Bruins to sign elsewhere. 

With that, here are the top 30 unrestricted free agents for this summer. 

MORE: NHL playoffs schedule 2022: Full bracket, dates, times, TV channels

When does the 2022 NHL free agency begin?

The market to sign free agents in 2022 begins on July 13 at noon ET.

NHL free agency 2022: Ranking the top 30 players

1. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Flames

Gaudreau picked the perfect year to break out for a career season. He was one of only eight players to hit 100 points this season. The Flames forward has found his offensive touch and is in for a big payday. 

2. Patrice Bergeron, C, Bruins (reportedly re-signing with the Bruins)

Bergeron continues to defy Father Time, putting one of the best defensive seasons we've seen out of a forward and winning a record sixth Selke. It seems very likely that the 36-year-old stays in Boston, but perhaps another club can pry him away from Boston. 

3. Filip Forsberg, LW, Predators

A dynamic offensive winger, Forsberg had his best season to date this year with 42 goals and 42 assists in 69 games. The 27-year-old looks like he'll be signing elsewhere after taking a long lap around Bridgestone Arena when Nashville was eliminated in the first round. 

4. Claude Giroux, C/W, Panthers

The longtime captain of the Flyers was traded at the deadline to the Panthers in order to try and win a Cup. If he fails to do so, it's likely he'll try and sign with a contender this offseason, but if he gets his ring, all options are on the table. After securing 42 points in 57 games in Philadelphia, he flourished down in Florida with 23 points in 18 regular season games. 

5. Nazem Kadri, C, Avalanche

One of the breakout stars of the season has been Kadri. In his third season in Colorado, he shattered his previous career-high of 61 points by registering 87 in 71 games this season. The 31-year-old certainly benefited from playing alongside star power with the Avalanche, so a major question is if he'll be able to recreate this season's success elsewhere.

6. Bryan Rust, RW, Penguins (re-signed with the Penguins, 6 x $5.125 million

The two biggest name free agents for Pittsburgh are Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, but Rust is the most valuable of the bunch and the one most likely to leave. He only played about 75% of the season, but he recorded a new career-high in points with 58 in 60 contests. Rust recently commented that he feels like he's "played to a higher level than what my contract has said" and he's not wrong. 

7. Ville Husso, G, Blues (traded to Red Wings, signed 3 x$ 4.75 million)

The Blues have a problem reminiscent of the Penguins in 2017. St. Louis has a Stanley Cup winner in Jordan Binnington, but a younger, arguably better goalie in Husso. The 27-year-old outplayed Binnington down the stretch before losing the starting role in the playoffs. If St. Louis elects to let him walk, their scraps could be someone's treasure. 

8. Vincent Trocheck, C, Hurricanes

Other than Bergeron, you won't find a stronger two-way center in this free agency class than Trocheck. He locked down a role down the middle on a strong Hurricanes team and can be a great option for any team in need of a second-line center. 

9. John Klingberg, D, Stars

The puck-moving defenseman hasn't quite produced the same since he broke into the league in 2014, but he's one of the best defensemen available this summer. The fact that Klingberg's a right-handed defenseman also increases his market value as well. 

MORE: Which team has won the most Stanley Cups?

10. Kris Letang, D, Penguins (re-signed with the Penguins, 6 x $6.1 million

Speaking of offensive defenseman, Letang's contract has expired with the Penguins, who he helped win two Stanley Cups and while he wasn't able to play in the playoffs in 2017 his name still got added to the Cup. The 35-year-old set a new career-high in points this season, as he was able to stay relatively healthy. That remains the concern with Letang, who has played at least 70 games just six times in his 16-year career.

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11. Ondrej Palat, LW, Lightning

He's not the flashiest of players, but the Lightning don't have the success they have had in the last few years without Palat. The winger has been a consistent 40-point player with solid defensive play. The playoffs are where he shines most, with 79 points in 124 postseason contests. 

12. Evgeni Malkin, C, Penguins

The dynamic duo down the middle of Crosby-Malkin likely seems to be over in Pittsburgh. The Russian center is just not what he used to be, looking slow at times and making careless mistakes. But he still averaged over a point per game this season, albeit missing half the season. It will be very interesting to see what his next contract looks like. 

13. Rickard Rakell, RW, Penguins

A once-promising up-and-coming winger, Rakell has disappointed the last few seasons while he was in Anaheim. After he was acquired by the Penguins at the deadline, he had 13 points in 19 games played, but missed most of the first round after he was hurt in Game 1. Injuries need to be considered when looking at the 29-year-old. 

14. Max Domi, LW, Hurricanes

Domi has bounced around a lot in his relatively young career. He's only 27, yet is on his fourth different team. He's struggled to fit into the system for multiple organizations, but perhaps someone can take a flier on him this summer. The past results are there that prove what Domi is capable of when he's in the right situation. 

15. Evander Kane, LW, Oilers

The player drawing the most controversy this season, Kane was wrapped up in financial issues and allegations of domestic assault. Any team looking to stray away from bad PR might want to avoid Kane, but there's no denying the results on the ice. After signing with the Oilers in January, Kane had 22 goals in 43 games. 

16. David Perron, LW, Blues

Perron just does not stop. The 33-year-old continues to prove he's still got a lot left in the tank after showing flashes over the years that he might be done. Since he always ends up back on the Blues (three separate stints with the team) it feels like it makes the most sense for St. Louis to just re-sign him. 

17. Darcy Kuemper, G, Avalanche

The Avs needed a No. 1 goalie this season when Philipp Grubauer left in free agency and Kuemper delivered. The 32-year-old was reliable in net for Colorado, finishing in the top five in save percentage and wins. The age is a bit of concern, but he proved this year he's cut out for a starting role. 

18. Reilly Smith, RW, Golden Knights (reportedly re-signing with the Golden Knights, 3x $5 million)

Smith was one of a multitude of Vegas players to find themselves on the long-term injured reserve this season. The 31-year-old is showing signs of slowing down, but still could be a reliable middle-six option on the wing. 

MORE: What is the highest-scoring NHL playoff game of all time?

19. Jack Campbell, G, Maple Leafs

Campbell is coming off an up-and-down season with the Leafs, his first as their starter. When he was on, he was one of the best goalies in hockey. When he was off, it was rough. Maple Leafs fans may want Campbell back, but can Toronto afford to keep him around?

20. Ben Chiarot, D, Panthers

The Panthers paid a hefty price at the deadline to bring in Chiarot, who has been just fine on their blue line. He's a big, defensive blueliner with flashes of offensive upside. His 26 points combined between Montreal and Florida are the most he's recorded in a season. 

21. Valeri Nichushkin, RW, Avalanche

One name that never gets talked about enough in the Selke conversation is Nichushkin. It's likely because he doesn't produce the kind of points the Bergerons, Barkovs and Stones of the world do, but he's a big, hefty wing that is excellent in his own zone. Be warned, I highly doubt he replicates his 52-point season from this year, which was nearly double his previous career-high. 

22. Andrew Copp, C, Rangers

Outside of maybe Giroux, no other deadline acquisition made as much of an impact as Copp did with the Rangers. He was a consistent 25-35 point scorer with the Jets but exploded for 18 in 16 games with New York. His value is going to be at an all-time high heading into the offseason. 

23. Josh Manson, D, Avalanche

Manson may not be the top-pair defenseman some thought he might be when he was in Anaheim, but he was a reliable second/third-pair option when the Avs traded for him. Being right-handed likely brings him more appeal in free agency, but Manson is no more than a No. 3 defenseman.  

24. Ryan Strome, C, Rangers

Strome finally found a home in New York these past few seasons, playing regularly as their second-line center. He hit 20 goals for the first time in his career. On a strong contender, I see Strome playing in the middle on a third line, but he certainly could play second on most teams. 

25. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Wild (re-signed with the Wild, 2 x $3.5 million)

Fleury's 2021-22 season was not a sensational one, struggling to stay afloat on a bad Blackhawks team before he was traded to the Wild. The question with Fleury is longevity, as he stated at the end of the Wild's season that he wants to play, "another season and we will see after."

26. Ilya Mikheyev, RW, Maple Leafs

If there's one player I want to see sign elsewhere, it's Mikheyev. His silky-smooth skating ability paired with his hands makes him an enticing option. It never felt like he carved out a role in Toronto, but the tools are there for Mikheyev to thrive in the right situation. 

27. Mark Giordano, D, Maple Leafs (re-signed with the Maple Leafs, 2 x $0.8 million)

The veteran defenseman was brought over at the deadline by the Maple Leafs to add some grit to their blue line. Giordano doesn't have a lot left in the tank offensively, but the 38-year-old is reliable to play physically in front of the net, block shots and should be a cheap option. 

28. Phil Kessel, RW, Coyotes

Kessel did not get the chance to go for a Cup this season, with the Coyotes electing to hold onto him at the deadline. There was some speculation his iron man streak had something to do with it, as his 982 consecutive games played streak is the second-longest in NHL history and the longest active streak. That certainly will be a factor for him, as Kessel only needs eight games to pass Keith Yandle's record and 18 to hit 1,000. 

29. Nino Niederreiter, RW, Hurricanes

Niederreiter has been reliable in his depth role with the Hurricanes. He's hit 20 goals the past two seasons and can play a physical game. He's still only 29 and could play a solid role as a third-liner, or even fourth if needed.

30. P.K. Subban, D, Devils

Subban's prime is far behind him, and with that, his AAV is going to go way down from the $9 million he was still getting paid. He's more of a No. 5-7 defenseman these days. 

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Bryan Murphy is an NHL content producer at The Sporting News.