Top 2021 NHL Unrestricted Free Agents

  • The NHL’s 2021 free-agent market opens on July 28th at noon EST
  • Dougie Hamilton is the top defenseman available in this summer’s UFA class
  • Colorado could be in danger of losing captain Gabriel Landeskog or starting netminder Philipp Grubauer

As the 2021 Stanley Cup Final begins tonight, general managers across the league are preparing to sign the summer’s top unrestricted free agents.

While this year’s UFA class looks deeper than recent off-seasons, many of the available players will likely end up re-signing with their current clubs following the NHL Expansion Draft on July 21 to help their clubs protect assets from the Seattle Kraken.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the star forwards, defensemen, and goalies on the market this summer. But before we do, be sure to check out our NHL betting tips page for advice on how to wager on hockey.

Free agents likely staying put

After completing a 13-year, $124M contract that turned out to be a bargain for the Capitals, Alex Ovechkin is a lock to return to Washington next year so don’t get your hopes up that your favorite team lands one of the greatest goalscorers in NHL history.

Following their second-round playoff ouster to the Islanders, Taylor Hall, Tuukka Rask, and David Krejci all expressed their desire to return to Boston. With Rask expected to be sidelined until February following offseason hip surgery, the 34-year-old should be back in Black and Gold in 2022. Hall will also likely sign a bargain contract to remain in Beantown, however, underrated center David Krejci could be jettisoned a la Zdeno Chara as the Bruins look to retool on the fly.

Dougie Hamilton packing his bags

The top defenseman among this year’s UFA class, Dougie Hamilton was given permission by the Hurricanes to talk to other NHL teams this off-season, so he’ll almost certainly join the fourth club of his career.

The Winnipeg Jets are in desperate need of the 6’6″, 229-pound puck-moving blueliner, but the small-market franchise is unlikely to pony up the $7.5 million to $8 million annually it would take to bring the 27-year-old in on a long-term deal. Instead, we predict he’ll land on the New Jersey Devils or Chicago Blackhawks.

After another early exit from the postseason, the Avalanche face two of the biggest free-agent dilemmas of the summer. Both captain Gabriel Landeskog and starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer have earned lucrative contracts, but with superstar defenseman, Cale Makar soon needing a raise of his own, it’s uncertain whether GM Joe Sakic will want to max out his cap space. Expect one of these stars to be in a new jersey come July 28.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could also be on the move after spending his entire 10-year NHL career with Edmonton. Already with little depth behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers will probably reinvest the $6 million per year they spend on the 28-year-old on harder-nosed players and defense in hopes of finally winning a round in the Stanley Cup Playoffs next April.

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Steve Dominey

Steve has almost 15 years of experience in marketing, PR and sports television. After acquiring a Journalism degree from Carleton University, he assembled highlight packs for Canada's most-watched sports network (TSN) before transitioning to a career in communications. He describes himself as a good father, great dog owner, and mediocre gambler and husband.