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July 28th is typically not an important date on the NHL calendar but it represents the start of free agency.  With the frenzy about to begin, here’s a look at some of the notable forwards set to hit the open market.

Top Tier

Gabriel Landeskog

While there is some good depth to this class, there aren’t many top-liners available. That leaves Landeskog, who has been a fixture on Colorado’s top line for the better part of the last decade, in a class of his own.  He’s not a major offensive driver, however, and as a very physical player, there is some concern about how he’ll hold up over a long-term deal.  I’m sure the Habs would love to have him but it’s doubtful they’ll be the ones to make this commitment.

Second Tier

Phillip Danault, Mikael Granlund, David Krejci, Mike Hoffman, Zach Hyman, Kyle Palmieri, Brandon Saad, Jaden Schwartz

In terms of centres, everyone is familiar with Danault and Krejci probably isn’t leaving Boston either so let’s not spend any time on those two.  Hyman appears to be heading to Edmonton but Toronto wouldn’t accept the late draft pick to do a sign-and-trade so that will have to wait until Wednesday.

The Habs were linked to Hoffman last fall and there are definitely some suggestions that he’ll be on their radar again this summer.  He’s a streaky scorer but can certainly help on the power play and with how Montreal’s power play has gone, they definitely could benefit from his prowess on the man advantage.  However, he doesn’t bring much else to the table which could be a concern on a team that asks for two-way play from its forwards.

Saad and Schwartz are interesting left wingers (the position of need) that are coming off of quiet seasons.  Montreal was believed to have shown interest in Saad in the past, too.  Schwartz is linked to Seattle but Saad would certainly give the Habs a capable replacement for Tomas Tatar.  Granlund spent some time down the middle last season but is a better fit on the wing.  Some versatility would be good to have in case Nick Suzuki or Jesperi Kotkaniemi get injured but he’s not the top liner like he was at times with Minnesota in the past.  Palmieri is a consistent veteran but the Habs have enough right wingers already.

Third Tier – Offensive Players

Nick Bonino, Tyler Bozak, Blake Coleman, Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, Mattias Janmark, Zach Parise, Tomas Tatar, Alex Wennberg

Third Tier – Notable Non-Tenders

Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, Dominik Kahun, Nick Ritchie, Pius Suter

Third Tier – Defensive/Role Players

Casey Cizikas, Tomas Nosek, Derek Stepan

Now we reach the point where it would be way too long of a read to cover each player individually.  The offensive players are capable of playing in the middle six, the non-tenders are younger players that could still have some upside in the bottom six, and the defensive/role players are ones that can play higher than the fourth line when needed.

Fourth Tier – Offensive Players

Michael Bunting, Alex Chiasson, Ryan Dzingel, Sam Gagner, Nikita Gusev, Marcus Johansson, Mathieu Perreault, Bobby Ryan

Fourth Tier – Defensive/Role Players

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Luke Glendening, Jordan Martinook, Brock McGinn, Riley Nash, Cedric Paquette, Michael Raffl, Brad Richardson, Derek Ryan, Brandon Sutter

Same idea for this tier.  The offensive players are ones that can fit on the fourth line but move up if they get hot or injuries arise.  In particular, Bunting is an intriguing Group VI free agent after scoring 10 goals in 21 games with Arizona last season but had been a minor leaguer up to that point.  The defensive/role players are ones you should be familiar with, checkers that can kill penalties and in some cases, win faceoffs as well.  With Danault likely to leave, Montreal could look for someone to help on the draw, especially since the youngster centres on the roster aren’t great at the dot.

Grizzled Veterans

Valtteri Filppula, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Eric Staal, Joe Thornton, Travis Zajac

It’s not fair to call this the Corey Perry category but that’s basically what this is from a Montreal perspective.  These are players that are going to have to take a lot less than they’re used to getting and will likely look for the best fit either for their family or to try to win a Stanley Cup.  GM Marc Bergevin has already expressed interest in re-signing Perry; could he look to duplicate that success with another player in this category as well?

Laval Options

While Laval has added some pieces already, there are some veteran forwards that could still be added.  Here are a handful of the many possibilities.

Michael Chaput – He has been in this role before with Laval before being traded for Jordan Weal.  He could be brought back to replace him.

Jean-Sebastien Dea – Another local centre, Dea has consistently been a top scorer in the minors for several seasons.

Chase De Leo – A group VI free agent, De Leo has had enough offensive success in the AHL that I’m a little surprised he hasn’t had more than a handful of games.  He’s someone that would slot in on Laval’s top line.

Frederick Gaudreau – Spent the first half of last year in the minors before becoming a regular for Pittsburgh.  He’s a candidate to sign somewhere and battle for a full-time NHL roster spot but would be a key piece in Laval if he was to sign.

Gerald Mayhew – One of the top scorers in the AHL in recent years, he’d immediately become the top offensive threat for the Rocket.

Dylan Sikura – He has done enough in limited action in the NHL to be a reliable enough recall if injuries arise while being an impact piece for the Rocket.  Not an exciting profile by any stretch but there is organizational value in having some of those types of players.

With the Habs having several forwards set to hit the open market, they’re likely to be adding a few free agents of their own in the coming days; not all of them can be filled internally.  It could be a busy few days ahead as a result even after today’s re-signing of Joel Armia.

Who will they sign?  Make your predictions by entering our UFA pool.

Free Agent Preview: Defencemen