2024 NHL Unrestricted Free Agents

The 2023 free-agent class may have been underwhelming, but 2024 has the potential to be different. Much different. Headlined by high-end talent and plenty of depth, the 2024 crop of NHL unrestricted free agents may be the best we’ve seen in years, even after some notable names have signed contract extensions. Let’s look at some of the marquee UFAs and present a way-too-early top 30.

Star Talent Leads the Way

The 2023 UFA class severely lacked high-end talent. There were good players, but most were second-tier free agents who didn’t earn top dollar or max term. For example, among the 2024 class was Auston Matthews, but he signed a four-year extension during the summer worth $13.25 million annually. Still, there is plenty of talent without Matthews.

Leading the way is his teammate William Nylander, who will get a significant raise from his current $6.9 million cap hit. Following was Connor Hellebuyck. But in a surprise move, the Winnipeg Jets announced identical seven-year extensions worth $8.5 million annually for him and Mark Scheifele, taking two of the top 10 UFAs off the board.

Steven Stamkos has played his entire career with the Tampa Bay Lightning. While I don’t expect that to change, he is entering the final year of his contract. He’s unlikely to get significant term since he’s 34, but he’s still a point-per-game player. There will be plenty of interest in him if he hits the market.

There isn’t as much talent defensively as there is up front, but there are some intriguing names. Devon Toews was the top UFA defenseman until he signed a seven-year extension worth $7.25 million annually with the Colorado Avalanche. Still, names like Brandon Montour, Brett Pesce and Noah Hanifin will interest clubs if they make it to July 1 unsigned.

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Rounding out some of the star talent are Joe Pavelski and Jake Guentzel. Pavelski may be 39, but he just put up a 77-point season. If he repeats that performance in 2023-24, there will be plenty of interest in him on a one-year deal, which adds to his value if he wants to keep playing. Guentzel has been one of the top goal-scorers in the NHL for half a decade, and it’s not a product of playing alongside Sidney Crosby. He will get his money, too.

It’s Not a Top-Heavy UFA Class

Those names may headline the class, but there is plenty of depth behind them, partly because so many players signed one-year deals this past offseason in hopes of cashing in when the cap projects to rise next summer.

Related: Jets Re-Sign Hellebuyck and Scheifele to Seven-Year Extensions

After getting bought out by the Nashville Predators, Matt Duchene signed a one-year deal worth $3 million with the Dallas Stars. If he produces on a very good Stars team, he should have another payday coming, even though it likely won’t be for max term since he will turn 33 before July 1, 2024.

Another player who took a one-year deal was Tyler Bertuzzi, who signed with the Maple Leafs. Health has been an issue with him, but if he can stay on the ice, there’s the potential for him to put up big points with that Maple Leafs lineup. That will lead to a payday in 2024.

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Aside from some NHLers who signed one-year deals (Vladimir Tarasenko and Jason Zucker, to name a couple more), there are plenty of high-end players entering the final years of their contracts that strengthen the 2024 UFA class.

These NHLers include Tyler Toffoli, Sam Reinhart, Pesce, Montour, Viktor Arvidsson, and many more. Of course, some will re-sign with their current teams — as we’ve seen to start the 2023-24 season — or perhaps new ones if they get traded at the 2024 deadline.

But even then, there are players like Anthony Beauvillier, Anthony Duclair and Victor Olofsson who just missed the cut for making this way-too-early top 30 list. There is plenty of talent to go around next year, so even if some players re-up with current or new clubs, the 2024 UFA class should be one of the best in years.

Without further ado, here’s our way-too-early top 30 for 2024. This list will change throughout the season, and stats will be updated weekly to bi-weekly, depending on the schedule. (Stats are from 2022-23)

POS=Position, GP=Games Played, G=Goals, GAA=Goals-Against Average, A=Assists, SV%=Save Percentage, P=Points

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