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NHL Free Agent Watch

With the Stanley Cup beginning its summer tour with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the NHL now turns to the offseason. Teams across the league are looking to re-sign some of their own players, as well as make a splash in the free agent market.

The free agency period begins on July 1st, and there are some intriguing players who will be looking to cash in.

Steven Stamkos is the headliner of this year’s free agent class. The 26-year-old center, who is in the prime of his career, registered 64 points (36 G, 28 A) in 77 games for Tampa Bay in 2015-16. The young captain missed the final five regular season games, as well as all but one postseason game with a blood clot. Stamkos has had four 40+ goal seasons and three 90+ point seasons in his career.

Another key center is set to become a free agent this summer is St. Louis Blues captain David Backes. Backes turned in another 40+ point season scoring 24 goals and adding 21 assists in 79 games in 2015-16. Backes, who has spent his entire 10-year career in St. Louis, had three game-winning goals in the postseason for the Blues, helping them reach the Western Conference Finals.

One of the premiere wingers in this season’s free agent class is Los Angeles Kings left winger Milan Lucic. The trade from Boston to L.A. appeared to re-energize the 28-year-old Lucic who tallied 55 points (20 G, 35 A) to go along with a +26 rating, in 81 games this past season. The big, physical Lucic has scored at least 40 points in six of his nine NHL seasons.

Another standout winger among this year’s free agents is New York Islanders right winger Kyle Okposo. Okposo had the second most productive season of his career in terms of points, as the 28-year-old put up 22 goals and dished out 42 assists, which led the Isles. The right winger played in 79 games in 2015-16 and also scored 8 points in the playoffs.

The most notable defenseman of this season’s free agent class may be New York Rangers point man Keith Yandle. In his first full season in New York, Yandle led all Rangers’ defensemen with 47 points, including 42 assists in 82 regular season games. Yandle also scored a postseason goal in the series with the Penguins. The 29-year-old is known as an excellent point man on the power play and provides a veteran presence to the defensive corps.

Boston right winger Loui Eriksson had a renaissance season in 2015-16, as the 30-year old registered 63 points ( 30 G, 33 A) playing in all 82 regular season games for the Bruins. Eriksson has had some concussion concerns in the recent past, but the Swedish winger averaged over 19 minutes of ice time per game this past season, and had his most productive season since 2011-12 with Dallas.

Other notable free agents include:
LW Mikkel Boedker (Age: 26, Avalanche) – SIGNED WITH SAN JOSE
RW Troy Brouwer (Age: 30, Blues) – SIGNED WITH CALGARY
D Brian Campbell (Age: 37, Panthers) – SIGNED WITH CHICAGO
D Dan Hamhuis (Age: 33, Canucks) – SIGNED WITH DALLAS
RW/C Jiri Hudler (Age: 32, Panthers)
LW Andrew Ladd (Age: 30, Blackhawks) – SIGNED WITH NEW YORK ISLANDERS
D Ben Lovejoy (Age: 32, Penguins) – SIGNED WITH NEW JERSEY
LW David Perron (Age: 28, Ducks) – SIGNED WITH ST. LOUIS
G Karri Ramo (Age: 29, Flames)
G James Reimer (Age: 28, Sharks) – SIGNED WITH FLORIDA
D Kris Russell (Age: 29, Stars)
C Eric Staal (Age: 31, Rangers) – SIGNED WITH MINNESOTA
RW Radim Vrbata (Age: 35, Canucks)

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