From high-end forwards to a decent mix of mid-range and lower salary players, this years unrestricted free agent class has a little bit of everything.
A dozen NHL general managers, coaches and player agents have submitted their choices for the top unrestricted free agent forwards and the consensus top two picks are Marian Hossa and Mats Sundin.
Hossa earns top billing primarily because of age, he's eight years younger than the 37 year old Sundin. The Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers are expected to lead the hunt on both, with the Habs prepared to abandon their fight to land Sundin in favor of Hossa if Sundin doesn't commit.
The Boston Bruins are also eager to make a pitch for Hossa.
Ryan Malone received the 3rd most votes. His size and rugged style along with an ability to score will draw much intention, including from the Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets. However, as one NHL general manager stated, “…at 3.5 million Malone is on my top 6 list…at 5 million, he is not.”
Jaromir Jagr's name appeared on most responses as well. However the majority polled don't view Jagr as a true unrestricted free agent, insisting he will either play in Russia or New York and nowhere else.
35 year old Brian Rolston finds a spot in the top 5 based on consistency and affordability. Most gm's have Rolston pegged as a 4 million dollar man and based on three consecutive seasons of 30 or more goals, on a short term the veteran forward is considered good value.
Rounding out the top 10 vote-getters:
Sean Avery, hockey's most talented shift-disturber. When he plays, he makes a difference.
Kristian Huselius is 4th among unrestricted forwards in points over the past two seasons, trailing only Hossa, Sundin and Jagr. Huselius is perceived to be soft by NHL gm's, otherwise his stock would be much higher.
Niklas Hagman is an incredibly durable forward. He scored a career high 27 goals for the Dallas Stars last season and will quickly be snapped up.
Darcy Tucker's availability has created a buzz. He won't lure big dollars, but several teams are interested in his determination and ability to score.
Cory Stillman completes the Top 10 forwards. The 34 year old has won two Stanley Cups and when healthy can almost guarantee 20 goals.
Ten of the men who are likely to draw the most interest when the flood gates open on Tuesday.