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Frank Seravalli

TSN Senior Hockey Reporter

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The Free Agent Frenzy class of 2018 is a three-headed monster, stacked with impact players John Tavares, John Carlson and James van Riemsdyk at the top – potentially making this group one of the most powerful in years.

The only question is: Will it remain that way up until Canada Day?

Lou Lamoriello’s arrival on Long Island, coupled with his clandestine meeting with Tavares before the announcement of his hiring as New York’s president of hockey operations, has renewed speculation about J.T.’s interest in staying with the Islanders.

It’s clear that locking up Tavares is Lamoriello’s first, second and third priority. Lamoriello and Tavares’ agent, Pat Brisson of CAA Sports, have been in near daily contact since Lamoriello took over on May 22.

Tavares, a two-time Hart Trophy finalist, is coming off his best season since 2014-15 with a career-high 37 goals and 84 points. That still wasn’t enough to push the Islanders into the playoffs, who have qualified just three times in his nine seasons. The key for Lamoriello is instilling a belief in Tavares that he can win with the Islanders.

Having gone this far, though, many believe Tavares will at least wait until June 24 to hear pitches from interested parties. The San Jose Sharks, Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights and New Jersey Devils are among the upwards of a dozen teams that would be lining up to meet with Tavares’ camp.

Tavares’ close friend, Steven Stamkos, danced through that courting process before deciding to re-sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 29, 2016 – two days before he was set to become an unrestricted free agent.

The Washington Capitals will make a similar effort as the Islanders to keep Carlson, the premier defenceman on the market this summer. He won’t come cheap, not after leading all defencemen in scoring with 68 points, but a lot of Washington’s success runs off his stick.

Van Riemsdyk is the one player near the top of the list virtually guaranteed to actually hit the market. He’s coming off a career-best 36-goal season despite playing fewer minutes than any year since 2010-11. Van Riemsdyk, 29, is one of the best net-front players in the NHL and was well-respected by the Maple Leafs for how well he takes care of his body. He has averaged 31 goals over each of his last four full seasons.

Here are the Top 50 unrestricted free agents expected to be available on July 1, sans veteran Joe Thornton, who has stated his strong desire to remain in San Jose:

 

The Top 50

 
RK Player Team Pos Age GP G PTS 17-18
1 John Tavares NYI C 27 82 37 84 $5.5M
2 John Carlson WSH RD 28 82 15 68 $3.96M
3 James van Riemsdyk TOR LW 29 81 36 54 $4.25M
4 Paul Stastny WPG C 32 82 16 53 $7M
5 James Neal VGK LW 30 71 25 44 $5M
6 Ilya Kovalchuk KHL LW 35 53 31 63 $5.5M
7 Tyler Bozak TOR C 32 81 11 43 $4.2M
8 David Perron VGK RW 30 70 16 66 $3.75M
9 Mike Green DET RD 32 66 8 33 $6M
10 Rick Nash BOS LW 33 71 21 34 $7.8M
11 Carter Hutton STL G 32 32 2.09 .931 $1.13M
12 Thomas Vanek CBJ LW 34 80 24 56 $2M
13 Patrick Maroon NJD LW 30 74 17 43 $2M
14 Riley Nash BOS C 29 76 15 41 $900K
15 Derek Ryan CAR C 31 80 15 38 $1.43M
16 Anton Khudobin BOS G 32 31 2.56 .913 $1.2M
17 Jack Johnson CBJ LD 31 77 3 11 $4.36M
18 Ian Cole CBJ LD 29 67 5 20 $2.1M
19 Michael Grabner NJD RW 30 70 27 36 $1.65M
20 Leo Komarov TOR LW 31 74 7 19 $2.95M
21 Thomas Hickey NYI LD 29 69 5 25 $2.2M
21 Kyle Brodziak STL C 34 81 10 33 $950K
22 Jonathan Bernier COL G 29 37 2.85 .913 $2.75M
23 Valtteri Filppula PHI C/LW 34 80 11 33 $5M
24 Matt Calvert CBJ LW 28 69 9 24 $2.8M
25 Tomas Plekanec TOR C 35 77 6 26 $6M
26 Dan Hamhuis DAL LD 35 80 3 24 $3.75M
27 Blake Comeau COL RW 32 79 13 34 $2.4M
28 Calvin De Haan NYI LD 27 33 1 12 $3.3M
29 Jay Beagle WSH C 32 79 7 22 $1.75M
30 Chris Kunitz TBL LW 38 82 13 29 $2M
31 John Moore NJD LD 27 81 7 18 $1.67M
32 Mark Letestu CBJ C 33 80 9 23 $1.8M
33 Greg Pateryn DAL RD 27 73 1 13 $800K
34 Kevin Connauton ARI LD 28 73 11 21 $1M
35 Brian Gibbons NJD C 30 59 12 26 $650K
36 Ryan Reaves VGK RW 31 79 4 10 $1.13M
37 Tim Schaller BOS LW/C 27 82 12 22 $775K
38 Luca Sbisa VGK RD 28 30 2 14 $3.6M
39 Nick Holden BOS RD 31 73 4 17 $1.65M
40 Brandon Manning PHI LD 27 65 7 19 $975K
41 Christian Folin LAK RD 27 65 3 13 $850K
42 Antoine Vermette ANA C 35 64 8 16 $1.75M
43 Antoine Roussel DAL LW 28 73 5 17 $2M
44 Derek Grant ANA C 28 66 12 24 $650K
45 Chris Wideman OTT RD 28 16 3 8 $800K
46 Jaroslav Halak NYI G 33 54 3.19 .908 $4.5M
47 Ondrej Pavelec NYR G 30 19 3.05 .910 $1.3M
48 Alexei Emelin NSH LD 32 75 1 9 $4M
49 Roman Polak TOR RD 32 53 2 12 $1.1M
50 Michael Hutchinson WPG G 28 3 3.26 .907 $1.15M
 

Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli