July 1 is just around the corner, and although the free agent market isn’t as loaded as it has been in year’s past, there were still be a few scorers out there that plenty of teams would be happy to nab. Here are the top five forwards on the free-agent market.
1. Brad Richards
Brad Richards will undoubtedly be the most sought after free agent on the market. Although he is not yet officially a free agent just yet, Richards has already won a Cup with Tampa Bay back in 2004, and since Dallas doesn’t offer the promise to get back to the Stanley Cup Final anytime soon, expect plenty of contenders to come knocking on Richards’ door. The talented forward led the Stars in scoring for the second straight season with 28 goals and 49 assists in 72 games and would be a nice addition to a handful of teams looking for an extra scoring boost.
2. Andrew Brunette
The real appeal to Brunette (other than his ability to put the puck in the back of the net) is that he never gets hurt. In 15 seasons, the 37-year-old has missed just three games in nine seasons. Pretty impressive, especially when you consider the fact that most of his 256 goals have been scored within a stickblade’s length from the net.
3. Erik Cole
Carolina loves Cole and Cole seems to love Carolina, but the team is getting younger while the 32-year-old right winger is heading in the opposite direction. He did have a nice bounce-back season after an injury-plagued 2009-10, playing all 82 games for the first time in his career. Cole’s 26 goals and 52 points in 2011 will grab the attention of several teams looking for a depth scorer. He also has a Stanley Cup on his resume.
4. Simon Gagne
The two-time 40-goal scorer has had some injury problems the last few seasons, including a neck problem that limited him to just 63 games this season. He didn’t exactly contribute a whole lot in Tampa Bay, but when he’s healthy, he can be an elite goal-scorer.
5. Jussi Jokinen
The Hurricanes‘ left wing slipped from a career-best 30 goals in 2009-10 to 19 last season, but he’s just 28. The added benefit comes in the shootout, where Jokinen is the all-time leader with 28 goals.