Joel Auerbach/Associated Press
The initial rush of NHL free agency led to most of the top available players signing with new teams on July 1, but there are still several intriguing names remaining on the market.
Although it is unlikely they will land long-term, big-money contracts at this juncture, they still have the ability to be important, productive players provided they end up in situations that give them an opportunity to thrive.
As free-agent signings continue to trickle in, here is a look at some of the top players left, along with predictions for where they will end up.
Winger Thomas Vanek enjoyed a somewhat resurgent season in 2016-17, as he registered 17 goals and 48 points in 68 games split between the Detroit Red Wings and Florida Panthers.
Prior to the start of free agency, Craig Custance of the Athletic reported that the Red Wings were one of five teams in contact with Vanek.
Michael Russo of the Star Tribune later reported that the Panthers had expressed some interest in potentially bringing the Austrian back.
The 33-year-old veteran began his career with the Buffalo Sabres and was one of the NHL’s most dangerous offensive players at one time.
He twice scored 40 goals as a member of the Sabres, and has 10 career seasons of 20 or more goals to his credit.
While Vanek didn’t quite live up to expectations during a two-year run with the Minnesota Wild prior to signing with the Red Wings, he has value as a secondary scoring option.
Vanek excels at setting screens and picking up garbage goals on the power play, and he is an underrated asset when it comes to his dominance in shootouts.
He is no longer an All-Star player who can carry the scoring load on the top line for a contending team, however, he is a cheap source of offense with a resume that few other free agents can match.
Essentially any team in the NHL would benefit from his presence and ability to assume a scoring role without that team having to break the bank.
Based on how well he performed in Detroit last season prior to being dealt to the Panthers, look for the Red Wings to strongly consider bringing Vanek back into the fold.
Prediction: Vanek signs with Red Wings
Defenseman Andrei Markov has spent his entire 16-year NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens, but as he continues to sit in free agency, the possibility of moving on is present.
Although there hasn’t been any movement yet, TSN’s Tony Marinaro reported on July 3 that Markov was only negotiating with the Philadelphia Flyers at that time.
While Philly could be a good landing spot due to the fact that it has some young, elite talent on the blue line in Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov, the Habs likely need Markov more.
In addition to trading away prospect Mikhail Sergachev in a deal for forward Jonathan Drouin, the Canadiens lost Alexei Emelin in the expansion draft and traded Nathan Beaulieu to the Buffalo Sabres.
Their defensive depth has been depleted significantly, although they did sign former Washington Capitals rearguard Karl Alzner.
Aside from Shea Weber, the Canadiens don’t have a great power-play defenseman either, which is an area in which Markov has excelled in for years.
Even at the age of 38, Markov managed 36 points last season and posted an impressive plus-18 rating.
He has topped the 40-point threshold seven times in his career and may have another 40-point season in him considering Montreal’s firepower up front.
After losing forward Alexander Radulov to the Dallas Stars, expect the Habs to take the necessary steps to ensure Markov doesn’t walk as well.
Prediction: Markov signs with Canadiens
Most teams seemingly have their goaltending situations figured out for 2017-18, but an interesting option remains available in the form of Jhonas Enroth.
The 29-year-old Swede was a quality backup for the Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings before joining the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Enroth folded with the Leafs last season, however, going 0-3-1 with a 3.94 goals-against average and .872 save percentage in six games.
That led to him spending much of the rest of the season in the AHL.
Despite Enroth’s struggles, TSN’s Ryan Rishaug reported prior to free agency that there were several teams interested in the netminder and that an Eastern Conference team was most likely to sign him.
While there haven’t been any specifics, the New York Islanders make sense as a suitor considering their situation with Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak.
The Isles waived Halak last season, but he returned as a backup. New York then lost goalie Jean-Francois Berube to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft, and he subsequently signed with the Chicago Blackhawks.
New York would benefit from some added competition in the crease, and Enroth would provide that even if he ends up back in the NHL.
Prediction: Enroth signs with Islanders