NHL Picks: Best Forward Available In 2014 Free Agency

David Lawrence

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 7:49 PM GMT

Tuesday, Jun. 24, 2014 7:49 PM GMT

There is a big mix of forwards that will be on the free agent market come July 1st. Our expert hockey handicappers share their predictions for the five top free agent forwards.

If you need offense, you can go young with Paul Stastny, or go the veteran route with Thomas Vanek or Marian Gaborik. Looking for grit, offense and that final missing piece of the Stanley Cup puzzle? Jarome Iginla is on the board. Need some defense and leadership? Ryan Callahan could be your guy. Everything is available. The only question is who comes home with the respective prizes, and there is plenty of money to be made in the NHL prop pick market. 

Thomas Vanek  
A lot of people believe that Vanek is coming off a down year, but take a look at the numbers: only five other left wings in the entire season had more points than him. And that’s after he had a horrible start, and was traded twice.  

Vanek has a steady body of work over his career, and while he didn’t do much in the Montreal Canadiens series versus the New York Rangers, he has done plenty over his eight years to earn a big payday. We’re talking about a guy that pretty quietly gives you almost a point per game. Minnesota seems to make sense. The Wild are in need of offense after it no-showed in the second-round of the playoffs versus Chicago. They should have enough cap space to make it work.  

Free NHL Pick: Minnesota Wild  

Paul Stastny  
While Vanek hurt his stock by struggling in the playoffs, Stastny boosted his value. He had 10 points in seven playoff games.  

Stastny is a standout top-six forward that would be welcome on most teams. Pretty much anyone looking for offense will be giving him a call. He’s just 28-years-old, and is probably the safest bet in free agency among the forwards – even if you have to overpay him a little bit.  

Look for the New York Rangers to come knocking. They need more scoring and they know they need core, foundational pieces up front. They’ll have plenty of cap space to make it work.  

Free NHL Pick: New York Rangers   

Jarome Iginla   
The Boston Bruins would love to bring Iginla back but the trouble is that they’re short on cap space, and he might not want to take a team-friendly type of deal. Iginla clearly wants a shot at a ring, and even though he’s supposed to be in the twilight of his career, he still scored 30 goals, and contributed 61 points last season. He’s still got it.   

He’s the Bruins main offseason priority, but if they can’t get it done, don’t be surprised if the Detroit Red Wings make him an offer he can’t refuse. They convinced a similar veteran to make the move last season (Daniel Alfredsson), and general manager Ken Holland will know what to say to swoon Iginla, too.   

Free NHL Pick:  Detroit Red Wings

Ryan Callahan   
The Tampa Bay Lightning are making it a priority to retain Callahan, but that might be easier said than done. If the calendar flips to July 1st and Callahan hits free agency, he’s probably a goner.   

The Buffalo Sabres are rumored to be backing up the dump truck as they have the most salary cap space in the NHL. They need a foundational player, a leader and someone who can be a key cog in the locker room. Callahan is most definitely one of the best leaders in all of the NHL.    

The challenge is that Callahan has never scored 30 goals in a season, and is not known as a scorer. Really, what you’re getting with him are intangibles. But he made $4.5 million last year, and as one of the top free agents on the board, someone is going to give him about $7 million, and price him out of Tampa Bay’s range. That somebody is likely Buffalo.    

Free NHL Pick: Buffalo Sabres

Marian Gaborik   
No player helped his stock more in the postseason than Gaborik. We’re talking about a guy that had 30 points in the regular season, 27 points in the 2012-13 regular season, yet amassed 22 points during the Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup run.   

He’s now 32-years-old and he’s had some sketchy performances in recent seasons. Reports suggest that the Kings offered him a three-year, $15 M contract. That’s reasonable for him, but he can probably get more on the market. The only question is will he be playing for a Cup contender?   

Don’t be surprised if he ends up back in LA. There is a glutton of veteran scorers on the market like Patrick Marleau, Iginla and more. $5 million seems about the right price to keep Gaborik in La La Land.   

Free NHL Pick: Los Angeles Kings

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