The 2021 NHL free agency season is still in session, but it’s never too early to look ahead and see what the 2022 NHL free agency looks like.
This free agency has been an absolute frenzy, due mostly to the expansion draft with the Seattle Kraken entering the league. Next year might not be as hectic, but there are still a number of star NHL free agents in 2022 who will need new deals.
Upcoming NHL free agents in 2022
There is a ton of star power in 2022 free agency at the forward position, especially down the middle at center.
There are some big names that would be a surprise to see go somewhere else, but there are also some youngsters who might be looking to move on from their origin team.
Let’s look at some of the top 2022 NHL free agents.
Patrice Bergeron, the long-time center for the Boston Bruins, will be in need of a new contract after next season with his eight-year, $52 million deal expiring. Bergeron is a part of one of the top lines in the NHL with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. He’s regarded as one of the best two-way centers in the league.
Bergeron has 917 points in 1,143 games. You can’t really imagine a scenario where Bergeron isn’t in Boston, so an extension might be coming for the captain.
Speaking of excellent two-way forwards that are captains of their teams, Aleksander Barkov is on his final year of his deal. He has one year left on his six-year, $35.4 million contract.
The Florida Panthers took a huge leap this year and a good part of that is due to Barkov. The 25-year-old is fresh off of winning the Selke. He has 284 points in 529 games in his eight-year career in Florida. He’s in for a big pay day, but don’t be surprised to see Barkov take a hometown discount to stay with the Panthers.
Mika Zibanejad has turned into a top 15 center, borderline top 10 center in the league. The 28-year-old Swede has 234 points in 604 games.
With his five-year, $26.8 million deal set to expire, it will be interesting to see if the New York Rangers re-up him or let him walk. A lot may change in the next year if the Rangers do in fact trade for Jack Eichel. Eichel would immediately leapfrog Zibanejad for the 1C spot and will certainly take some more cash too.
Evgeni Malkin has been a part of the Pittsburgh Penguins core that has three Stanley Cups since 2008. But he won’t be a cheap asset to retain in 2022 NHL free agency.
Malkin is coming off a deal where he was paid $9.5 million a year.
Granted, he’s not the player he was when he signed the ticket in, but he still might dictate a high salary cap. Is that something Pittsburgh wants to do? He’s going to be 36 next year, has dealt with injuries and on the decline, although still very productive. He’s still a deadly offensive that can play second line minutes.
Matthew Tkachuk, son of NHL legend Keith, is in for his pay day next offseason. The Calgary Flames winger is a gritty player that is an absolute pain to play against, but has the offensive ability to contribute on the scoresheet.
He signed a three-year bridge deal two years ago, postponing his big cash in, but Tkachuk is going to want in. There are rumors he wants out of Calgary and if that’s the case, there’s an opportunity for a team to swoop in and sign a budding young star.
The smooth, puck-moving defenseman of the Dallas Stars has emerged as a premier offensive blue liner in the league. Klingberg has 327 points in 478 games at the NHL.
The 28-year-old has watched the Stars lock up young superstar Miro Heiskanen long term, as well as giving veteran Ryan Suter a four-year deal this offseason.
His cap hit was at a very team-friendly $4.75 million the last few years, but he’ll absolutely demand more. If the Stars can get him a long-term deal, that gives them two bonafide stars on the line for the next few years with him and Heiskanen.
Morgan Rielly has emerged as a legitimate top-pair defenseman on the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s a talented offensive defensemen who has fitted in nicely with the Maple Leafs core.
The problem? Well, the Maple Leafs have almost half their cap tied up in Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares.
The liklihood of Rielly re-singing is slim to none. The trade rumors have already began with Rielly, as Toronto looks to get at least something out of him instead of letting him walk free. But expect Rielly to sign somewhere else in 2022.
The 2022 free agent goalie class is shaping up to be a weak one, but the headline is Marc-Andre Fleury. The three-time Stanley Cup champion and most recent Vezina winner was cruelly shipped away from the Vegas Golden Knights to the Chicago Blackhawks for next to nothing, giving all signs that Vegas was going to pay his worth next offseason.
Despite being 36, Fleury has shown he can still be an elite goaltender in the NHL. He might not have as good of a season again as he did this past one, but he can certainly be a short-term answer for a team in need of an upgrade.