As I’m sure all of you are bummed that there is no more hockey, I’m here to help alleviate your pain. July 1st is when NHL Free Agency begins and the focus will of course be on the big names, but it is often the role players that make the difference. Here I’ll be giving you my predictions on where the Top 20 UFAs will land, usually with two destinations for each player. Then we’ll see if any of these are actually right.

 

1) Brad Richards  C
The cream of the crop of the 2011 UFA class, Richards will certainly get a big payday. So you can expect a team to throw money at him, perhaps in an attempt to placate a upset fanbase and to get into the playoffs. Which means it’ll be either the NY Rangers or Toronto, and it’s equally possible to be either of those two.

2) Christian Ehrhoff  D
Probably one of the most underrated defensemen in the league, Ehrhoff will certainly garner alot of offers. With the Canucks resigning Bieksa, it looks even more unlikely Ehrhoff will return to Vancouver. Look for him to land in Carolina or even Detroit with the retirement of Raflaski.

3) James Wisniewski  D
After a huge season, he may have priced himself right out of Montreal. He could still return, but it’s likely he’s headed to the money-tossing Rangers or Dallas with some of the money they’ll have with Richards gone.

4) Joni Pitkanen  D
Even he’s reported to want to test the UFA waters, my feeling is that he’ll return to Carolina or the Rangers might make a run at him if they miss out on other D-men.

5) Tomas Kaberle  D
He didn’t exactly lit it up when he came over to Boston, but he’s still a valuable player. He could either return to Boston or jump over to the Rangers.

6) Jussi Jokinen  LW
He had a down year after a pretty good one last year, so his stock is a bit down. A return to Carolina is possible, but he’ll likely test the market and end up with Minnesota to play with fellow Fin Mikko Koivu or Florida who need to make it to the cap floor.

7) Tomas Vokoun  G
An underrated goalie, he might return to Florida or take his talents to Colorado who don’t exactly have a #1 goalie.

8 ) Tomas Fleischmann  C
Fleichmann did well in Colorado after coming over mid-season but got injured. Colorado will do what they can to re-sign him.

9) Ville Leino  LW
With the massive trades of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the seeming departure of Leino is a thing of the past. Look for Philly to re-sign him to make up for the loss of two of their best forwards.

10) Ed Jovanovski  D
Jova probably wants to play on a team that has a legitimate shot at the Cup, so this has Red Wings all over it. The Coyotes are improving but are still not near a serious run. Look for Detroit to land him, perhaps on a short term deal.

11) Tim Connolly  C
This looks like a good opportunity for the Stars to replace Richards. Connolly is one of the best centers on the market and Dallas will do what they can to bring him in.

12) Simon Gagne  LW
He has shown interest in re-signing with the Bolts and Gagne is a savvy veteran forward that could help any team. He could work in Los Angeles with Smith gone or Edmonton, to help out with their young forwards.

13) Erik Cole  LW/RW
This is one of those things that won’t be that hard to figure out. Except for part of one season, Cole has been a Hurricane his entire career and will stay in Carolina.

14) Michal Handzus  C
He could return to LA, but only if he takes a paycut and their is good depth at center on the team already. He’ll most likely go to a team that needs a center, perhaps Dallas, to replace Richards, or even the Rangers if they miss out on Richards.

15) Jason Arnott  C
Acquired at the trade deadline to bring veteran presence to the Caps and to help in a Cup push. No Cup was won, but Washington will look to bring back Arnott.

16) Ian White  D
He had a but of an uneven time with the Sharks, but I believe they’ll want to resign him. Choosing between re-signing him or Kent Huskins, San Jose will opt for White.

17) Roman Hamrlik  D
The Habs will try to re-sign him and he could return, but he might look elsewhere. A veteran defenseman who can chip in offensively will be coveted. He could land in Dallas or Colorado who both have alot of cap space.

18) Tyler Kennedy  C/W
The Penguins want him back and they are a strong option. Kennedy steped up last season when the star centers went down for the Pens. Look for Pittsburgh to sign him or perhaps Dallas if he hits the open market.

19) Scottie Upshall  LW
Upshall has talent but people have been waiting for him to have a big breakout season. Teams looking at him in free agency will treat him as such. He could go to Los Angeles or the Rangers, who need forward depth.

20) Bryan McCabe  D
A veteran D-man who has dealt with his share of injuries, McCabe is still able to contribute. Plus he wore the C while he was in Florida. He could return to the Rangers, but only if he takes a big pay cut or he could return to where he started, with the Islanders.

Note: The UFA list from MyNHLTradeRumors was used.