NHL free agents 2024: Auston Matthews, William Nylander headline best available players in next year’s class

The 2023 NHL offseason is in full swing and a majority of the high-profile names have already signed new deals. 

However, it’s never too early to look at next year’s free agent class, especially after a weak one in 2023. 

There are plenty of big names that could be hitting the market in the summer of 2024, headlined by Maple Leafs stars Auston Matthews and William Nylander. Both could potentially sign extensions before the year begins or in Nylander’s case, might be traded as he’s priced himself out of Toronto’s range. 

In addition to Nylander, there have been some players with one year left on their current deals that are in trade rumors, including Connor Hellebuyck, Mark Scheifele, Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin. 

Here is a look at the NHL free agency class of 2024. 

MORE: Who are the NHL’s highest-paid players in 2023-24?

List of the top 30 NHL UFAs for 2024

There are some notable names at the top of the unrestricted free agent list, with a pair of Maple Leafs taking the top two spots. 

1. Auston Matthews, C, Maple Leafs

All eyes are on Matthews and the Maple Leafs. The sniping center is one of the best goal scorers in the league, scoring at least 30 goals in every season, hitting 40 five times and potting 60 once. He is currently one of the highest-paid players, and there have been reports that Matthews and the Leafs have already discussed a contract extension. 

2. William Nylander, RW, Maple Leafs

Another Leaf tops the 2024 free agent class. Nylander has been one of the best top-six wingers over the last few seasons and one of the only consistent playoff performers for Toronto. Nylander’s camp and the Leafs reportedly “are not close”, and that could mean the Swede is traded at some point before hitting free agency. 

3. Sebastian Aho, C, Hurricanes

The Hurricanes haven’t had a “big-name” star in a few years, but Aho plays like one, just without the recognition. The Finn is one of the best, two-way centers in the NHL and has been the driving force behind the Canes’ offense for a few seasons now. Carolina has a history of not ponying up to pay its top players, but I don’t see that being the case with Aho. 

4. Connor Hellebuyck, G, Jets

Without a doubt, the best goalie available next summer will be Hellebuyck … if he hits free agency. The towering netminder might want out of Winnipeg, and it’s likely wherever he ends up, he’ll sign an extension. Hellebuyck was a Vezina finalist in 2022-23 and won the honor in 2020. He’s without a doubt a top-five goaltender in the league. 

5. Steven Stamkos, C, Lightning

The heart and soul of the Lightning for over a decade, Stamkos is in need of a new contract next summer. He’s overcome the injuries from earlier in his career and remains an elite offensive weapon with one of the best one-timers. It’s hard to see the Lightning letting their captain walk. 

6. Jake Guentzel, LW, Penguins

Guentzel gets overlooked on the Penguins due to the other star players surrounding him, but the 29-year-old has been one of the best top-six wingers since entering the league, however just under a point-per-game rate in his career. He’s a pure scoring winger who can threaten to hit 40 goals every year. 

7. Mark Scheifele, C, Jets

Like Hellebuyck, Scheifele is a current Jet who is likely on the move before next summer. The center is a solid, two-way player who hit 40 goals in a season for the first time last year. Scheifele is a bonafide No. 1 center, who will be an attractive option if he hits the open market. 

8. Elias Lindholm, C, Flames

Lindholm is one of the more underrated, defensive centers in the league. He’s going to be a candidate every year to make a run at the Selke. The Flames want to lock him up long-term, but it’s unclear if Lindholm wants to remain in Calgary. 

9. Tyler Bertuzzi, LW, Maple Leafs

Bertuzzi thought he was cashing in this summer, but with teams strapped for cash, the winger elected to bet on himself and sign a one-year deal with the Maple Leafs. The pesky wing is a top-six scorer and playmaker with a knack for getting under opponents’ skin. 

10. Noah Hanifin, D, Flames

Hanifin is arguably the top defenseman that is going to hit the market next season. The 27-year-old is a steady, top-four blue liner who is a decent contributor at 5 on 5. He’s a solid option to quarterback a team’s second power play unit. 

NHL Free Agents 2024, ranked
No. 1 Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs C 26
No. 2 William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs RW 28
No. 3 Sebastian Aho Carolina Hurricanes C 26
No. 4 Connor Hellebuyck Winnipeg Jets G 30
No. 5 Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning C 33
No. 6 Jake Guentzel Pittsburgh Penguins LW 29
No. 7 Mark Scheifele Winnipeg Jets C 31
No. 8 Elias Lindholm Calgary Flames C 29
No. 9 Tyler Bertuzzi Toronto Maple Leafs LW 28
No. 10 Noah Hanifin Calgary Flames D 27
No. 11 Joe Pavelski Dallas Stars RW 39
No. 12 Brandon Montour Florida Panthers D 30
No. 13 Tyler Toffoli New Jersey Devils G 32
No. 14 Devon Toews Colorado Avalanche D 30
No. 15 Chandler Stephenson Vegas Golden Knights C 30
No. 16 Jake DeBrusk Boston Bruins LW 27
No. 17 Brett Pesce Carolina Hurricanes D 29
No. 18 Mats Zuccarello Minnesota Wild RW 36
No. 19 Sam Reinhart Florida Panthers RW 28
No. 20 Jonathan Marchessault Vegas Golden Knights RW 33
No. 21 Matt Duchene Dallas Stars C 33
No. 22 Gustav Forsling Florida Panthers D 28
No. 23 Viktor Arvidsson Los Angeles Kings RW 31
No. 24 Shayne Gostibehere Detroit Red Wings D 31
No. 25 Mikael Backlund Calgary Flames C 35
No. 26 Ryan Hartman Minnesota Wild C 29
No. 27 Teuvo Teravainen Carolina Hurricanes LW 29
No. 28 Jordan Eberlie Seattle Kraken RW 34
No. 29 David Perron Detroit Red Wings RW 36
No. 30 Jack Roslovic Columbus Blue Jackets C 27

List of the top 15 NHL RFAs for 2023

Looking at the restricted free agents, it’s a plethora of young, budding stars. 

Some players will get bridge deals, contracts with shorter terms that will expire when they are UFAs, giving them more flexibility with their next deal. Others will sign long-term extensions with their current teams. 

The two most notable names on this list are Elias Pettersson and Rasmus Dahlin, both of which are expected to cash in on long-term extensions, as the two have become centerpieces for their respective clubs. 

No. 1 Elias Pettersson Vancouver Canucks C 25
No. 2 Rasmus Dahlin Buffalo Sabres D 24
No. 3 Matty Beniers Seattle Kraken C 21
No. 4 Martin Necas Carolina Hurricanes RW 25
No. 5 Moritz Seider Detroit Red Wings D 23
No. 6 Carter Hart Philadelphia Flyers G 25
No. 7 Owen Power Buffalo Sabres D 21
No. 8 Ryan Lindgren New York Rangers D 26
No. 9 Dawson Mercer New Jersey Devils RW 22
No. 10 Seth Jarvis Carolina Hurricanes RW 22
No. 11 Brandon Hagel Tampa Bay Lightning LW 25
No. 12 Lucas Raymond Detroit Red Wings RW 22
No. 13 Casey Mittelstadt Buffalo Sabres LW 25
No. 14 Owen Tippett Philadelphia Flyers RW 25
No. 15 Anton Lundell Florida Panthers C 22

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