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Ted Kulfan's top NHL free agents

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Go through the gallery above (mobile users can go HERE) to see a breakdown of the top NHL free agents by Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News.

Detroit -- When LeBron James hit NBA free agency in summer 2010, it set off one of the most frenzied and speculated-about periods in league history.

The NHL might get a taste of that kind of hysteria this year.

Detroit center Darren Helm is one of the top free agents this year. There are going to be teams willing to double his salary given his speed, penalty killing and checking.

Steven Stamkos, who scored 36 goals for the Lightning this season, becomes an unrestricted free agency July 1.

Stamkos, who is not playing in the postseason because of a blood clot, and the Lightning have apparently not come close to reaching an agreement.

If he were to become a free agent, it would lead to a huge bidding war between his hometown Maple Leafs and the Sabres, Bruins, Canadiens, Canucks and Rangers, among others.

Like the Red Wings, assuming they can create some cap space.

That would become more possible if they can trade Pavel Datsyuk’s cap space if he leaves for Russia, as expected. Datsyuk has one year left on his contract worth $7.5 million.

Stamkos, 26, is a rare free agent in the prime of his career.

But Red Wings general manager Ken Holland is expected to look over what is otherwise an uninspiring free-agent class.

“We’re going to explore free agency like we’ve done,” Holland said. “Those players that are out there on July 1, for the most part, are support players, secondary players, and they’re not players that carry franchises around.”


C Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay

C David Backes, St. Louis

C Darren Helm, Detroit

RW Alexander Radulov, Russia

LW Milan Lucic, Los Angeles

RW Troy Brouwer, St. Louis

LW Andrew Ladd, Chicago

D Keith Yandle, N.Y. Rangers

D Kris Russell, Dallas

D Dan Hamhuis, Vancouver