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Top Ten Unrestricted Free Agents Written by Jerry Maguire - August 8th, 2010

What a wild and crazy week it has been as the Preliminary Free Agency Period opened on Sunday and GM's got their first crack at Restricted Free Agent and Loyalty Unrestricted Free Agent negotiations. The league instituted a new Free Agency Negotiations method and so far, it appears to be a rousing success.

But that is almost over. Soon, the unsigned loyalty UFAs will hit the open market, the RFAs will be available on offer sheets to all the league's GM's, and the rest of the UFAs will finally get their chance to find a way on to a team.

So with that, here is a look at the ten best Unrestricted Free Agency buys (not including any loyalty UFAs that don't resign with their teams).

#10 - Willie Mitchell
Need a defensive defenceman to log major minutes on the penalty kill and provide good all-around performance? Look no further than Willie Mitchell, who holds one of the highest DF ratings in all the CMHL. Combined with a terrific 87 DU, Mitchell eats minutes like Kyle Wellwood eats Chocolate Dip donuts. He's no offensive slouch either - Mitchell scored 33 points last year for the Canucks including 8 power play goals.

#9 - Shane Doan
Doan is the perfect 2nd line power forward - he can hit, he can score, he can kill penalties, he can keep up with the play, he can do everything. Though he can be a bit undisciplined at times, his all-around effectiveness makes him a valuable player on any roster.

#8 - Mike Knuble
He may be getting a bit long in the teeth, but at $500,000, Mike Knuble was the best bargain the CMHL last year as he put up 64 points. This guy is still capable of manning a 2nd line, if not a 1st line on some teams, but chances are there won't be any bargain here this summer.

#7 - Andrew Raycroft
Need a starting goalie? Look no further than the often derided Andrew Raycroft, who quietly put up 45 wins in Season 6, while maintaining above average statiscal numbers - a 2.71 GAA and a .902 Save %. Not too shabby at all, especially considering he played for the Devils, who traditionally have not been a strong team defensively.

#6 - Teemu Selanne
In what will likely be Teemu's last season (didn't we say that last summer), he can still provide 60 points, although he's no longer the scoring threat he used to be, putting up only 15 goals in Season 6. That said, if your team needs a veteran who can still skate at the pro level, here's your guy.

#5 - David Legwand
The second best center in the UFA pool, Legwand led the Thrashers in scoring last year but they cut him loose. No matter, their loss. Legwand brings a terrific overall game to the table including the ability to score 60 points, win 50% of his faceoffs and kill penalties.

#4 - Alex Kovalev
Alex may be getting old, but he's still one of the best puckhandlers in the game, he can lay out the body and he can score 25+ goals.  

#3 - Tim Thomas
Easily the best goalie in the UFA pool, Thomas is your man if you need a new #1 this summer. Thomas put up 37 wins for the Kings in Season 6, while posting a 2.61 GAA and a .909 Save %, better than Raycroft in both respects. He lost the confidence of the Kings going into the playoffs though, and so it came as no surprise that they let him walk this summer.

#2 - Saku Koivu
The Blue Jackets cut several veterans this summer in order to free up cash to sign their key players, which put the top two UFAs on the market. Koivu is one of the best faceoff men in the CMHL, as he won 56% of his draws last year, while putting up 76 points including a team leading 6 game winning goals. His time may be winding down, but Koivu proved that he still has what it takes to be a #1 center in this league. Snap him up while you can...

#1 - Nicklas Lidstrom
The highest paid defenceman in CMHL history, his blood was too rich for Columbus in the end. That didn't stop him from putting up another masterful season including 72 points and 33 goals, half of which came on the power play. With above-80 SK and PH ratings and an 80 DF rating, putting a guy like Lidstrom on your team instantly makes you better in every single aspect of the game, and for that reason, he is without a doubt the best player on the UFA market this summer.

You can add another couple of guys to this list if they aren't resigned by their clubs this weekend. Rumours have both Colin White and Fredrik Modin testing the market right now. The question remains, after all the hard bargaining from the agents this week, who will have any money left to sign these guys?

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