Predictions for the top NHL free agents, including Nazem Kadri, Johnny Gaudreau, Evgeni Malkin

Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland has surveyed the NHL free-agent landscape every summer since 1997. What does he see as the 2022 market prepares to officially open Wednesday at noon?

“Lots of teams are tight on the cap, so it’s going to be interesting,” Holland told ESPN. “And then other teams … you wonder if they want to spend.”

The NHL salary cap is $82.5 million for next season, a rise of just $1 million over last season’s ceiling. That doesn’t bode well for the NHL’s middle class of players who are seeking new unrestricted and restricted free-agent deals.

“What we’re seeing play out right now is going to be [rough] for them,” one NHL agent told ESPN.

But the top-end free agents? They’ll still get their blockbuster deals, comparatively.

We’ve already seen Filip Forsberg get $68 million over eight years to stay with the Nashville Predators, Kevin Fiala get $55.125 million over seven years after being traded to the Los Angeles Kings, and 35-year-old Kris Letang get $36.6 million over six years to remain with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Who’s next? Here’s a look at where things stand with some of the biggest names on the unrestricted free-agent market.

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