NHL free agent pool is deep even without Stamkos

2:30 a.m. EDT June 30, 2016

The big fish is gone, so now teams will circle around the other targets when NHL free agency opens Friday.

Even with Steven Stamkos staying with the Tampa Bay Lightning on a $68 million, eight-year deal, the free agent market presents plenty of big-time players from forwards Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson and Kyle Okposo to defensemen Brian Campbell and Dan Hamhuis.

“There’s some high-end guys this year and it’ll be interesting to see what they get paid,” Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “I think the market will fall into place after those guys find destinations and establish the top salary level.”

If Stamkos’ $8.5 million cap hit established Wednesday sets the bar, it’s good news for not only Lucic, Eriksson and Okposo but the next level of free agents. More than a handful of players should be able to cash in even though the salary cap only went up slightly to $73 million.

Lucic has been linked to Edmonton after the Oilers traded Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday. Eriksson, a former Boston Bruins teammate of Lucic’s, will also be a top target.

Beyond those players, there’s…

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