NHL 21 Franchise Mode: Best Free Agents to Sign

Want to upgrade your Franchise Mode team’s lines without moving any assets? These are the best free agents to sign in NHL 21.


The next NHL season isn’t set to take place until next January, at the earliest, leaving several players without a contract and in a kind of limbo.

For Franchise Mode players on NHL 21, this means that the market has several top free agents to sign, from highly-rated veterans to younger players with high ceilings.


Using the first roster update following the launch of the game (October 16 Online Roster), we’ve compiled all of the highest-rated and highest potential free agents found on the first day of a new Franchise Mode on NHL 21.

How to sign free agents in Franchise Mode

To find where to sign free agents in NHL 21’s Franchise Mode, from the Hub screen, navigate to the Team Management screen (to the right) and then the Manage Contracts column.

There, you’ll see the option of ‘Free Agents,’ which shows all of the RFA and UFA players available.

To sign the true free agents, listed as UFAs, you just have to press A/X on the player that you want and then select the option to offer them a contract. From the next screen, you can adjust the terms of the contract offer.


After making an offer to a free agent in NHL 21, you’ll get a response as to whether or not your offer has been accepted or declined in the next few days.

Dustin Byfuglien, Top 4 Defenseman

Overall: 87
Age: 35
Position: Right/Left Defenseman
Player Type: Two-Way Defenseman
Shoots: Right
Initial Contract Demands: $2.8 million, 1 year, 1-way
Best Attributes: 95 Balance, 95 Strength, 93 Stick Checking

Standing 6’5’’ and 260 lbs, Dustin Byfuglien is a terrifying defenseman for any opposing forward to try to get around, particularly if trying to squeeze between him and the boards.

Also known for his ability to play on the wing if needed, the towering blueliner hasn’t played since the 2018/19 season due to injury. He’s now an unrestricted free agent, having split by mutual consent from the Winnipeg Jets.

He may be 35-years-old, but Byfuglien still has an 87 overall rating and several lofty attribute ratings in NHL 21, including his 95 strength, 93 body checking, 93 endurance, 93 stick checking, 93 slap shot power, and 92 wrist shot power.

If for nothing else, the American skater is one of the best enforcers in the game. So, if you want to win more fights in Franchise Mode, get Byfuglien in your lines and ready to drop the gloves.

Mike Hoffman, Second Line Forward

Overall: 85
Age: 30
Position: Left/Right Wing
Player Type: Sniper
Shoots: Left
Initial Contract Demands: $3.075 million, 1 year, 1-way
Best Attributes: 90 Speed, 90 Acceleration, 90 Durability

Mike Hoffman was one of the best forwards that the Ottawa Senators had when they were forced to trade the forward – for reasons beyond the player or team – with him putting in a career-best season after moving.

For the Florida Panthers in the 2018/19 season, Hoffman put up 36 goals and 70 points, which included a 17-game point streak which broke the franchise record held by Pavel Bure. In his 69 games for the Panthers last season, the Ontario-native snagged another 29 goals and 59 points.

Now a UFA and exploring his options, Hoffman comes in as one of the best free agents to sign in Franchise Mode, particularly due to his 85 overall rating, age, and skating attributes.

Hoffman enters NHL 21 with 90 acceleration, 89 agility, and 90 speed, narrowly missing out on the list of the game’s fastest skaters, with his 89 slap shot accuracy, 89 wrist shot accuracy, and 89 hand-eye making him a very user-friendly free agent signing.

Zdeno Chára, Top 4 Defenseman

Overall: 84
Age: 43
Position: Left/Right Defenseman
Player Type: Two-Way Defenseman
Shoots: Left
Initial Contract Demands: $2.425 million, 1 year, 1-way
Best Attributes: 94 Strength, 94 Balance, 92 Body Checking

While Zdeno Chára was drafted by the New York Islanders, played regularly for the Isles, and then starred for the Ottawa Senators in the early 00s, the Slovakian will always be remembered as a Boston Bruin.

Famous for being the tallest player in NHL history, ‘Big Z’ and his 6’9’’ frame have amassed over 1,500 regular season games and 195 playoff appearances.

Despite being 43-years-old, Chára has announced that retirement isn’t in his plans, helping to convince EA Sports to include the defenseman as one of the top free agents to sign in NHL 21.

For any Franchise Mode team, Chára offers a tremendous amount of strength, defensive skill, and a surprising amount of mobility. Furthermore, if you want to know how to fight and win, it’d be a good idea to get Chára’s 90 fighting skill and 94 balance on your side.

Ian McCoshen, Minor Top 2 Defenseman

Overall: 76
Age: 25
Position: Left/Right Defenseman
Player Type: Defensive Defenseman
Shoots: Left
Initial Contract Demands: $0.700 million, 1 year, 2-way
Best Attributes: 89 Durability, 86 Strength, 86 Body Checking

Despite being drafted just outside of the first round in 2013, going 31st overall, Ian McCoshen’s career hasn’t followed the path of such an early pick so far.

The defenseman has enjoyed stints in the Florida Panthers’ NHL lines, but after being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, he was unable to break into the rebuilding team’s defensive lines. On 19 October, he joined the Minnesota Wild on a one-year, two-way deal.

On the face of it, McCoshen doesn’t look like a particularly appealing signing, with a middling 76 overall rating. However, at the start of Franchise Mode, the 6’3’’ defenseman has Top 4 D high potential.

So, if you can give the Anaheim-native plenty of ice time to build on his 84 speed, 84 acceleration, 85 shot blocking, 85 stick checking, 86 body checking, and 86 strength, McCoshen can develop into a valuable defensive defenseman.

Brendan Perlini, Depth Forward

Overall: 78
Age: 24
Position: Left/Right Wing
Player Type: Sniper
Shoots: Left
Initial Contract Demands: $0.700 million, 1 year, 2-way
Best Attributes: 87 Slap Shot Power, 87 Speed, 87 Acceleration

Born in England, developed in Canada, Brendan Perlini has continued to strive for ice time since being drafted by the then Phoenix Coyotes at 12th overall in 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

The perpetually rebuilding team brought Perlini into the NHL lines during the 2016/17 season, with him scoring 30 points in 74 games in the following campaign. He played most of the 2018/19 season with the Chicago Blackhawks, and then requested a trade early last season, landing with the Detroit Red Wings.

Perlini comes into NHL 21 as one of the best free agents because he has strong baseline ratings, decent potential, and is still only 24-years-old.

Perlini has Top 6 Forward med potential, with his 87 acceleration, 87 agility, 87 speed, 86 hand-eye, 86 wrist shot power, 87 strength, and 87 shot power showing that he’s not far away from having some ratings worthy of top-six skater.

Jimmy Howard, Back-up Goalie

Overall: 81
Age: 36
Position: Goaltender
Player Type: Hybrid
Gloves: Left
Initial Contract Demands: $0.800 million, 1 year, 1-way
Best Attributes: 87 Speed, 87 Poke Check, 87 Breakaway

Jimmy Howard has been on the books of the Detroit Red Wings since being drafted by the Michigan team in 2003, amassing 523 starts, 246 wins, 24 shutouts, and a career 2.62 goals against average.

There’s a chance that the 36-year-old may retire, but as it stands, it looks like the 2020/21 season could see Howard feature for only his second NHL team.

In the Franchise Mode free agency, there are three goaltenders at 81 overall. However, Howard gets the nod as the best free agent goaltender thanks to him being a few years younger than the other two.

The American netminder is a worthy back-up, and a cheap one at that, with his 87 angles, 87 breakaway, 86 glove low, 86 stick low, 87 speed, and 86 rebound control being reliable enough.

Linus Söderström, Other Goalie

Overall: 70
Age: 24
Position: Goaltender
Player Type: Hybrid
Gloves: Left
Initial Contract Demands: $0.700 million, 1 year, 2-way
Best Attributes: 83 Agility, 83 Speed, 80 Recover

Standing 6’4’’ and 196 lbs, Linus Söderström is a hefty goaltender, with his size and surprising mobility undoubtedly helping the New York Islanders’ decision to snap him up in the fourth round of the 2014 draft.

Since then, Söderström sought to refine his game in his native Sweden, playing in the second and top-tier league of the nation. He’s spent the last two seasons in the United States, but injuries have greatly hindered his progress.

Now, the Swedish shot-stopper is a free agent in the eyes of the NHL, but is currently playing for Finnish club Ässät in Liiga. So, he’s listed as an unrestricted free agent in Franchise Mode.

Rated 70 overall, Söderström is quite a way off from being a first-choice goalie, but if given ice time by a brave coach, the 24-year-old can quickly grow into his Starter med potential.

All of the best free agents to sign in NHL 21 Franchise Mode

In the table below, you can find all of the top NHL 21 Franchise Mode free agents to sign, ranging from those with the highest overall ratings to ones with high potential.

The ones with sub-80 overall ratings have been included for their decent potential, being worth signing as free agents if you can give them enough ice time to develop.

NameOverallAgePositionPlayer TypeContract RequestBest Attributes
Dustin Byfuglien8735Right/Left DefensemanTwo-Way Defenseman$2.8 million, 1 year, 1-way95 Balance, 95 Strength, 93 Stick Checking
Mike Hoffman8530Left/Right WingSniper$3.075 million, 1 year, 1-way90 Speed, 90 Acceleration, 90 Durability
Zdeno Chára8443Left/Right DefensemanTwo-Way Defenseman$2.425 million, 1 year, 1-way94 Strength, 94 Balance, 92 Body Checking
Ilya Kovalchuk8337Left/Right WingSniper$1.825 million, 1 year, 1-way92 Slap Shot Power, 92 Wrist Shot Power, 91 Hand-Eye
Mikael Granlund8328Center/Right WingPlaymaker$2.475 million, 1 year, 1-way90 Deking, 90 Acceleration, 90 Agility
Sami Vatanen8329Right/Left DefensemanOffensive Defenseman$2.4 million, 1 year, 1-way90 Speed, 90 Acceleration, 90 Deking
Erik Haula8229CenterPlaymaker$1.5 million, 1 year, 1-way90 Acceleration, 90 Speed, 88 Deking
Andreas Athanasiou8226Left/Right WingPlaymaker$1.5 million, 1 year, 1-way93 Acceleration, 93 Speed, 88 Stick Checking
Dominik Kahun8225Center/Left WingPlaymaker$1.375 million, 1 year, 1-way90 Durability, 87 Discipline, 87 Speed
Derick Brassard8232Center/Right WingTwo-Way Forward$1.475 million, 1 year, 1-way88 Acceleration, 88 Speed, 87 Strength
Alex Galchenyuk8226Center/Left WingPlaymaker$2.225 million, 1 year, 1-way90 Acceleration, 90 Speed, 90 Deking
Joe Thornton8241CenterPlaymaker$1.6 million, 1 year, 1-way90 Strength, 90 Balance, 90 Poise
Jimmy Howard8136GoaltenderHybrid$0.800 million, 1 year, 1-way87 Speed, 87 Poke Check, 87 Breakaway
Ryan Miller8140GoaltenderHybrid$0.750 million, 1 year, 1-way86 Glove Low, 86 Stick Low, 86 Angles
Craig Anderson8139GoaltenderHybrid$0.825 million, 1 year, 1-way90 Endurance, 88 Agility, 88 Aggressiveness
Jay Bouwmeester8136Left/Right DefensemanDefensive Defenseman$1.1 million, 1 year, 1-way91 Endurance, 90 Poise, 90 Discipline
Conor Sheary8128Left/Right WingPlaymaker$1.325 million, 1 year, 1-way88 Acceleration, 88 Speed, 88 Agility
Michael Frolik8132Right WingTwo-Way Forward$1.35 million, 1 year, 1-way90 Discipline, 89 Stick Checking, 88 Speed
Carl Soderberg8134CenterTwo-Way Forward$0.975 million, 1 year, 1-way89 Durability, 88 Endurance, 87 Strength
Michael Grabner8032Right/Left WingSniper$0.825 million, 1 year, 1-way95 Discipline, 92 Speed, 91 Acceleration
Brendan Perlini7824Left/Right WingSniper$0.700 million, 1 year, 2-way87 Slap Shot Power, 87 Speed, 87 Acceleration
Jeremy Bracco7823CenterPlaymaker$0.925 million, 3 years, 2-way95 Discipline, 88 Deking, 88 Speed
Madison Bowey7825Right/Left DefensemanTwo-Way Defenseman$0.700 million, 1 year, 2-way90 Durability, 87 Speed, 87 Acceleration
Ian McCoshen7625Left/Right DefensemanDefensive Defenseman$0.700 million, 1 year, 2-way89 Durability, 86 Strength, 86 Body Checking
Ryan Kuffner7424Left WingTwo-Way Forward$0.700 million, 1 year, 2-way85 Durability, 85 Slap Shot Power, 85 Wrist Shot Power
Jérémy Roy7323Right/Left DefensemanOffensive Defenseman$0.700 million, 1 year, 2-way85 Speed, 85 Slap Shot Power, 85 Agility
Linus Söderström7024GoaltenderHybrid$0.700 million, 1 year, 2-way83 Agility, 83 Speed, 80 Recover
Linus Nassen6622Left/Right DefensemanTwo-Way Defenseman$0.700 million, 1 year, 2-way85 Durability, 84 Slap Shot Power, 84 Wrist Shot Power

If you need to bolster your lines with a decent skater or want to add a high potential young skater to your roster, sign one of the best NHL 21 free agents listed above.

Want to learn more about playing NHL 21?

NHL 21: Complete Controls Guide (Goalie, Faceoffs, Offense, and Defense) for PS4 and Xbox One

NHL 21: Complete Deke Guide, Tutorial, and Tips

NHL 21: Best and Worst Teams to Use and Rebuild

NHL 21: How to Fight and Win

NHL 21 Ratings: Best Enforcers

NHL 21 Draft: Best Prospects and Top Draft Steals 2021

NHL 21 Draft: Best Prospects and Top Draft Steals 2022

NHL 21: Fastest Players (Forwards and Defensemen)

NHL 21 Franchise Mode: Best Young Players

NHL 21: Top Centers

NHL 21: Top Faceoff Centers

NHL 21: All Team Ratings


Ben Chopping

Will give almost any game a chance, particularly those that include wildlife, monsters, or prehistoric creatures of any kind.

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