If we take a look over the past few weeks of rumors leading into NHL free agency, we get a pretty good picture of where a number of free agents may land. We also get a sense of who might be on the trade block with a few blockbusters having already gone down.
In an attempt to provide an overall rundown of who might be going where, here is a list of the 53 biggest names in free agency talk and trade rumors and what to expect.
This is a summary of earlier reports we did in our rumor rundown notes (with a few little additions). These free agents and trade targets have not been ranked in any particular order:
53) Curtis McElhinney
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the Montreal Canadiens are among three teams that are interested in signing veteran goaltender Curtis McElhinney. The 36-year-old finished the 2018-19 season with a 2.58 GAA and a .912 save percentage in 33 appearances. LeBrun also adds that it doesn’t look like Toronto is one of the other two teams.
52) Patrik Berglund
Former NHL player Patrik Berglund, who walked out on the Buffalo Sabres in the middle of last season, is exploring a return the NHL. According to Fox Sports Midwest’s Andy Strickland, there are several interested teams.
51) Deryk Engelland
Vegas Golden Knights President of Hockey Operations George McPhee confirmed that the team is close to signing veteran unrestricted free agent defenseman Deryk Engelland, according to Las Vegas Review-Journal’s David Schoen.
The 37-year-old is likely expected to take a bottom-six role next season and could find himself more in a 6th/7th role on defense.
50) Jake Gardiner
According to the Maple Leafs Hot Stove, Elliotte Friedman said on Sportsnet 590 that Gardiner’s camp could sit back and see if anyone starts to panic while trying to find an offensive-defenseman. That means Gardiner is probably leaving Toronto because when the money comes, the Maple Leafs won’t be able to afford him.
The teams most often mentioned when Jake Gardiner’s name comes up are the Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks, and Minnesota Wild. But, there will be a number of teams who strike out in a limited field of puck-moving d-men and someone will overpay.
49) Joe Pavelski
Kevin Kurz of The Athletic reports that the “overwhelming sense” is that Pavelski will be moving on to another team this summer. Andy Strickland reports that it sounds like Pavelski is headed to Tampa Bay but many wonder how that will work salary cap wise. There was also speculation he was considering Minnesota.
@Prospects_Watch is reporting a quote from Pierre McGuire that suggests “There’s a real chance Joe Pavelski ends up in Tampa Bay. The chance to play with his best friend Ryan McDonagh is appealing.
48) Brian Boyle
Pierre LeBrun reports the Edmonton Oilers are one of five or six teams that have shown interest in Brian Boyle. LeBrun also believes the Buffalo Sabres are one of the teams interested as might be the Columbus Blue Jackets, according to Brian Hedger.
47) Anders Lee
Frank Seravalli of TSN reports that Anders Lee will likely be moving on from the New York Islanders via free agency. He believes a shift in the market means Lee sees big money in free agency. Seravalli suggests Lee could get at least $7.5 million annually, perhaps more.
46) Mitch Marner
The Maple Leafs are confident a deal will get done with Mitch Marner and Chris Johnston reports the Maple Leafs have spoken with a number of players who potentially could sign for the league minimum or close to it. They are trying to do some value shopping thinking that despite uncertainty with the biggest restricted free agent on the market, it will work out.
The latest is that both sides see a two-year bridge deal as an option and that Marner is not keen on the idea of committing to eight years when a huge salary cap bump is expected in the year 2021 and he can be a free agent much sooner when things are at their highest.
As for any other teams in the mix, that conversation seems to revolve around the New York Islanders but there are many teams who want to chat with him just to scare the Maple Leafs a bit.
45) Cody Ceci
David Pagnotta reports there has been no progress made between the Ottawa Senators and restricted free agent defenseman Cody Ceci and on Saturday night, Bob McKenzie tweeted he thinks Ceci might get traded to Toronto for Nikita Zaitsev.
It appears this deal is done but can only be announced on July 1. McKenzie said that’s enough time for the deal to go south though and it could because there’s supposed to be a sweetener thrown in by Toronto.
44) Artemi Panarin
When talking about Artemi Panarin, @Prospects_Watch quoted Darren Dreger of TSN who said, “There’s some speculation Panarin wants a bit more than $12M annually, that might push the New York Rangers out of the game.”
Larry Brooks of the NY Post says the New York Rangers won’t get into a bidding war for free agent forward Artemi Panarin or go higher than seven years in the $11 to $11.25 million range per season. They are interested though.
The Florida Panthers are still the favorites at this point.
43) Brett Connolly
It was assumed by most people that forward Brett Connolly would be leaving the Washington Capitals but Isabelle Khurshudyan says the door may not be totally closed.
That said, he’s still connected to the Edmonton Oilers an awful lot these days and Elliotte Friedman said on Oilers Now he could see a situation where Connolly became a regular interview in that area. He would make for a good scoring winger for either Connor McDavid or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Edmonton could go as high as $3 million per season.
42) Valeri Nichushkin
Fox Sports Midwest’s Andy Strickland reports that Dallas will be placing Valeri Nichushkin on unconditional waivers for the purposes of buying out the final year of his contract. Where he ends up is tough to call because a team would have to take a chance his no goals in 2018-19 was a fluke. Could Toronto be a team that tries him out at an extremely low-cost salary?
41) Cam Talbot
Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic tweeted the Calgary Flames and Cam Talbot are still both looking at all of their options, but there is a “decent possibility” of a deal between the two. Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest said he believes the veteran goaltender has already agreed to a one-year deal with the Flames.
40) Patrick Maroon
Sticking with the Flames, it sounds like they are interested in Patrick Maroon, as are a number of other teams. Maroon started last season poorly (as did most of the St. Louis Blues) but he proved his value over time and his decision to take a one-year deal in St. Louis and up his value will have paid off.
39) Ivan Provorov
Frank Seravalli is reporting that it doesn’t sound like the Philadelphia Flyers and RFA defenseman Ivan Provorov are close on a deal. Provorov wants to see what the market develops before signing.
As an RFA, he’s only got so much leverage but at the same time, the Flyers are being active and a trade could be a real possibility.
38) Patrick Marleau
This might not be much of a shocker in terms of a rumor but with the Patrick Marleau buyout in Carolina officially complete, it’s a 99.9% probability Marleau and the San Jose Sharks reunite and gets a deal done and ready for an announcement early on the morning of July 1.
37) Robin Lehner
Arthur Staple of The Athletic reports that there is a substantial gap in what the New York Islanders are offering goaltender Robin Lehner and what the 27-year-old star netminder is willing to accept.
GM Lou Lamoriello is only offering a deal around $5 million per season and Staple writes:
If the Isles are ready to move on from Lehner, it could mean the big UFA goalie target is in their sights. Sergei Bobrovsky was reportedly in New York earlier this week, along with fellow coveted UFA Artemi Panarin.source – ‘Still far apart in contract talks with the Islanders, Robin Lehner’s future appears to be elsewhere’ – The Athletic – Arthur Staple – 06/27/2019
36) Mats Zuccarello
According to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic, winger Mats Zuccarello is believed to be seeking a five-year deal. Dallas would like to keep him and Zuccarello has said he’d be interested in staying, but Zuccarello has averaged 56 points per season in the past five years and should receive a big bump from his $4.5 million contract.
The issue is term and who is willing to give the 31-year-old the five-year deal he wants. It’s a risk.
35) Marcus Johansson
David Pagnotta reports the Boston Bruins are still interested in re-signing Marcus Johansson. There is news that several teams are also seriously interested and as an unrestricted free agent that will likely be looking to cash in, his new deal may be worth much more than the Bruins can afford.
Darren Dreger: Over 10 teams have checked in with forward Marcus Johansson. He’ll be looking for a raise from $4.6 million.
34) Thomas Vanek
As per a report by Max Bultman of The Athletic, Thomas Vanek’s camp has been informed his time in Detroit is over. His 36 points in 64 games were decent but his lack of speed is an issue. Vanek might be a player who signs much later in free agency.
33) Gustav Nyquist
The Oilers, Canucks, Canadiens and Blue Jackets have shown potential interest in Gustav Nyquist, a player the San Jose Sharks likely can’t afford to keep.
32) Corey Perry
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet indicates that the Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars are among teams on Corey Perry’s radar.
There were earlier reports that potentially linked Perry to the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks and it appears he’ll have a number of options once July 1 opens up.
31) Anton Stralman
According to Pierre LeBrun, UFA defenseman Antron Stralman, 32, has about six teams on his radar who have reached out this week. A Florida Panthers source confirmed that they’ve inquired on him.
The Maple Leafs had reached out but the asking price was too high and Toronto backed off.
30) Wayne Simmonds
As Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports in his newest column, there are as many as a dozen teams interested in free agent forward Wayne Simmonds. Among them are the Minnesota Wild and Montreal Canadiens.
He is a high character person that when healthy can give you that rare combo of physicality and offensive production… He’s probably going to want between a three- to a five-year deal.source -‘LeBrun Notebook: Will this star-studded RFA class finally produce an offer sheet?’ Pierre LeBrun – The Athletic – 05/25/2019
29) Petr Mrazek
Chip Alexander of The News & Observer reports Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell continues talks with goaltenders Petr Mrazek.
Pierre LeBrun noted the Edmonton Oilers reached out to talk about obtaining his negotiating rights but there’s no word on what that sits at this stage.
28) Sebastian Aho
NHL insider John Shannon was on OilersNow (630 CHED Edmonton) and said that the Carolina Hurricanes’ offer to Aho currently comes in at just $6 million x 8 seasons. That’s pretty low considering what other talented stars are being paid during their RFA years.
GM of the Hurricanes, Don Waddell said, timelines on an Aho deal are false and he thinks a deal will get done but others feel like Aho is being lowballed. It’s got people wondering if an offer sheet is forthcoming.
27) Mike Smith
Goaltender Mike Smith has spoken to several teams according to Frank Seravalli of TSN. Seravalli says the door isn’t closed to him returning to Calgary but that perhaps the Hurricanes might have an interest.
With the changes in goal for the Hurricanes, they might be looking for a netminder during the first week of free agency.
26) Jesse Puljujarvi
A restricted free agent, there is a lots of chatter the Edmonton Oilers are trying to move Puljujarvi. That said, Edmonton Journal’s Kurt Leavins reports that the Edmonton Oilers haven’t had much success.
Speculation is Ken Holland either wants a top prospect or a player between the age of 25-30 who can help the Oilers now and for seasons to come.
25) Sergei Bobrovsky
Craig Custance reports there are no changes with regards to Sergei Bobrovsky, at least in respect to either being part of a sign-and-trade or someone offering to trade for his rights.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported he met with the Florida Panthers on Monday and Florida has $20.48 million in cap space with their top priority a goaltender.
Robert Luongo retired and the Panthers are working on finding a trade partner willing to take James Reimer’s contract.
24) Justin Faulk
The Athletic’s Sara Civian reported on Saturday that talks regarding Justin Faulk being traded had picked up and that the Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals were discussing a deal.
NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti reported that Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said, “No. We haven’t had any discussions about him.”
23) Tyson Barrie
There is speculation the Colorado Avalanche are working on a deal that would move offensive d-man Tyson Barrie out of Colorado. Avs GM Joe Sakic told A.J. Haefele of BSN Denver that there is no truth to the rumors and Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now said the rumors were “news to him.”
The Vancouver Canucks were among the speculated destinations. Chris Tanev’s name was attached to said deal.
22) Kris Letang
Pens Inside Scoop is reporting comments made by Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford was that a trade involving Kris Letang was “highly unlikely.” With the Penguins moving Phil Kessel’s contract, the percentages Letang was leaving went down.
He added, “My point was I’m open to accepting calls and having conversations about our players. I wasn’t aggressively active on trying to move those top guys.”
21) Jason Zucker
GM Paul Fenton said about the talks surrounding Jason Zucker, “I don’t plan to get rid of Jason unless the right thing came to me. I listen to offers and I make offers. It doesn’t mean that he’s pigeonholed into something. I love Jason as a player.”
Still, the expectation is that he will be moved and the team most recently rumored to be interested are the Boston Bruins. He was almost moved to Pittsburgh and Calgary in the last few months. He’s probably going to be traded.
20) Tyler Myers
Tyler Myers is another defenseman on the Canucks radar. They like his size and skill but there’s a question as to how much he should be paid on the open market.
He’s a good young d-man but the Winnipeg Jets still need to make room to sign a player like Patrik Laine so the chances of him returning are not hight.
19) Nikita Zaitsev
Frank Seravalli of TSN reports that teams have been calling the Toronto Maple Leafs about defenseman Nikita Zaitsev but it appears he’s going to Ottawa as part of a Cody Ceci trade.
He won’t be back in Toronto as he’s requested a trade and GM Kyle Dubas is trying to facilitate said trade. This is a must for Toronto regardless of the request because they still need to clear cap space.
18) Milan Lucic
There is still talk in Edmonton that the Oilers are working to move Milan Lucic’s albatross-like contract in a trade. It appears the idea of a buyout isn’t happening but buzz involving Vancouver and Calgary in a possible trade had come up in the past.
As it stands now, there’s not much noise on the Lucic front, but the conversations aren’t over.
17) Loui Eriksson
Like Milan Lucic, the Canucks are trying to find a way to move Loui Eriksson. Lucic for Eriksson seems to be the trade mostly commonly mentioned but the idea of a sweetener being thrown in by the Oilers seems to be what’s holding things up if there’s something to all the chatter.
16) Dion Phaneuf
After being bought out by the Los Angeles Kings, there is speculation Phaneuf, 34, could still find a home in the NHL despite slowing down.
“A couple teams have already reached out, which is nice,” said Phaneuf, who is a free agent for the first time in his NHL career. “It’s not stressful. I’m excited for another opportunity.”
The Flyers, Bruins and Oilers have been mentioned but it might take some time for him to find a home.
15) Jason Spezza
The Dallas Stars will not be bringing Jason Spezza back and there hasn’t been much chatter about where he’ll end up. Spezza’s game has slowed tremendously and while he understands he’ll have to take a lesser role, he may also want to try for a team with a chance to win.
Our guess is an unexpected team steps up. Someone like Calgary, Minnesota or the Rangers.
14) Matt Duchene
The Nashville Predators are the favorites here with the Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets still part of the conversation.
The Preds have cleared cap room for Duchene in the expectation he’ll be going there. He’s rumored to be a huge country music fan and if he wants to win, Nashville is always a top-notch team.
The deal might be north of $9 million per season and it would be shocking if he wasn’t a Predator by the end of the day on July 1.
13) Joe Thornton
Still expected to stay in San Jose and likely on a one-year deal loaded with performance bonuses. The Sharks are a team with a ton of cap issues and the veterans will have to be willing to sign for less. We just can’t see Thornton playing anywhere else.
12) Ryan Murray
The defenseman for Columbus is high on TSN’s Trade Bait board and the RFA is likely going to move on from the Blue Jackets isf a deal is out there.
His injury history is what will have some teams concerned and it is those injuries that have proven him to be less valuable than many figured he would be out of his draft class.
11) Jacob Trouba
Larry Brooks of the NY Post writes the New York Rangers and restricted free agent Jacob Trouba have been talking extension. He is expected to sign a seven-year deal with a cap hit around $7.5 to $8 million per season.
10) Valtteri Filppula
There are few teams that might be willing to take a chance on Valtteri Filppula. A UFA who potted 17 goals and 31 points in 72 games for the Islanders, he could go back there is Anders Lee doesn’t sign but the Edmonton Oilers are also rumored to have interest.
9) Derick Brassard
After playing for two teams (the Blue Jackets and the New York Rangers) for the first nine seasons of his career, Brassard has played for four teams in the last three seasons. His stock has fallen pretty dramatically over the past two years, but he’s a great team player.
Again, the Oilers are out there, because they are looking for inexpensive options to boost their offense. They could also use a penalty killer.
8) Joonas Donskoi
Donskoi hasn’t closed the door for a return to the Sharks, but it might be a perfect time for Donskoi to get a change of scenery. He spent time on the team’s fourth line and on the second line.
Unless he’s willing to take a hometown discount with the Sharks, they likely can’t afford his next salary and will have to let him walk. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that while things are still in the works, he believes that the Colorado Avalanche and an unidentified team are the finalists to sign unrestricted free agent forward.
7) Alex Chiasson
He might price himself out of the market for the Edmonton Oilers based on the successful season he had coming off a professional tryout but if he’s affordable, the Oilers would like to keep him.
This may be one of the few chances to cash in for Chiasson so if a team comes calling with a couple of years on the table and somewhere around the $3 million mark, he’ll likely jump.
6) Kyle Turris
The Nashville Predators are rumored to be clearing more cap space, even after moving P.K. Subban. Kyle Turris ranks high on the list of possible players the Preds are shopping.
There are still some question marks where Turris is concerned. .@PredsNHL David Poile; “I met with Kyle (Turris) after the world championships, and he was in a much better mindset. When we first traded for him, he performed as one of our best forwards. What has happened since is the million dollar question.”
5) Ryan Dzingel
Of all the Columbus Blue Jackets who might have stuck around after the organization loaded up for a playoff run and crashed and burned, Dzingel might have been the player to stay thanks to his connection to Ohio. It sounds like things have changed.
There is speculation the Arizona Coyotes might have interest.
4) Micheal Ferland
There might have been fewer players talked about that the NHL Trade Deadline last season than Micheal Ferland. It was an assumption by most people he’d be traded but then Carolina went on a wild run and all that talk quieted down.
There hasn’t been a lot of chatter lately. Ferland could be overpaid this summer but he might not come off the free agency table right away. Expect a team like the New York Islanders, Rangers, Blue Jackets or Flyers to grab him if they strike out on their primary targets.
3) Connor Brown
With all the signings in Toronto, one name that will likely be on the move is Connor Brown. He’ll be a casualty of cap issues. There is talk he might be the sweetener in the Cody Ceci and Nikita Zaitsev trade.
The Maple Leafs don’t want to lose Brown but his salary does hamper the organzation a touch.
2) Nazem Kadri
A controversial player, Kadri’s name has been in the rumor mill since the idiotic decision he made in the playoffs that saw him get suspended. He’s a player that the Maple Leafs aren’t sure they can trust but has great talent.
He could be traded because of his salary and there are murmurs the Edmonton Oilers and Maple Leafs might be talking but the name going back is Darnell Nurse and that seems unlikely.
1) Justin Williams
Expect Williams to either re-sign in Carolina or retire. Williams told the media he would take some time to decide whether he will be back. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes are comfortable letting him take his time on a decision.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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