With free agency right around the corner, there are all sorts of chatter that some big names may be looking at new homes for the 2017-18 season.
Joe Thornton Leaving San Jose
The ideal situation for Thornton is to stay in San Jose, but the center is looking at his last possible opportunity for a multiple-year contract. The three years Thornton appears to be asking for might be too rich for the Sharks and Thornton may be forced to look at other options.
Hearing Joe Thornton’s camp has heard from a dozen teams so far… obviously San Jose remains the top wish. But interesting week ahead…
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 26, 2017
As many as 12 teams have shown interest during this period of reaching out to unrestricted free agents (UFA). Thornton knows that should a deal not be reached in San Jose, he’ll have options elsewhere. Two teams reported to have some interest are the New York Rangers and Nashville Predators.
It is unknown whether Joe Thornton — who underwent postseason surgery to repair the torn left MCL and ACL, through which he played the final four games of the playoffs — would have any interest in coming to New York to hook up with his buddy, and one-time Team Canada linemate, Rick Nash on a one-year commitment if he leaves San Jose after 12 seasons.
But expect general manager Jeff Gorton to check in on the impending free-agent center, who will turn 38 on July 2.
It would be an odd site to see Thornton in any other uniform than a Sharks’ jersey, but that’s the business side of hockey and at almost 38 years old, not completely unexpected.
Yakupov Not Qualified
The deadline to qualify restricted free agents was Monday at 5 pm eastern and the St. Louis Blues decided not to extend an offer to former first-overall draft selection Nail Yakupov. That means on July 1 he’ll become a UFA and there is speculation he has as good a chance of going back to Russia as he does signing with another NHL team.
Some word has come out that Yakupov is looking directly at Vancouver, but many are suggesting a few teams may invite him to camp on a professional tryout and see how he does. If he plays well, he can be signed to a very affordable contract. If not, there is no harm done and he can take off to Russia. Montreal may have some interest in this route.
Things have fallen in a major way for Yakupov who was touted as a dynamic sniper on his draft day and had a respectable rookie season with the Edmonton Oilers. That he’s barely hanging on to employment in the NHL at such a young age makes him one of the biggest draft disappointments in over a decade.
John Tavares Won’t Sign July 1
Elliotte Friedman is suggesting that while the New York Islanders would like to put the issue of extending John Tavares to bed, the situation with the franchise center looks to likely drag out as far as next summer.
Friedman suggests that the Islanders will continue to make moves like they did in adding Jordan Eberle and will hope their on-ice success is enough to convince Tavares that New York is where he wants to be:
Normally when a guy that good could be traded, you hear it. I have no sense that they are trading him at this time. I have every sense that they are telling people, ‘We’re going to keep him and eventually we’re going to sign him.
The Islanders are still in on Matt Duchene, but there is no real certainty that a deal with the Avalanche gets done. Islanders general manager Garth Snow is taking a chance here but has little choice. If Tavares wants to wait and see, Snow has little option but to put the best team around him and hope the Islanders have a strong season. The 2017-18 NHL Trade Deadline might revolve completely around Tavares is the Islanders struggle.
Bridge Burned With Matt Duchene
While the Islanders might be looking at Duchene, more than Garth Snow has an interest in the speedy two-way center. Joe Sakic is asking for the moon and that’s the delay in any transaction thus far.
Sakic has gone on record saying the returns are not where he wants them to be for Duchene but he may have to come down from his asking price. Many believe the timing is now and that if a trade can’t be made, the relationship between Duchene and the Avs organization has soured to the point it may need to terminated, regardless of the return.
If the Islanders are the main team in on Duchene and start to look elsewhere to improve their team, the Avs don’t want to miss their best chance to get a good return.
More to come as things develop.
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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