NHL free agency primer
Will the Avalanche be able to re-sign forward Paul Stastny? (REUTERS)
When the clock strikes noon eastern on Tuesday, the NHL’s so-called silly season will officially kick off.
Not only will coveted free agents such as Thomas Vanek, Paul Stastny, Matt Moulson, Matt Niskanen and Ryan Miller have the green light to sign with the teams of their choosing, the frenzied movement of players between rosters could also include the trading of big names such as Jason Spezza.
In order to prepare you for the chaos that looms, here is a primer on all 30 teams entering Tuesday’s free-agent free-for-all.
Would like to retain Jarome Iginla, but cap issues remain a stumbling block that likely will keep him from re-signing. Might be forced to look at veteran forwards who will command a more moderate cap hit. More tweaking than a big splash.
Interesting to see if GM Tim Murray moves young defenceman Tyler Myers, a former Calder Trophy winner as the league’s rookie of the year. Reportedly have kicked tires on the possibility of bringing back UFA Matt Moulson. Bought out Christian Ehrhoff on Sunday.
Detroit Red Wings
Bringing back Daniel Alfredsson and bolstering the blue line with a Dan Boyle or Ehrhoff are options facing GM Ken Holland. Does Holland take the bold route and make a pitch for Joe Thornton? Holland reportedly will make a strong run for defenceman Matt Niskanen.
With a young up-and-coming nucleus, GM Dale Tallon would like to add some established talent. There have been reports out of South Florida that Moulson might be on Florida’s radar. Defenceman Brian Campbell, who has two years remaining at more than $7.1 million per, reportedly would like to be moved.
Having turned the page on the Thomas Vanek era after his disappearing act late in the playoffs, the Habs are thirsting for a scoring winger such as Moulson or Ales Hemsky. Added P.A. Parenteau in a deal with the Avs on Monday that sent Daniel Briere to Colorado. With Josh Gorges reportedly on the market, are Boyle, Ehrhoff and/or Anton Stralman in play? The bottom line: Montreal’s best off-season move is to get P.K. Subban re-signed.
Wingers needed. Moulson could be intriguing. Part of their decision-making is contingent on what happens with UFA Milan Michalek — who has been contacted by a dozen teams — plus the return in a potential Jason Spezza deal, which GM Bryan Murray has struggled to make.
Tampa Bay Lightning
By moving Teddy Purcell, B.J. Crombeen and Nate Thompson in a chaotic gaggle of deals that saw Sam Gagner go from Edmonton to Tampa Bay to Arizona, GM Steve Yzerman cleared about $5 million US of cap space. Bolstering the blue line is the aim— perhaps Niskanen or the return of Boyle? — but centre Paul Stastny could be a target, too.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Dan Boyle? Josh Gorges via trade? Michalek? Marty Brodeur? Ehrhoff? Could any of these guys be on their way in? Is James Reimer on his way out? Can Dave Bolland be re-signed or is his asking price too rich for Toronto? As usual, there are more questions than answers in Leafs Land.
Incoming GM Ron Francis does not plan a major overhaul of the Canes roster, preferring to use free agency to acquire blue-line depth and making the fourth line more effective. Francis also seems to be putting the Cam Ward trade talk on the backburner, suggesting to reporters that the Canes likely will keep him to start the season. At least, that’s the plan right now.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Adding a top-six forward would be ideal, but the priority remains getting budding star Ryan Johansen’s name on a contract extension. Johansen called the Jackets’ most recent offer “a slap in the face.” Johansen is more of a priority for Jackets management than making any big-name free-agent acquisitions.
New Jersey Devils
Various reports out of Jersey list forwards Radim Vrbata, Ales Hemsky and Mike Cammalleri as possible targets, but the Devils don’t have a lot of cap room to play with. Any of those players would improve New Jersey’s pathetic results in shootouts a year ago. They did use a compliance buyout on defenceman Anton Volchenkov.
New York Islanders
GM Garth Snow’s goal is said to be surrounding franchise player John Tavares with more offensive punch. The Islanders have contacted Brad Richards and are also believed to be interested in bringing Moulson back. Moulson, of course, had some great on-ice chemistry with Tavares. Isles would also like to augment goaltending depth behind Jaroslav Halak.
New York Rangers
Rangers’ biggest move to date is the buyout of Brad Richards. With his departure, there is a push in New York for the Broadway Blueshirts to pursue Stastny. Dan Boyle might also be in play. If UFA Anton Stralman goes elsewhere, former Devils defender Mark Fayne could be in the mix.
The Flyers are handcuffed from making their usual big-name splash in free agency due to being pressed up against the cap. Ehrhoff is an intriguing option, but his asking price definitely will be a factor. Niskanen would be a welcome addition, but his price likely will be too rich for Philly.
Penguins plan on letting some of their young defencemen develop in Pittsburgh, so the Pens expect to focus on forwards in free agency. One name that keeps making the rounds is Nikolai Kulemin, who is one of star forward Evgeni Malkin’s best friends. Management plans to be aggressive in wooing free agents.
Niskanen is one of the targets for the Caps. In Washington, he’d be reunited with Todd Reirden, his defence coach with the Penguins. Caps also looking for goalie to back up Braden Holtby, with Chad Johnson, Thomas Greiss, Tomas Vokoun and Peter Budaj all among the possible candidates.
Would love to add a high-end centre such as Stastny or Spezza. Cap room remains an issue, especially with the priority being to ink Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to lucrative long-term extensions. Patrick Sharp could be moved in order to free up money. On the back end, Brooks Orpik might be an option.
The priority is to re-sign Stastny, although the market will dictate if he becomes too costly. Stralman could be an interesting option at the back end. Sending Parenteau to the Habs for Briere on Monday gives the young Avs some much-needed veteran leadership, although both players aren’t worth their respective $4 million US cap hits.
Another team reportedly in the mix for Stastny, who would be part of a nice foundation along with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. GM Jim Nill’s acquisition of Seguin last summer shows he’s not afraid to make bold moves. Made inquiries about both Spezza and San Jose’s Joe Thornton but, in the case of Jumbo Joe, he is currently refusing to waive his no-trade clause.
Expected to be active. Interest is significant in Niskanen. Neil Sheehy, Niskanen’s agent, told a Minnesota radio station on Monday that he thinks his client can fetch a seven-year deal on the open market. Team officials have also talked to Vanek’s representatives, while Iginla is thought to be an option as well.
Having acquired sniper James Neal from the Penguins at the draft, the quest for offence continues. Preds thought they had a deal in place for Spezza, only to have him nix it. Stastny, Moulson and Vanek are other options.
St. Louis Blues
Count on GM Doug Armstrong being disappointed if he doesn’t acquire either Stastny through free agency or Spezza via trade. He’s made strong pitches for both thus far. Last week, he tweaked the Blues’ back end by acquiring Carl Gunnarsson from the Leafs for fellow blue-liner Roman Polak.
Normally not major players in free agency since their return to Winnipeg, the Jets could take a run at the likes of Stastny, Moulson, Cammalleri or Vanek, although a more economic option might be Jussi Jokinen. There could be interest in Manitoba native James Reimer, who is said to have asked the Leafs for a trade.
Anaheim already has addressed a number of needs in the past several days, going the trade route to pick up centres Ryan Kesler from Vancouver and Nate Thompson from Tampa. Also added some beef by drafting 230-pound power forward Nick Ritchie with the 10th overall pick in the draft. With goalie Jonas Hiller testing free agency, a veteran presence such as Marty Brodeur could be an option.
Picking up Gagner for just a sixth-round pick on Sunday was a steal for GM Don Maloney, quickly filling the gap left by the departing Mike Ribeiro, who was let go due to “behavioural issues.” They also have been getting calls on defenceman Keith Yandle, but will look for a lucrative return for the talented blue-liner.
Whether the Flames can retain the services of UFA Cammalleri remains to be seen. Needs on the blue line should be addressed, although rookie GM Brad Treliving warns of the overinflated prices that come on July 1. A backup goalie might also be on the Flames’ wish list. Flames reportedly used a compliance buyout on defenceman Shane O’Brien.
After acquiring Purcell from Tampa Bay in the Gagner deal, the Oilers could be looking to bolster their back end. Edmonton reportedly is pursuing blue-line help, with names such as UFAs Mark Fayne and Deryk Engelland said to be in the mix. It will be interesting if they make a strong pitch for Niskanen. Kulemin could be an option up front, since coach Dallas Eakins knows him well from their time in Toronto.
Los Angeles Kings
The defending Stanley Cup champions already checked off their No. 1 off-season priority by re-signing Marian Gaborik to a seven-year, $34-million US deal. With limited cap space, expect Kings to look at depth players, but no big splash is expected.
San Jose Sharks
Will Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau waive their no-trade clauses? Thus far, the answer is no, although teams such as the Stars and Leafs have kicked tires on Jumbo Joe. Having already traded away pending UFA Boyle, GM Doug Wilson has sent a strong message: This team is in rebuild mode despite a decade of consecutive playoff appearances.
Miller Time in Vancouver? The Canucks have been courting goalie Ryan Miller. Seems ironic that goaltending has become a position of need for this franchise, considering Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo were both on this roster just 13 months ago.