The 2022 NHL Offseason is underway as the Colorado Avalanche were crowned Stanley Cup Champions. Rumours are starting to pick up with the NHL Draft just under a week away. We have already seen one player traded with Kevin Fiala going from Minnesota to Los Angeles. There could be more to come as the countdown to the start of NHL free agency. This year free agency begins on July 13th and there are plenty of big-name players expected to hit the market. Teams with salary-cap space will look to add a name or two to make improvements to go on a run at the Stanley Cup next season. Contending teams will look to keep what they have in a cap world. Time to dive into the Top 10 NHL free agents this off-season.
Here are the Top 10 NHL Free Agents this offseason
1) Johnny Gaudreau
Leading NHL Free agents this year is the Jersey Boy Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau had a career season in Calgary recording 115 points and was in the Hart Trophy conversation up until the end of the season. Johnny Hockey was able to get the Calgary Flames to the second round of the playoffs. The Flames have some cap issues of their own. Along with Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane are due new contracts. The Flames want to re-sign Gaudreau. It was made known by their general manager Brad Treliving and assistant general manager Craig Conroy. Gaudreau loves playing for Darryl Sutter. If the Flames can’t make it work, you know teams out East will be calling from his home region.
2) Filip Forsberg – Re-Signed in Nashville
Another big free agent that has the potential to hit the market is Filip Forsberg. Multiple reports have the Predators offering Forsberg multi-eight-year deals. However, the money and structure are not to the liking of Forsberg and his camp. You have to wonder if the first number starts with a nine in front of it. Similar to what Roman Josi got. And he definitely wants more than what Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen make. Forsberg was a steal when he was acquired from Washington for Martin Erat. After Viktor Arvidsson was traded, which Forsberg was not happy about, he just put up career highs in goals (42), assists (42) and points (84). He has been the straw that stirs that offensive drink in Nashville for years. Both parties want to work something out, but will they, is the question?
3) Nazem Kadri
The man who knows his worth, as he put it in an interview after winning the Stanley Cup, will most likely hit the open market. While the Colorado Avalanche want to re-sign Nazem Kadri, it will be tough. General manager Joe Sakic has made him a priority this off-season. The key will be where Kadri’s number comes in. His performances since coming over from Toronto make him a valuable asset on the open market. Especially for teams that need center help. Like the Boston Bruins or Washington Capitals.
Kadri has been on a bargain deal for the last six years. His salary-cap hit has been $4.5 million and it is expected to go up significantly. During the Avalanche’s run to the Stanley Cup this season he played an important role as he set career-highs in points (87) and assists (59). Not to mention his playoff performance, where he avoided suspension. Don’t be surprised if he goes elsewhere.
4) Ondrej Palat
The Tampa Bay Lightning are also in need of signing key players. General manager Julien BriseBois already checked off Nick Paul by signing him to a multi-year deal. Now he will focus on Ondrej Palat. Palat has been with the Lightning since Day 1. As part of the triplet line that consisted of Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson, Palat has emerged as a star in the league. Palat has been vital to the Lightning’s success over these past years, where the team has won two Stanley Cups and making three finals.
The winger is a consistent 40-point player with great defensive ability. This year during the playoffs, Palat came up clutch recording five game-winning goals. This goes along with his 79 points in 124 playoff games. Palat is coming off a deal that pays him $5.3 million a season. He will definitely get a raise. For this to work either Ryan McDonagh or Alex Killorn will be leaving via trade.
5) Evgeni Malkin/Kris Letang (Letang Re-Signed in Pittsburgh)
Two of the bigger names that could hit the market are from Pittsburgh. Long-time Penguins, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin are free agents this summer. The Penguins would like to get them re-signed, but it will be difficult with their cap situation. Letang just had his best season with the Penguins and is more likely of the two to return to Pittsburgh. Malkin is most likely the odd-man-out as he will most likely not return. Letang made $7.25 million over the last eight seasons. Letang had career highs in assists (58) and points (68). Defensively he was very good. But you expect him to get a little bit of raise. Teams on the open market will pay more.
Malkin has been injury-prone over the last couple of seasons. But made an impact when he returned especially this season. Malkin had 42 points in 41 games averaging just above a point per game. That is still good, despite his performances in the playoffs. However, there is no way the Penguins can afford to pay him $9.5 million again in this salary cap world. Both players would have to take discounts to come back. Even if one returns to Pittsburgh it feels like it is the end of an era in Pittsburgh.
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6) Evander Kane
The Edmonton Oilers were happy when Evander Kane showed up this season. Even though it was not what they needed, he produced for them. General manager Ken Holland will want to re-sign Kane. In 43 games with the Oilers, he had 39 points including 22 goals. Kane’s performance took off in the playoffs recording 13 goals in 15 playoff games. He signed with the Oilers for just above $2 million while his dispute with the San Jose Sharks continues where he was making $7 million a season. It feels like the Oilers are the only chance because of Connor McDavid wanting him there. Plus how many teams want Kane’s baggage?
7) Jack Campbell
The goalie market will be hot this off-season as well. Jack Campbell of the Toronto Maple Leafs will be a target of many clubs. While the Leafs want to re-sign him, they have issues with the salary cap. In order for that to happen, they would need to move out Petr Mrazek. Campbell has come into his own since he was traded to the Maple Leafs. He flourished as the backup before taking over as the starter. The players on the team love him. He is great in the locker room. Unfortunately, he is going to demand a high price. Campbell is coming off a deal that pays him $1.65 million. Expect him to get near the $5 million range. If that is the case, he is not returning to the Maple Leafs.
8) John Klingberg
This is an interesting situation between the Dallas Stars and John Klingberg. It was reported by David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period, that Klingberg put in a trade request after negotiations hit a wall. While it was not entirely true, Klingberg has been frustrated with the process. While his production has dipped, Klingberg is still a very good defenceman in the league. If there is a comparable on the market it is Mattias Ekholm of Nashville. Ekholm just signed for $6.25 million a season. That is pretty team-friendly. Klingberg wants that and maybe more as the contract that pays him $4.25 million a season expires. It will be interesting to see what the team does here with Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell and Ryan Suter locked up to long-term deals. If someone is going to offer what Klingberg wants, he will sign with another team.
9) Claude Giroux
A player that was highly sought after at the trade deadline hits the open market. Claude Giroux is looking for a new home. At age 34, do not expect Giroux to make over $8 million a season. While he fit in nicely with the Florida Panthers, if the Avalanche lose Kadri, expect them to make a play for Giroux. His production is still good and he fills a need at the center position. He would like to stay in Florida as it was one of two destinations he wanted to go. The other was Colorado. But considering what the Panthers gave up for Giroux, general manager Bill Zito will make him a priority. Giroux is still a point-per-game player and can help the power play.
10) Ville Husso – Traded To Detroit – Signed New Deal
The final name to round out the NHL Free Agents list is Ville Husso. Husso played excellent for the St. Louis Blues this season. But with the team invested in Jordan Binnington, it will be difficult for them to bring Husso back. Teams who are in need of goaltending like the New Jersey Devils will be after his services. Husso made $925,000 this season. Expect that number to go way up based on his production. In 40 starts this season, Husso recorded 25 wins to go along with a 2.56 GAA and .919 SV%. These numbers are very good. Unless the Blues decide to move on from Binnington, Husso will hit the open market. There are reports St. Louis wants to keep him. It feels like Husso knows he is not coming back.
These are just some of the names heading to market. Notice Patrice Bergeron‘s and Reilly Smith‘s names are not on this list. Though it is not official yet it is being reported that Bergeron will come back for one more season in Boston. In addition, Reilly Smith signed a new deal to remain with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Other Notable NHL Free Agents
Include Marc-Andre Fleury (Re-signed), Vincent Trocheck, Valeri Nichushkin, Max Domi, Nino Niederreiter, Andre Burakovsky, David Perron, Rickard Rakell, Darcy Kuemper, Andrew Copp, Ryan Strome, Josh Manson, Phil Kessel, Paul Stastny, and Ilya Mikheyev. Not to mention other names that are out there.
Keep locked into Full Press NHL as the NHL offseason gets underway for the latest trades and free-agent signings.
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