NHL free agent frenzy: Potential landing spots for this year’s biggest names
With the Stanley Cup and NHL Draft in our rear view mirrors, hockey fans look for the next big event that they can sink their teeth into. Enter: NHL free agency.
The market officially opens up tomorrow, Wednesday, July 13th, and there is no shortage of star power in what is one of the most exciting free agent classes in recent memory.
Let’s take a look at the biggest stars on this year’s open market, and see if we can predict where they might land.
(Candice Ward/USA TODAY Sports)
Otherwise known as Johnny Hockey, Gaudreau is this year’s premier free agent star. Finishing the 2021-22 season with a career high, monster 115 points on 40 goals and 75 assists, Gaudreau is obviously drawing attention from teams all over the league after it was announced that he would be testing free agency.
It was announced Tuesday afternoon that the Calgary Flames offered Johnny Hockey a mega contract, which was reportedly an eight year deal, worth “north” of $10 million per year.
Many predict that with Gaudreau being a New Jersey native, he may end up wanting to stay local and play for either the New Jersey Devils or Philadelphia Flyers. But with the massive contract that the Flames just extended to him, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him return to Calgary.
New Jersey Devils
UPDATE: Johnny Gaudreau has officially informed the Flames that he will not be returning to Calgary this season. There is speculation that the relationship between the two parties has soured over the years.
It’s really hard to believe that Geno’s days in Pittsburgh may be over. The 2004 second overall pick has played the last 16 years in a Penguins uniform. Three Stanley Cups, 7 All-Star nods, one Hart Trophy, one Conn Smythe, and one Calder later (among other awards) and Malkin might be calling a new city home.
The Pittsburgh Penguins recently signed defenseman, Kris Letang, to a six year, $36.6 million contract. Many believe that this signing signals the end of Malkin’s career in Pittsburgh.
Don’t let Geno’s age fool you, however. Despite an injury plagued 2021-22 season, the veteran was still able to post more than a point-per-game, meaning that when he is on the ice, he is still a dangerous player to go up against.
It’s clear that Malkin wants to stay in Pittsburgh, and it’s clear that his longtime teammate and best friend, Sidney Crosby, wants him there as well. But only time will tell.
The Athletics Rob Rossi reported that Malkin’s age and injury history are playing a significant role in why Penguins management seems reluctant to offer Malkin a long-term deal.
It is entirely possible that Geno takes a discount and returns to the Penguins on a short-term deal, but if he chooses to go elsewhere, let’s see where he’d make the most sense.
New York Rangers
UPDATE: Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins have reached an agreement with a four year, $24.4 million contract.
Much like Malkin in Pittsburgh, Jack Campbell’s days in Toronto could very well be over. The Vezina Trophy candidate failed to come to an agreement with the Maple Leafs, and after Toronto traded for Ottawa Senators’ goaltender, Matt Murray, it seems like Campbell will likely be donning a new uniform next season.
As I mentioned earlier, Campbell was a Vezina Trophy candidate last season when he wasn’t dealing with injury. His inconsistent play due to injuries ultimately led him to be left out of finalist voting, being beaten out by Juuse Saros, Jacob Markstrom and Igor Shesterkin.
Campbell finished the season with a solid 31-9 record, .914 save percentage, and 2.64 goals against average.
Toronto Maple Leafs
After acquiring Claude Giroux from the Philadelphia Flyers at the trade deadline, the Florida Panthers tight cap space could force management to let Giroux walk in free agency.
Giroux put up 23 points in the 18 regular season games he played with the Panthers after being traded, and then went on to score eight points in his 10 playoff games.
Due to Giroux’s age, he’s unlikely to sign a long-term deal with any team, but getting a player of Giroux’s caliber on the low could be the difference between contender and pretender for a lot of teams in the NHL.
Kadri posted a career high 87 points last season en route to winning a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. It’s safe to say that the 31-year old vet picked a great time to have a career year, just in time to test free agency.
After signing Valeri Nichushkin to a humongous eight year, $49 million contract, the Avalanche may find it difficult to bring Kadri back to Colorado.
It is also worth noting that Kadri played a key role in helping the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup, as he posted 15 points in 16 playoff games.
Detroit Red Wings
After playing his last seven seasons with the Dallas Stars, John Klingberg is set to test free agency.
Klingberg will likely command a pretty payday from whichever team he lands with, as he has proven to be one of the more reliable and consistent defenseman in the NHL over his eight year career.
There is no shortage of teams in the NHL who are looking to add a skilled defenseman with great puck movement. Klingberg posted 47 points on 6 goals and 41 assists during the 2021-22 season.
New York Islanders
This one is pretty much set in stone at this point; Darcy Kuemper will not be returning to Colorado this season.
After winning a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche, the Avs elected to move on from Kuemper when they traded for New York Rangers’ backup goaltender, Alexandar Georgiev.
Kuemper was Colorado’s starting goaltender during their Stanley Cup winning 2021-22 season, and famously helped lift the Avs over the Tampa Bay Lightning with quite literally, one eye.
Toronto Maple Leafs