Free agency in the NHL is less than a week away, players are starting to sign contracts with their current teams, while others are starting to listen to potential suitors. Here are 10 free agents to watch heading into NHL’s free agency.
10 Potential Free Agents to Keep an Eye On
John Tavares – C
Let’s get the big one out of the way, John Tavares is the biggest free agent of the year. Tavares has the pick of the litter as far as teams he could go to. According to John Shannon and Pierre Lebrun, there are up to 9 teams that might be qued up to have talks with the star centreman. Players like Tavares don’t often hit the free market. With the New York Islanders doing everything they can to get him back, Tavares seems to know his value and is shopping himself around before he commits to any team.
Paul Stastny – C
Widely regarded as the second-best centreman available for signing this offseason, Stasny can expect many calls from many teams once JT has signed. Stastny was a deadline pick up by Winnipeg before making a run to the conference finals this year. Winnipeg is in some hot water when it comes to signing UFAs and RFAs this year so its likely Stastny will find a new home before the Jets can find some space for him under the cap. Stastny recorded 15 points in 17 games this postseason and 53 points in 82 games in the regular season.
Mike Green – D
With such slim options for a defenceman to sign in free agency, Mike Green should garner some interest now that John Carlson resigned with the Washington Capitals. It is reported the 32-year-old was offered 2 different deals at 1 and 2 years by the Detroit Red Wings. Green could potentially fetch more or more length on the open market. Mike Green underwent neck surgery in April making teams hesitant to pick him up at the deadline. The 2018 All-Star will likely wait to hit the open market before signing with Detroit.
James Neal – LW
James Neal quickly became the face of offence in Vegas this year with a strong start to the season. Neal is reportedly looking for upwards of $6M and term moving forward. It is believed that Neal was offered a five-year $25M deal from the Vegas Golden Knights. Neal has said he would like to return to Vegas but doesn’t seem to be willing to take a home town discount. Regardless of if he stays or goes, he will be remembered as being a key roll in the amazing story that was The Vegas Golden Knights inaugural year.
James van Riemsdyk – LW
James van Riemsdyk has said he’d like to stay with the Maple Leafs. With contracts coming up for Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, it might be best to part ways with the Left Winger. Outside the power-play, JVR has seen roughly 3rd line minutes. On a new team, he could see top 6 minutes. With Evander Kane signing a 7 year $49M contract you can expect JVR to fetch a similar deal. It might be hard to part with a team destined for so much in the coming years. But it’s not hard to get excited about the idea of ~$50M.
Thomas Vanek – LW
Vanek should not be overlooked in this free agency. Though he is 34 and not the most elite player to be hitting the market, he definitely has value. Vanek has played for a flurry of teams in recent years and despite that has had consistent point earnings. Vanek has never scored less than 41 points in a year, including the lockout in 2012-13. Not only does he provide depth scoring and a consistent rate, he provides a veteran presence in the locker room. After signing a 1 year deal with Vancouver in 2017, he quickly became a leader and a player to lead by example for the young guns coming up on the team. Vanek can be an extreme bargain for what he provides. Vancouver managed to sign him to a 1 year $2M deal in 2017 where he scored 41 points in 61 games according to HockeyDB.
Rick Nash – LW
Nash is a 34 old winger that was shipped off in the fire sale that was The New York Rangers at the deadline. Nash is definitely on the back half of his career but still has some gas in the tank at around 0.5 PPG over the last few years. Rick Nash definitely won’t fetch the $7.8M he was making previously on his 8-year deal. That being said, he, like Vanek could plug into the lineup and provide some scoring for a team on the cusp.
David Perron – LW
David Perron just like Neal is coming off a season for the books putting up a career high in assist (50) and points (66), actually earning more points than Neal (22 more) while playing one less game. Perron’s Agent Allan Walsh said there has been “significant interest in David” and that there has not been a contract offered to Perron since the trade deadline in February from the Golden Knights. Perron has said he loves the city and the team in Vegas. After having a year like he did, Perron will be sought after by teams around the league. Like Neal, whatever the outcome, this season will surely be a career highlight.
Jay Beagle – C
Jay Beagle is a defensively responsible centre who won 58.5% last season, largely in the defensive zone. Beagle coming of a Stanly Cup winning year, is looking for a new contract. With Washington so close to the cap it may be hard to sign the forward to a deal when his best attributes are defensive play and grit. But for other teams, Beagle could be the perfect fit for some defensive responsibility in the lineup. There is no shortage of teams looking for a centreman and with his low cap hit, and what he brings to the table off the score sheet, he is worth at least a tire kick.
Joe Thornton – C
Jumbo Joe scored 36 points in 47 games year. Thornton was out much of the year due to a knee injury. Thornton is 38 years old and still going strong. He may not be the fastest or score the most goals, he is and always has been a playmaker. Joe is coming off a 1 year $8M deal with the Sharks and has expressed interest coming back to the team with reduced pay and a reduced role. Thornton likely won’t be offered a contract until after the Tavares sweepstakes have ended. If JT is signed onto the Sharks, as there seems to be a strong chance of Thornton not having a roster spot. That being said, there have been murmurs of his old pal, a fellow veteran, Patrick Marleau and him playing together again over in Toronto, could they finally win a cup together in Toronto?
This isn’t the most talented draft class in recent years. It may prove to not be a very exciting one if Tavares signs with the Islanders before July 1st. But for teams who missed out an JT, the focus could be shifted to Erik Karlsson. Karlsson has asked to be traded away from the disaster that is the Ottawa Senators.
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