NHL free agency gets underway July 13 at noon ET and Sports Interaction is previewing and updating the top remaining players set to hit free agency.
The NHL draft is the first major piece of business of the new season for GM’s around the league and with the scouting done and the picks made, it’s time for team’s to look ahead to free agency. There have already been some trades and signings in anticipation of free agency opening on July 13 at noon ET, but there’s still some big names available.
After a career year, Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau is the biggest target of the NHL’s 2022 free agent class as the 28-year-old sniper looks poised to leave Cowtown. The goaltending carousel will also be on full display this year and with more goaltending openings than actual goalies available, teams will need to be aggressive in their pursuit.
*Updated July 14, 4:05 p.m. ET*
Johnny Gaudreau, LW, CGY (Previous Cap Hit $6.75M AAV)
Johnny Hockey couldn’t have picked a better year to set career highs in points (115) and goals (40). He hit the 40-goal plateau for the first time and he was one of only eight players to reach 100 points last season. If Gaudreau hasn’t signed with the Flames at this point, however, it’s likely not happening.
Calgary has made it clear they’re willing to offer Gaudreau the same average annual value as other suitors and with the extra eighth year that only they can offer, the Flames can give him more money than any other team. The fact Gaudreau hasn’t signed means this isn’t all about money for him. The New Jersey native has been consistently linked to both the Devils and Flyers. New Jersey’s available cap space makes them the frontrunner.
*UPDATE*: Gaudreau has reportedly told the Flames he will not be returning despite a massive offer from Calgary. The Devils, Flyers and Islanders are all making moves to free up cap space and are likely the frontrunners for Gaudreau.
*UPDATE*: Gaudreau to Columbus? Seemingly out of left field, Gaudreau is headed to the Blue Jackets on a seven-year deal with a $9.75 million AAV.
Nazem Kadri, C, COL (Previous Cap Hit $4.5M AAV)
Another player with a breakout season, Nazem Kadri crushed his previous career-high of 61 points by racking up 87 points (28G, 59A) in 71 games. Kadri followed up the regular season with 15 points (7G, 8A) in 16 playoff games, including the OT winner in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.
After lifting the Stanley Cup over his head for the first time in his career, Kadri will have plenty of suitors on the open market. The 31-year-old was thought to have priced himself out of Colorado, but there’s been some recent reports he could be willing to take a pay-cut to stay in a good situation. Other teams that have been linked to Kadri include, Washington, Boston, Anaheim and Seattle.
Filip Forsberg, LW, NSH (Previous Cap Hit $6M AAV)
Another player who set career highs in both points (84) and goals (42) in 69 games is Nashville’s Filip Forsberg (are you sensing a theme here?). There was a bit of a stir when the 27-year-old winger appeared to take a long lap and soak in the crowd after the Predators were eliminated in the playoffs, but there still seems to be a legitimate chance he stays in Music City.
Nashville GM David Poile has said he made a strong pitch to Forsberg’s camp and the two sides are reportedly moving closer to an agreement. If Forsberg tests free agency, Pittsburgh, Carolina, New Jersey and L.A. make the most sense in terms of fit and cap space, but it looks like it’s going to come down to the wire with Nashville.
*UPDATE*: Forsberg signs eight-year $68 million contract extension to stay in Nashville ($8.5M AAV).
Jack Campbell, G, TOR (Previous Cap Hit $1.65M AAV)
Campbell will be Toronto’s first choice, but how much of a discount is the 30-year-old goalie willing to take? He was an elite starter for the first half of last season and named an All-Star, but he was wildly inconsistent from January-on. It looked like Campbell was certainly gone and likely headed to Edmonton, but the Leafs freed up $3.8 million by unloading Petr Mrazek‘s contract and should now be able to make a serious offer.
As mentioned, the Oilers were early front-runners for Campbell and they freed up a lot of cap space by trading Zack Kassian and with Duncan Keith‘s retirement. New Jersey and Washington have also been looking at Campbell, but Toronto and Edmonton look the two most likely options.
*UPDATE*: Campbell is headed West. The former Leafs goalie has signed a five-year contract with Edmonton that carries a $5 million cap hit.
Claude Giroux, C/RW, FLA (Previous Cap Hit $8.275M AAV)
When former Flyers captain Calude Giroux agreed to a trade to Florida this season, he made it clear he’s at the stage in his career where he will be chasing a Stanley Cup. Giroux put up 42 points in 57 games with Philadelphia last season and added another 23 in 18 regular season games with the Panthers. He was also the second-leading scorer in the playoffs for Florida with eight points in 10 games, but the Panthers likely can’t afford to bring the 34-year-old back.
Edmonton was the early front-runner for Giroux as he could plug the hole if Kane leaves and the Oilers are a team looking to win now. With almost $30 million of cap space, the Senators are also expected to make a push for Giroux, who is from the Ottawa area. Carolina has just under $20 million to spend and have emerged as late suitors.
*UPDATE*: The Giroux sweepstakes are over as the former Flyers captain has agreed to a three-year deal with Ottawa at a $6.5 million cap hit.
Evgeni Malkin, C, PIT (Previous Cap Hit $9.5M AAV)
Now that Kris Letang has signed, Pittsburgh’s biggest decision involves Evgeni Malkin. There were rumours captain Sidney Crosby was furious after the Penguins gave Malkin a lowball offer, but the full details aren’t known. Malkin has made it clear that he wants to stay in Pittsburgh, but he’ll need to take a big pay-cut to make it feasible.
The sticking issue between Malkin and the Pens is reportedly over term. A few weeks away from turning 36, Malkin is believed to want at least a four-year contract, while Pittsburg doesn’t want to go past three. There’s been no positive news coming out of negotiations and a divorce seems like a real possibility. The three-time Stanley Cup champion would have a lot of suitors in free agency, with teams like Tampa Bay, Colorado, New York (Rangers) and Washington in the mix.
*UPDATE*: Reports are coming out that talks have broken down between Malkin and the Penguins. Malkin, who had 42 points (20G, 22A) in 41 games last season, is expected to test free agency for the first time in his career. It looks like the end of an era in Pittsburgh.
*UPDATE*: Not so fast! And just like that, the landscape shifts again. At the 11th hour, Malkin and the Pens have avoided a seemingly inevitable split, agreeing to terms on a four-year contract with an average annual value of $6.1 million. The band is back together.
Darcy Kuemper, G, COL (Previous Cap Hit $4.5M AAV)
There looked like a real desire between Darcy Kuemper and the Avalanche to work out a deal, but the 32-year-old goalie effectively priced himself out of Colorado’s budget with his play this year, leading the Avs to trade for a cheaper option. During the regular season, Kuemper finished fifth in the league in both wins (37) and save percentage (.921). Coming off his first Stanley Cup championship, Kuemper is due for a raise somewhere in the Jack Campbell vicinity, probably roughly around $6,000,000.
It’s a goaltender’s market this year, so there will be plenty of suitors for Kuemper. Washington has been linked to Kuemper as the front-runners after the Capitals dealt Vitek Vanecek away in an effort change the team’s goaltending. Toronto and Edmonton could also be in play. The Leafs are looking for two goalies, although if they decide Campbell is too pricy, that rules out Kuemper too. The Oilers need to upgrade their starter and they were reportedly targeting Campbell, but could shift to Kuemper now that he is available. Either way, Kuemper won’t be in Colorado.
*UPDATE*: Kuemper is joining Alex Ovechkin and Co. in Washington, signing a five-year deal with a $5.25 million AAV.
John Klingberg, D, DAL (Previous Cap Hit $4.25M AAV)
John Klingberg slots in as the best available defenceman heading into free agency. The 29-year-old still has a lot of productive years left in his prime and as a valuable right-shot, he could factor in on almost any team’s top defensive unit. Klingberg’s offensive production has dipped a 67-point campaign in 2017-18, but he still led all Dallas defencemen with 47 points last season. Miro Heiskanen has surpassed Klingberg, which will likely lead to a slit with the Stars.
Among the teams that Klingberg could be a fit with, include Carolina, Seattle, or Ottawa. The Hurricanes dealt Tony DeAngelo to Philadelphia, leaving a hole in their lineup for an offensive defenceman that Klingberg is very capable of filling. The Kraken look like they are set to make serious moves this offseason and signing Klingberg could be the big splash they’re looking to make. The Senators have also signalled that they’ll be making upgrades and Klingberg’s veteran presence could be what the team needs to take the next step.
Evander Kane, LW/RW, EDM (Previous Cap Hit $2.1M AAV)
Evander Kane rebuilt a lot of lost value this season. He recorded 22 goals in 43 regular season games with the Oilers and led the team with 13 goals in 15 playoff games. Kane, who turns 31 in August, was in a great position in Edmonton, but GM Ken Holland has said the two sides aren’t close to a deal.
Whatever team signs Kane will be taking a gamble. Not only does he have well-documented history of off-ice issues with teammates, there’s still no clarity regarding what happens with his San Jose contract. His contract was voided by the Sharks when he was caught using a forged COVID vaccination card. Kane then filed a grievance, but the case has still not gone to arbitration, leaving a giant question mark about his free agency status. It’s unclear how many teams would be interested in Kane, but he would fit well into Washington or L.A.’s lineup if he leaves Edmonton.
*UPDATE*: Kane is staying in Edmonton and signing a four-year deal with a $5.125M AAV.