We are still in the midst of the regular season, but it is never too early to start talking about free agency frenzy! This summer, a diverse set of free agents will hit the open market, some for the first time and others will be free agents once again. Top-ranked forwards, defencemen and goalies will all be free to sign starting July 1st and so far one thing is clear: money will be flowing. Free agency is when the most lucrative contracts get thrown around at players and this year it will be no different.
With the trade deadline looming, the plans that teams have regarding their free agents become clear. Some pending unrestricted free agents will be shipped out of town, while others will stay. Add in the upcoming expansion draft and all of a sudden this free agent market is becoming more complex. The addition of the Vegas Golden Knights makes teams with these pending free agents think twice about how they want to deal with them. There is a fair chance that some of the FAs could also be left unprotected and selected by Vegas in the expansion draft. Whatever happens, it is guaranteed to be fun for the fans.
Here are 8 upcoming free agents changing teams, and 7 staying put.
15. Changing Teams: Jarome Iginla
With the Colorado Avalanche just being completely awful this year, there is no reason why Iginla should want to resign with them. Iginla will turn 40 on July 1st, so there is some reason to believe that he may hang up the skates after this year. Or, like the true veteran and NHL great that he is, maybe he will want to play just one more season. Iggy has a mere 7 goals and 7 assists this season in 49 games, obviously not the 50-goal scorer he once was with Calgary. Whatever path Iginla chooses to trod down, whether retirement or playing elsewhere, that path does not lead to Denver.
14. Staying Put: Mike Fisher
You don’t get named the captain just to walk out of town the next offseason. Mike Fisher, who was named the 6th captain in Predators history following the Shea Weber trade earlier that offseason, will turn 37 in June, and, despite his age, is already outplaying himself from last season. In 49 games, he already has more points and assists than he had in 2015-2016 in 70 games. With the Predators currently sitting in a playoff spot, as well with a core that is already signed in Nashville for the next few years, there is no reason why the Preds should tear away their captain from the team.
13. Changing Teams: Brian Elliott
The Flames just can’t catch a break. After a tumultuous goaltender performance in the 2015-2016 season, it seemed like they finally got their guy with the acquisition of Brian Elliott at the 2016 Draft from the Blues. The Elliott they have is not the same goaltender who they anticipated they would have between the pipes this year. He has a .895 save percentage, on pace for the worst save percentage in his NHL career. Elliott has since been relegated to a platoon with Chad Johnson, and Elliott is a guy who always wants to get out and play every day. When free agency rolls around, Brian Elliott is going to take a one-way flight out of Calgary.
12. Staying Put: Kris Russell
After being one of the hot commodities at last year’s trade deadline, defender Kris Russell had trouble finding a team to sign him this offseason. Eventually, he and the Oilers settled on a one-year deal. He hasn’t been an offensive contributor this season, with only 4 assists, but his presence can still be noticed on the defensive end. As well, the Oilers defence has consistently been one of their weaker positions. It just makes sense for Russell and the Oilers to stay together. He wouldn’t command a lot of money, and the Oilers would have sufficient cap space to keep the defender on the roster.
11. Changing Teams: Ryan Miller
The days of Ryan Miller being one of the elite goalies in the NHL are over, and this upcoming offseason so is his 3 year, $18 million dollar deal with the Canucks. Miller’s play has declined since his glory days with the Sabres, but a team still could call on him to be their goalie. With it seeming like the Canucks are trying to get younger, Miller doesn’t seem to fit into the equation. A team looking for an experienced veteran of the game, perhaps to platoon would be one that Miller could sign with. The Vegas Golden Knights would be a logical suitor, should they not feel satisfied with the goalies available in the expansion draft.
10. Staying Put: Patrick Marleau
Patrick Marleau is one of two top Sharks set to hit free agency after this season. With the Sharks currently sitting first in the Pacific division, Marleau is showing how regardless of his age, he can still perform. Marleau has 19 goals so far this season, good enough to be tied for the second most on the Sharks. Why would Marleau or the Sharks rush to end such a mutually beneficial relationship? The Sharks need him, and he needs the Sharks. Marleau could potentially resign for a one or two year deal come July.
9. Changing Teams: Karl Alzner
Don’t let his offensive numbers fool you, Alzner is a great defenceman. Add on to that that he is young at 28, and in his prime, Alzner will be receiving a nice payday this summer. With the Capitals being tight on cash, it looks as if Alzner will be moving out of the District of Columbia. Alzner can play top minutes, and having a reliable defender like that is something many contenders would love to add. Or a team on the verge of being the playoff hunt could add Alzner to help give them the extra push. Alzner is hitting free agency at the perfect time in his career, and he will benefit greatly from that.
8. Staying Put: Johnny Oduya
Buy low, sell high right? Well for the Stars they might want to “buy low” on defender Johnny Oduya. By his own career standards, Oduya isn’t having a great year. All of his numbers across the board are down. A reunion between the two camps, on a 1-year deal, would be useful for both the team and Oduya. It gives the Stars are a chance to continue to have a fairly solid defender in their core and hopefully help them contend. It also gives Oduya a chance to rebuild his stock and hopefully get a larger deal next offseason. Oduya wouldn’t be wise to attempt to test the market and fall short, sticking with the Stars is his best bet.
7. Changing Teams: T.J. Oshie
Unfortunately for the Capitals, they are in a similar boat with T.J. Oshie that they are in with Karl Alzner. So far this season, Oshie has put 20 goals in the back of the net and helped out with 15. If he keeps this pace up and barring any injuries, Oshie will have one of his better years in recent memory right when it matters most. The Capitals would probably love to keep Oshie on board, but the salary cap will restrain them. With Oshie being 30, a team wouldn’t want to sign him to a massive deal, but he could sign a deal for 3-5 years. Any team that signs Oshie knows what they are going to get: a goalscorer and playmaker.
6. Staying Put: Jaromir Jagr
If you had to describe Jaromir Jagr in two words, it would be an ageless wonder. The man is 45 years old and has been playing hockey professionally for the last 29 years. Jagr in on the record say he wants to play until 50, and whether he makes it to that plateau is a different story. It is abundantly clear that he has regressed after an incredible 2015-2016 season where he put up 66 points with 27 goals. The Panthers are a young squad, so having a very experienced veteran such as Jagr would be beneficial to the development of the youth on the roster. With his age increasing and skillset decreasing, Jagr wouldn’t be asking the Panthers to fork over a tonne of cash. Instead, he could resign with the Panthers for a lower price to stick with the system that he knows, players that he knows and coaches that he knows, while helping future of the Panthers.
5. Changing Teams: Alexander Radulov
The decision to leave the KHL and come back to the NHL was a wise one for the Russian forward, who has already secured himself a nice payday this July. When the Habs announced they were signing him to a 1 year, $5.85 million dollar pact it was met with scepticism, considering this team just shipped out P.K. Subban a few days prior. There were thoughts that his past character troubles would ultimately lead to his demise in Montreal. Well, quite simply they were wrong. So far this season, Radulov has 41 points, and by the end of the season he should eclipse his career NHL high for points, goals and assists. Montreal doesn’t seem like they are willing to open their wallets and give Radulov a deal he wants. On the open market, he could definitely command a four or five-year deal.
4. Staying Put: Trevor Daley
Where would Trevor Daley be without the Penguins? He wouldn’t have a Stanley Cup ring or be the good defender that he is. After his trade to Pittsburgh from Chicago last season, Daley turned his season around while helping Pittsburgh do the same. Since the trade, Daley is one of the most reliable and steady defenders on the team. With the Pens contending once again and with a core locked up, once again I say why would you break it up. With Daley being 33, he could look for a deal in the 2-3 year range to stay in Pittsburgh.
3. Changing Teams: Kevin Shattenkirk
This season, everyone expected the Blues to continue to be perennial contenders. So far through this year, they have been the complete opposite of contenders. Long time head coach Ken Hitchcock was fired, and it is only a matter of time until they start to tear this roster apart even more. Former first overall draft pick Kevin Shattenkirk is one of the pieces on that roster that may be moved before the deadline, due to his expiring contract. Shattenkirk has been fairly consistent in his NHL career, making that an attractive feature. That is no different this year, as Shattenkirk has 37 points through 54 games played. He will be one of the top defenders to hit the open market, and a team like the Leafs would be a potential suitor in free agency and willing to open their wallets. Regardless of if he gets traded before March 1st, Shattenkirk will be a hot commodity to sign in July.
2. Staying Put: Joe Thornton
Has his play declined? Yes. Is his age showing? Yes again. Is he still a valuable asset to have on a team? Absolutely. Like the aforementioned Patrick Marleau, Jumbo Joe’s contract will expire this summer. If you were to see how he has a mere three goals, you would think it is crazy to bring him back. But his 30 assists on the year prove how big of a playmaker he is. Thornton became a star in San Jose, and he wouldn’t end his career anywhere but San Jose. With a core that is still competitive in the NHL, Joe Thornton would be one of many pieces that help the Sharks operate and push for a Stanley Cup. The Sharks and Thornton will probably settle for a short term, or one year deal.
1. Changing Teams: Ben Bishop
After being a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2016 following a very strong season, and an above average 2016-2017 season, goaltender Ben Bishop will receive a lucrative offer this summer. The Lightning have actively tried to ship Bishop out of town, to make sure they at least get an asset before he leaves. They are set in the net with 22-year old Andrei Vasilevskiy, so there is no reason why they need to overpay and keep Bishop. There is a very good chance that Bishop could get traded before the deadline, and even if he does, don’t expect him to resign with that team. It is not often that goalies of Bishop’s calibre are on the open market, and when they are the price is high, so Ben Bishop will capitalize.
Our prediction: Ben Bishop signs with the Winnipeg Jets.