July 1st is near and that means one thing for hockey fans: Free Agent Frenzy is upon us. It's the time of the year where unrestricted and restricted free agents who don't receive contracts by July 1st become available for signing with any other team in the league. Every fan is hoping their team makes a big move to get a good player who can help improve their team starting next season.
The week leading up to July 1st is filled with tons of speculation and rumors come alive about which player is going where. There's been lots of speculation since the start of the season about where potential upcoming UFA's could land and it's now time for those players to make their decisions on where they want to continue their careers.
This year's free agency isn't full of as many quality players like other years, however there are still some solid names out there such as Kevin Shattenkirk, Joe Thornton, Alexander Radulov, among others. The following list will break down where some of the most coveted free agents could be heading as soon as July 1st, and some rumors about players that are nothing more than just rumors. Here are 8 offseason NHL signings that could happen, and 7 that are just rumors.
17 Could: Patrick Sharp Signs With Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks just brought back former forward Brandon Saad in their trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets on June 23rd. As known, Sharp is also a former member of the Blackhawks and was a key piece during their three previous Stanley Cup runs. It is presumed that Chicago would take a chance at bringing Sharp back, with a low risk, high reward deal.
The Blackhawks don’t have much cap space to work with, so they won’t be able to make too many free agent signings if they’re looking to improve their team. While Sharp’s game has dropped off since he’s left Chicago, with one of the reasons being a recent hip injury, it’s likely that he would take a low cost contract to return to Chicago with a chance to win again.
16 Rumor: Patrick Marleau Signs With Toronto Maple Leafs
Along with fellow teammate Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau is one of the most watched forwards heading into free agency on July 1st. He’s already drawn the attention of several teams from across the league, including the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs are already a talented offensive team, so the fact that they are going after Marleau is quite surprising. The 37-year-old scored 27 goals and 46 points last season and has been coached by Mike Babcock at the Olympics as a member team Canada. Many feel like the connection between the two could potentially help lure Marleau into the Maple Leafs organization.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but as it stands right now, Marleau has yet to rule out re-signing with the San Jose Sharks.
15 Could: Brian Boyle Signs With Tampa Bay Lightning
Brian Boyle could make for a reliable bottom-six centre on any team and at a cheap cost. Recently, Boyle expressed his love for his former team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, in an interview saying a return to Tampa would be “a huge option.”
The Lightning recently made some trades to help their cap situation and are in search of at least one bottom-six forward. Although the Bolts’ needs come mostly on the wing, the return of Brian Boyle cannot be ruled out simply given how highly both sides speak of each other. While a return to Toronto isn’t out of the question either, don’t be surprised if Boyle returns as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning next season if he hits the free agent market on July 1st.
14 Rumor: Justin Williams Signs With Montreal Canadiens
As many hockey fans know, Justin Williams comes up clutch in playoff games, which gives him plenty of value when he hits the free agent market. One of the teams that were reported to have interest heading into July 1st are the Montreal Canadiens.
This one seems like the least likely to happen for the Canadiens, as they are already deep on the wings especially after acquiring Jonathan Drouin. If they choose to re-sign Radulov and Galchenyuk, then we could pretty much rule out the signing of Justin Williams, as they have other important needs to address.
Williams put up 24 goals and 48 points this season for the Washington Capitals and could be a fantastic addition to a team that is looking to make a Stanley Cup run.
12 Could: Karl Alzner Signs With Montreal Canadiens
Karl Alzner is one of the most coveted free agents heading into July 1st, and some rumours have stated that Montreal could be a landing point for the former Capitals defender. The 28-year-old is a left-handed defenseman, which is a major need of the Canadiens at the moment.
After the Canadiens lost three defensemen (Sergachev, Beaulieu, and Emelin), they went out and acquired David Schlemko from the Golden Knights for a fifth-round pick. They’ll need to do a little more than that if they want to make sure they’ve got a solid defensive core heading into the new season. Assuming they manage to keep Andrei Markov, adding Alzner would help round out the Candiens’ left side of defense. Alzner is expected to meet with the Canadiens, along with other teams prior to July 1st, and has stated that he is “very interested” in discussing a contract with the Habs.
11 Rumor: Nick Bonino Signs With Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights are expected to be the most active team this summer, as they will look to make their roster as NHL-ready as possible for their franchise debut next season. One of the guys they could go after in free agency could be centre Nick Bonino.
The Golden Knights could use another centre and Nick Bonino could prove to be a valuable acquisition. Bonino has Stanley Cup experience, can play in multiple situations and would earn a lot of ice-time on the Golden Knights. There aren’t many good centres available via free agency this year, and it’s expected that Joe Thornton will want to sign with a team that has a chance to win, so this makes Nick Bonino Vegas’ most likely choice - if they choose to add another centreman. However, no official signs have pointed towards Bonino and Vegas being in contract discussions at the moment, so we can only speculate about this for now.
10 Could: Brian Elliott Signs With Winnipeg Jets
Brian Elliott just came off a difficult season with the Calgary Flames and it looks like he’s headed for free agency after the Flames acquired Mike Smith from Arizona. Elliott, 32, has received interest from the Winnipeg Jets, who had goaltending issues last season.
The Jets are looking to stick with their young goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, but have been reportedly in search of a back-up with experience to act as a mentor. With the shaky season Elliott had in 2016-17, it would be too much of a risk for a team to sign him as a number one guy, but it would work out for Winnipeg’s circumstances.
Recently reported by a TSN radio show, Elliott had been making tentative plans to move into a new home in Winnipeg this past Monday, which has only increased the speculation that he could be a Winnipeg Jet as soon as July 1st.
9 Rumor: Martin Hanzal Signs With Montreal Canadiens
Martin Hanzal will be another centreman receiving a lot of attention on July 1st. The Montreal Canadiens are in desperate need of a centre as well, and have been interested in Hanzal since the trade deadline, but were not willing to pay the high asking price to acquire the forward at the time.
This leads to the speculation that the Canadiens could still be interested in the 6-foot-6 centreman to help solve their issues down the middle. While Hanzal addresses a need, it remains to be a waiting game for the Habs as they still have contracts to dish out to players like Alex Galchenyuk, Alex Radulov and Andrei Markov, before they can start spending money on other players. Depending on what happens with those players, we may or may not see the Canadiens go after a guy like Hanzal this summer.
8 Could: Dan Girardi Signs With Tampa Bay Lightning
Dan Girardi was recently bought out after spending 11 seasons with the New York Rangers. It appears that the 33-year-old is on a decline in performance and will now get to explore his options on the free agent market this summer. The Tampa Bay Lightning are one of the teams most interested and could be a legitimate landing spot for the right-handed defenseman. With some big names to sign this season, it’s unlikely for the Lightning to make a big splash in free agency this year, so a smaller deal for an experienced defenseman like Girardi certainly makes sense.
One of the Lightning’s main priority was adding quality defensemen this off-season and it’s recently been reported that they could be the team landing Dan Girardi. Many fans around the league find Girardi very unappealing as a defenseman, but could perhaps fit on a team like the Bolts if they offer him a reduced role on a one-year contract.
7 Rumor: Trevor Daley Signs With Chicago Blackhawks
Since the Blackhawks seem like they’re trying to bring back all of their former players, why not add another to that list? The Blackhawks have already lost defensemen Nicklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor Van Riemsdyk and their blue-line is looking rather thin at the moment.
Trevor Daley was a member of the Blackhawks two years ago and could be a player the Hawks would consider signing if he hits the free agent market. Daley wouldn’t cost as much as the other top-four defensemen available, and has experience playing top minutes for Pittsburgh when their roster was depleted with injuries.
It would without question be a smart signing for Chicago, however also a difficult one given their cap constraints. For now, this is simply a rumor and not close to happening unless the Blackhawks can find a way to free up more cap space.
6 Could: Jonathan Bernier Signs With Philadelphia Flyers
With Steve Mason projected to be walking away from Philadelphia, the Flyers have been linked to signing goaltender Jonathan Bernier of the Anaheim Ducks. It’s become more likely than not that Bernier decides to sign with Philadelphia given his relationship with Flyers GM Ron Hextall which dates back to when they were both a member of the Los Angeles Kings.
The Flyers have a couple of young goaltenders who are projected to be future starters in Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom, however they are in search of a short-term goaltender at the moment and it appears like Bernier is the right fit. He’s shown that he can play well behind a solid defensive team like Anaheim and would likely play equally as well for the Flyers. Time will only tell if the Flyers decide to bring in Bernier or not.
5 Rumor: Alexander Radulov Signs The Carolina Hurricanes
There’s been a lot of questions regarding Alexander Radulov’s contract negotiations with the Montreal Canadiens in the past week, and it appears as if there’s a disagreement between both parties on the term of Radulov’s next contract. It was recently reported that Radulov was seeking a six-year deal worth about $42 million. It is unlikely that the Canadiens will give into that type of contract for the 30-year-old.
A team that would definitely be looking to make a splash on a big-time forward during free agency is the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are loaded with talented defenders and have a ton of cap space to make a big move for a skilled offensive player.
The Hurricanes are one of the many teams interested in Radulov at the moment and if he were to hit the open market on July 1st, you can expect Carolina to be one of the frontrunners to sign the Russian forward. Their $24 million in cap space gives them plenty of flexibility to match the lucrative contract demands that Radulov is asking of the Canadiens at the moment.
3 Could: Karl Alzner Signs With Vegas Golden Knights
Despite there being rumors that Alzner is interested in signing with the Montreal Canadiens, Vegas could very well be an option for the defenseman as well. The Golden Knights are in desperate need of defensemen, and could be going after someone like Karl Alzner to be their top left-handed shooting defenseman.
With Vegas expected to trade away some more players in the coming days, it’s likely that they’ll have more cap space to make this move than a team like the Canadiens, therefore making them a favourite. Along with money, the Golden Knights could offer Alzner a top role which he is less likely to get anywhere else. Besides the Canadiens, Alzner is also expected to meet with the Golden Knights and Canucks in the coming days, so we’ll wait and see who he decides to sign with on July 1st.
2 Rumor: Joe Thornton Signs With Los Angeles Kings
Joe Thornton is certainly one of the biggest names on the free agent market this offseason, and while he isn’t guaranteed to hit the market on July 1st, he’s evidently generated a ton of interest league-wide during the NHL’s UFA interview period. There are up to 12 teams interested in Joe Thornton’s services, and one of the teams who are really kicking tires is the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings managed to clear up some cap space, are sitting with $10 million to spend and are looking to add someone who can generate offense, as they lacked scoring heavily last season. Thornton has shown that he can still put up big numbers with 82 points two years ago, however just 50 last season.
Although the Kings are rumored to be heavily interested in the Sharks’ top centreman, it’s hard to see where Thornton would fit on a team whose top two centres are Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. It seems less likely that Thornton would be willing to accept a bottom-six role and would be able to find himself a top role elsewhere.
1 Could: Kevin Shattenkirk Signs With New York Rangers
There has been speculation about Kevin Shattenkirk wanting to join the New York Rangers for several months, and it’s now become very possible heading into July 1st. Having dumped two awful contracts from both Dan Girardi and Derek Stepan, the Rangers are now sitting on over $20 million in cap space to fill up their roster. Many believe a large chunk of that will belong to Kevin Shattenkirk this summer.
Shattenkirk has yet to meet with the Rangers organization, however it remains to be believed that they are at the top of his wish list. Shattenkirk had a great season in 2016-17 with 56 points in 80 appearances and will absolutely be receiving a heavy pay check regardless of the team that he signs with, as he is the most coveted free agent this summer.
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