The NHL free agency period is easily one of the most exciting times of the year, but especially on the first day. This year’s group of free agents will definitely be fun to watch out for because there are a handful of legitimate superstars available. Although some free agent signings are very easy to see happening, we are always gifted with many that come as a complete surprise. Due to the sudden change of power throughout the NHL this season, many teams who were initially seen as rebuilders now seem like great destinations for veteran players. With that said, predicting where players will end up is actually extremely difficult than in other years. We will be given many surprises this upcoming offseason.
With all that has been stated, in this article, we will be looking at ten surprising free agent signings to expect this summer and five that are just too obvious. When looking at this list of players, they are all very recognizable names to hockey fans and the ones that many of us will be following as the offseason progresses. Some of the players available this summer are absolute game changers, but the biggest one is superstar forward, John Tavares. Him alone makes this summer one to look forward to. Yet, the other players available are also extremely gifted hockey players who will be given large contracts for their excellent efforts. The NHL will be going through some major changes this summer.
Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the ten upcoming surprises of this offseason and the five obvious signings.
15 Surprising: James Neal (Philadelphia Flyers)
James Neal is having himself a very solid season with the Vegas Golden Knights and is a big reason why they are having such a historical year. His individual success this year will absolutely land him a pretty large contract over the summer and he will look to cash in as much as possible because he is starting to get older as well.
The Philadelphia Flyers would be a solid destination for James Neal because they are currently becoming contenders again and could use a veteran forward to help their younger core. Neal would instantly provide them far better goal scoring and he could be used a talented weapon in their top-six. Philly would be wise to take a chance of Neal because he is the real deal.
14 Surprising: Paul Stastny (Chicago Blackhawks)
Paul Stastny struggled a bit in his opening seasons with the St. Louis Blues and did not live up to $7 million cap hit he possesses. Yet, this season has been a turnaround year for the veteran and lucky for him, he is due for another NHL contract. Although his next contract will be a bit cheaper, he definitely will receive interest from around the league and have multiple options.
The Chicago Blackhawks should sign Paul Stastny because they need significant help down the middle and he would provide that. Stastny would slot into their top-six forward group and could have become an elite player like he was with the Colorado Avalanche. Stastny would be an excellent fit for the Blackhawks and could even help them regain to their dynasty like ways.
13 Obvious: Evander Kane (Vancouver Canucks)
Evander Kane started this season as one of the top scorers in the NHL, but has cooled off a bit in the second half of the season. Although this has occurred for the power forward, he definitely will be given a significant contract this offseason and one of the most talented and youngest forwards available. He should be able to net a deal of at least five years.
The Vancouver Canucks will be signing Evander Kane once he hits the free agent market because it has been in the rumor mill for years. Kane is from Vancouver and has openly stated his desire to one day play for his hometown and now is the perfect time. Kane would be able to a piece of their core and help the Canucks be contenders like they were years ago.
12 Surprising: Thomas Vanek (Colorado Avalanche)
Thomas Vanek is currently one of the most underrated offensive forwards in the NHL and is quietly having a wonderful year. Vanek is playing for a rebuilding Vancouver Canucks squad, but is putting up top notch numbers without much talent around him. Although Vanek is getting up there in age, this season is proof that he deserves another contract once its over.
The Colorado Avalanche would actually be a very solid option for Thomas Vanek because they have a great cast of forwards who could help him statistically. Vanek has shown this season that he is capable of keeping up the young talent on the Canucks, so speed is not the issue. Vanek should seriously consider the Avalanche as his next team because he could have a lot of success.
11 Surprising: John Carlson (Los Angeles Kings)
John Carlson is one of the best defensemen on the Washington Capitals, but he does not receive the praise that he should be given. It is known that he is a very talented hockey player around the NHL, but he is overlooked at times as well. Carlson has consistently been a top notch scoring on the point for the Capitals and will be given a large contract this summer.
John Carlson will have a lot of takers this offseason, but he will ultimately join the Los Angeles Kings because they have the cap and allure to make it happen. The Kings need an effective puck moving defenseman behind Drew Doughty and Carlson would be the perfect guy. This would also give the Kings a backup option if Doughty decides to leave after next season.
10 Obvious: Patrick Maroon (St Louis Blues)
Patrick Maroon is easily one of the biggest rentals who are available this trade deadline season and he will be traded soon. Yet, Maroon is also expected to be a solid free agent option, as the Edmonton Oilers are very likely to let him go after a disappointing season for the club. Maroon will be able to land a good contract once he hits the open market because of his power forward style.
It is absolutely apparent that Patrick Maroon will end up signing with the St. Louis Blues this offseason. There is mutual interest from both parties and more importantly, Maroon is a St. Louis native. This is a free agent signing that literally everyone expects to happen. Maroon will be on the Blues next year and used as a top-six guy or checking forward.
9 Surprising: Mike Green (Toronto Maple Leafs)
The Toronto Maple Leafs are always a hockey team who are prone to make big moves and this offseason should provide more of that. After years of agonizing rebuilding attempts, the Maple Leafs have built an offensively sound team under Mike Babcock’s guidance. Yet, they do need to add some defensive help this offseason and will likely bring in at least one defender.
Mike Green could end up being a surprising surprise signing of the Toronto Maple Leafs because he not only is a strong talent defensively, but he also is extremely effective offensively. Green could slot into their top-four, but also be an extremely important part of their powerplay. This is a signing that the Leafs should absolutely make because they desperately need a star on the point.
8 Surprising: Ilya Kovalchuk (Carolina Hurricanes)
Ilya Kovalchuk has been lighting it up in the KHL. It really isn't any surprise, as he was always a top threat in the more talent-rich NHL. Ever since stepping away from the NHL (and burning the New Jersey Devils down to the ground) he has gained a reputation as a risky player to sign. The only thing he has to counteract that reputation is his raw scoring ability.
The Carolina Hurricanes are a young team that could take a risk on a proven scoring threat. They need some experience and some goals to go with it. Kovalchuk could fill that void for the right price. He could use the Hurricanes to "audition" for an NHL return.
7 Obvious: Joe Thornton (San Jose Sharks)
The San Jose Sharks are still on the hunt for their first Stanley Cup and are desperate because their core is getting older. This offseason will be a big one because they not only will look to bring in some new talent, but they must also bring back Joe Thornton. Even with his old age, Thornton is still one of the most productive playmakers in the NHL.
The Sharks need to be very aggressive in bringing back Thornton because once he leaves, the team is out of any contention. Thornton has been their best player through the entirety of his NHL career and will continue to be until he leaves. He has yet to slow down and this is easily why he will end up being a Hockey Hall of Famer.
6 Surprising: Rick Nash (Nashville Predators)
Rick Nash is a veteran who is declining in skill a little bit, but he is capable of landing another NHL contract this summer. Although he is no longer the superstar he used to be, he definitely can still be a top-six forward on most NHL clubs. He will be a player who is given a short term deal this summer, but he will have an abundance of choices to choose from.
This may be a shot in the dark, but Rick Nash could very well end up with the Nashville Predators this offseason. The Predators need another scorer in their lineup and Nash would come at a fairly cheap price. Although he is not a franchise player anymore, he is a very solid option for a Nashville team who wants to win the Stanley Cup right now.
5 Surprising: Patric Hornqvist (Edmonton Oilers)
Patric Hornqvist will forever be remembered for his contributions with the Pittsburgh Penguins during their Stanley Cup runs. He is easily one of the most clutch performers available in this year’s free agency class, so he will be given many offers. Hornqvist will ultimately join a team that is ready to win now, as he has been spoiled with two Stanley Cups in two years.
Although the Edmonton Oilers have struggled this season, Patric Hornqvist very well could end up there. The idea of playing with Connor McDavid is always a positive one for free agents and Hornqvist could slot perfectly in their lineup. The Oilers will need to find a replacement for Maroon and Hornqvist very well could be that guy. It makes perfect sense.
4 Obvious: Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins)
Zdeno Chara is still the heart and soul of the Boston Bruins and will end his career a member of the squad. Although his game has slowed down a little, he is still one of their top defensemen and is a huge reason why they are having such a fantastic season. Chara has stated that he wants to play after this season, so the Bruins are likely to give him another deal.
Chara’s importance to the squad is extremely high because he a factor behind the growth of future franchise defenseman, Charlie McAvoy. The Bruins need to use Chara as long as they can, so he can help the young players on the roster to continue to improve. Chara will absolutely get another contract with the Bruins because he has definitely earned it.
3 Surprising: James van Riemsdyk (New Jersey Devils)
James van Riemsdyk most likely would love to stay with the Toronto Maple Leafs this summer, but due to their cap issues, it is extremely unlikely. JVR wants to land himself a massive deal this summer because this is his opportunity to do so with his young age. JVR may be a huge part of the Maple Leafs now, but they cannot afford to give him a deal like this because of their young guys.
The New Jersey Devils are a hockey team that currently is contending, but they could use a bit more starpower on their roster. The Devils are in the deepest division in the NHL, so if they want to continue this year’s success into next year’s, they need to bring in a star like JVR. They also have the money to make this happen, so expect to see JVR with the Devils next year.
2 Surprising: John Tavares (Montreal Canadiens)
John Tavares is the face of the New York Islanders right now, but that could very well change soon. Tavares is going to hit the open market, unless the Islanders somehow are able to extend him by the summer. Yet, if they were going to make this happen, it absolutely should have by now. As the months continue to pass, the chance of Tavares staying decreases immensely.
John Tavares may end up signing with the Montreal Canadiens because they need a top line center and have all the money in the world to make a deal happen. The Canadiens are about to go through a major retooling period because of their down season this year, so why not get Tavares? This is the perfect time for it to happen and it would rock the NHL world.
1 Obvious: Sedin Brothers (Vancouver Canucks)
There have been many rumours that the Vancouver Canucks may move on from the Sedin Brothers after this season, but that is highly doubtful. The Sedins have been the heart and soul of the Canucks for the entirety of their careers and deserve the chance to retire with them. There is no way that the brothers would be willing to play elsewhere.
The Sedins have made it clear that they want to finish their careers in Vancouver and they still have plenty of hockey left in their tanks. They are still part of Vancouver’s top scoring group and there are no signs that this would chance anytime soon. Due to all that they have put in for the city, they should be able to land another contract with the team and retire on their own terms.