Corey Abbott

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Free Agency Primer

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


T.J. Oshie agreed to terms with Washington on an eight-year, $46 million contract and Edmonton re-upped with defenseman Kris Russell on a four-year, $16 million pact last Friday. That took two players off the market for Saturday’s free agent frenzy. This year’s crop of potential unrestricted free agents isn’t deep with talent, but there are some good players available.

 

The opportunity for all NHL teams to begin talking with potential UFAs opened on Sunday, but new agreements cannot be signed until July 1 at 12:00 p.m. ET.

 

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Kevin Shattenkirk - D - Shattenkirk is the top player set to hit the open market. He is coming off a four-year deal worth $17 million. The 28-year-old rearguard topped 50 points for the first time in 2016-17 after he surpassed the 40-point plateau in each of his previous three campaigns. Shattenkirk is also a proven power-play performer who will instantly elevate the man advantage for any club he joins. The Rangers, Lightning and Devils may be the front runners, but there are several other teams looking for defensemen. Buffalo will probably make a big push for Shattenkirk as well.

 

Alexander Radulov - RW - Radulov made a triumphant return to the NHL in 2016-17. He finished second on the Canadiens in scoring with 54 points and led the team with 36 assists in 76 appearances. Radulov was also first among Montreal’s forwards with 16 power-play points and he racked up 62 penalty minutes. If he doesn’t come to terms with the Canadiens on a new deal then he will be best forward available on July 1. He earned $5.75 million on a one-year deal, but reportedly asked for a six-year contract worth $42 million. That price will probably have to come down regardless of where he signs.

 

Justin Williams - RW - Williams had two solid seasons with the Capitals, with 52 points in 2015-16 and 48 points in 2016-17, and he would like to return. However, it probably wouldn’t take long for him to find another team if he tested the free agent waters. Rumors indicate that Dallas and St. Louis could be options. He is a productive player in the playoffs and takes on a leadership role wherever he goes. Williams earned $3.25 million per season on a two-year contract in his previous agreement with Washington.

 

Joe Thornton - C - Thornton’s 12-year tenure with the Sharks may be coming to a close, but there remains a good chance that he will stick around. The veteran of 1,446 career games accounted for only seven goals in 79 games last campaign. Still, he piled up 43 assists and placed fourth on the team in scoring with 50 points. San Jose may give the 37-year-old his wish of another three-year contract. Thornton made $6.75 million per season on a three-year deal previously, but he will probably have to take a little less than that if he chooses to stay. He is expected to be ready for the 2017-18 campaign after undergoing knee surgery for a torn MCL and ACL after the postseason. Los Angeles is reportedly very interested in bringing him into the fold.

 

Patrick Marleau -C/LW - Marleau has played all 1,493 of his career contests with the Sharks organization, but he could also be on move after completing his three-year deal worth $20 million. The 37-year-old forward is probably more likely to head to another team than Thornton. He tallied 27 goals and 46 points in 82 matches last season. Marleau isn’t the offensive dynamo he once was, but he is capable of reaching the 50-point mark again under the right circumstances. According to reports, Anaheim, Toronto, Carolina, Nashville, Los Angeles and the Rangers would like to sign him.

 

Nick Bonino - C - Bonino will see what offers he receives on the open market and then give Pittsburgh the opportunity to match. He has won the Stanley Cup in back-to-back seasons with the Penguins, so he probably would like to return. Bonino notched 18 goals and 37 points in 80 contests last season. He earned just $1.9 million per year on a three-year deal that he signed with Anaheim back in November of 2013.

 

Martin Hanzal - C - Hanzal can contribute hits, faceoff wins and points, but injuries have plagued him throughout his career. He skated in 71 contests last season, which is the most he’s played since 2009-10 when he suited up for 81 matches. Unfortunately, he contributed just 39 points with Arizona and Minnesota despite the fact that he hit the 20-goal plateau for the first time. Hanzal’s previous contract was five years at $15.5 million. Nashville, Montreal or Chicago could be possible landing spots for him.

 

Steve Mason - G - Mason will be one of the better goaltenders on the open market if late negotiations with Philadelphia don’t go anywhere. He had his share of ups and downs as a member of the Flyers, but played great down the stretch to try to keep his team in the playoff hunt. Mason could be a fit on teams looking for a starter, but his inconsistency between the pipes could scare potential buyers. His previous contract was three years with annual average value of $4.1 million. Winnipeg has shown interest in his services.

 

Michael Stone - D - Stone still could be back on a stacked Calgary defense corps in 2017-18, but it’s probable that he will field other offers as a free agent and sign somewhere else. The former Coyotes blueliner dressed in 19 matches with the Flames after he was acquired in late February. He earned $4 million while appearing in 64 games between Arizona and Calgary. Stone is capable of logging heavy minutes, while racking up hits and blocks, but he likely won’t record many points.

 

Karl Alzner - D - Alzner will be a highly sought-after defender on July 1. He played the first 591 games of his career with Washington, but he will have a new team in 2017-18. Alzner played in 540 consecutive regular-season games and 59 straight playoff contests before he was injured against Toronto in the opening round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The regularly durable rearguard suffered a broken bone in his hand, but returned for most of the Capitals’ second-round series loss to Pittsburgh. Alzner isn’t known for contributing much offense. The most points he has recorded in a single season is 21, which he accomplished twice. Still, he can play 20 minutes per contest, while registering plenty of blocks and hits. Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Vegas have reportedly already made their intentions to sign him known.

 

Michael Del Zotto - D - Del Zotto played well in his first season with Philadelphia when he registered 32 points in 64 games, but he was never able to build off that performance. He appeared in just 51 contests last year and provided 18 points. He will probably have to take much less than the $4 million he received in NHL salary last campaign. Del Zotto’s last deal had an annual average value of $3.875 million.

 

Sam Gagner - C/RW - Gagner made just $650,000 last season and he posted 50 points in 81 games to give Columbus plenty of bang for the buck. He tallied eight goals and 18 points on the power play, which should pique the interest of potential buyers. Gagner averaged just 13:43 of ice time per match, but he is interested in coming back to the Blue Jackets. If something isn’t worked out then his impressive 2016-17 showing should earn him a chance with another NHL club. Chicago is reportedly in the mix.

 

Thomas Vanek - LW/RW - After Vanek was bought out by Minnesota, he signed a one-year contract worth $2.6 million with Detroit. He played well for the Red Wings, with 15 goals and 38 points in 48 games, before he was sent to Florida at the trade deadline. Vanek posted just two goals and 10 points in 20 contests with the Panthers. It’s possible that he could end up back with Detroit when free agency opens.

 

Ryan Miller - G - Miller is reportedly seeking a one-year, incentive-laden contract. The Canucks would like to bring back the 36-year-old netminder back and have him share the crease with Jacob Markstrom. Miller had 18 wins along with a 2.80 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 54 starts last campaign. He is coming off a three-year contract worth $18 million.

 

Mike Condon - G - Ottawa is interested in bring back Condon, but it doesn’t seem like he will be short on suitors if he is available come July 1. There are indications from his agent that he has been contacted by nearly 10 teams since the opportunity to talk with pending unrestricted free agents opened. Condon helped keep the Senators in the playoffs when Craig Anderson was away from the team to be with his wife during her battle against throat cancer. He posted a 19-14-6 record with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 40 games with the Senators. Condon earned just $575,000 in each of the last two seasons.

 

Brian Elliott - G - Elliott had an inconsistent season with Calgary in 2016-17. He had a terrible start, but posted spectacular numbers in February and March. At the end of the year, Elliott had a 26-18-3 record with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. He was hoping to stay with the Flames, but they acquired Mike Smith from Arizona recently. Elliott will be on the move this weekend and Winnipeg is a potential destination. He could also end up in Philadelphia, who are also looking for help in the crease. His previous contract was a three-year pact worth $7.5 million.

 

Trevor Daley - D - Daley will also see what the market is like for his services, but it is expected that Pittsburgh will get the chance to match his best offer. The 33-year-old blueliner’s six-year, $19.8 million contract has expired and he just won his second Stanley Cup with the Penguins, so it's likely that he wants to come back.  Still, he is getting offers from other teams, including Boston and Detroit. He collected 19 points in 56 games last year.

 

Andrei Markov - D - Markov is asking for a two-year contract to stay with the Canadiens and he should be able to get it after he just finished a three-year pact worth $17.25 million. Montreal’s defense has some holes in it after losing Alexei Emelin to the expansion draft and trades that sent out Nathan Beaulieu and Mikhail Sergachev. If the 38-year-old rearguard hits the open market then there should be teams interested. Markov notched six goals and 36 points in 62 games last season after he had 44 points in 82 matches in 2015-16.

 

Patrick Sharp - LW/RW - Sharp battled issues on and off the ice in 2016-17. His father was suffering from leukemia, while he dealt with concussions and a hip problem, which eventually ended his season. Sharp suited up in just 48 games and he compiled 18 points. He is capable of earning somewhere in the 40-50 point range depending on where he ends up in 2017-18 and if he can stay healthy. Sharp should be able to get a contract to prove that last year was an aberration. Chicago is reportedly considering bringing him back.

 

Radim Vrbata - RW - Vrbata bounced back in 2016-17 with 20 goals and 55 points in 81 games as a member of the Coyotes. He produced just 13 markers and 27 points in 63 contests the previous campaign with Vancouver. The 36-year-old winger wants to return for another season on a one-year contract. If he doesn’t get that from Arizona then there will be other suitors.

 

Jordan Weal - C/LW - Philadelphia is still hoping that Weal will re-sign, but he has been attracting interest from other NHL teams. He has engaged in over a dozen calls and the North Vancouver native is slated to meet with his hometown Canucks. Weal played in only 23 games with the Flyers in 2016-17, but he made an impact with eight goals, 12 points and 49 shots.  Even though it's a small sample size, the 25-year-old is an intriguing target on the free agent market after he led Philadelphia with 2.29 points per 60 minutes. 

 

Mark Streit - D - Streit registered 27 points in 68 games with Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in 2016-17. He posted 13 points on the power play and averaged 18:45 of ice time per match between the two clubs. Streit will turn 40 years of age during the 2017-18 season. He probably won’t be a 50- or even a 40-point player, but he is still capable of earning 30 points next year. However, his new contract likely won’t have an annual average value of $5.25 million.

 

Brian Boyle - C - Boyle had 13 goals and 22 points in 54 games with Tampa Bay before he was dealt to Toronto at the trade deadline. He chipped in just three assists in 21 games with the Leafs during the regular season and two helpers in six playoff outings. However, he was a good addition to the fourth line and provided much-needed faceoff help. Boyle has expressed interest in staying with Toronto and returning to the Lightning, but he is keeping his options open and other teams have expressed interest. He made $2 million per season over a three-year contract in his last agreement.

 

Kris Versteeg - LW/RW - Versteeg may re-sign with the Flames, but other teams have been in contact with him since the window opened to speak with pending unrestricted free agents. He scored 15 goals and added 22 assists in 69 games last campaign. Versteeg made $950,000 on a one-year contract last year.

 

Antti Niemi - G - Niemi will be available on the open market after being bought out of the final year of his contract by the Dallas Stars. The 33-year-old puck stopper posted a 12-12-4 record with a 3.30 goals-against average and an .892 save percentage last season. He was better in 2015-16, but a mark of 25-13-7 along with a 2.67 GAA and a .905 save percentage isn’t much to write home about either. Niemi will be looking for a fresh start somewhere else, but he may have to settle for a backup role or another shared crease situation.

 

Other notables: Jarome Iginla, Chris Kunitz, Jonathan Bernier, Dmitry Kulikov, Mike Fisher, Shane Doan, Ales Hemsky, Cody Franson, Chad Johnson, Brendan Smith, Drew Stafford, Jaromir Jagr, Brian Gionta, Dan Girardi, Ron Hainsey, Brian Campbell, Chris Neil, Ty Rattie, Nail Yakupov and Dennis Wideman.



Corey Abbott is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him Twitter @CoreAbbott.
Email :Corey Abbott



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