A few notes with the start of free agency approximately a little more than 12 hours away..
The No. 1 question around the NHL is: What’s Marc Bergevin up to?
By trading Nicolas Deslauriers (Anaheim) and Andrew Shaw (Chicago), the Canadiens cleared almost $5 million in cap space. Obviously, a lot of the speculation was around Matt Duchene, but Duchene’s going to Nashville. (Where possible, I will include rumblings on what contracts could look like in parentheses. For Duchene, they are in the area of seven years at $8 million per — don’t forget this is tax-friendly Tennessee. I suspect Columbus tried an eight-year offer in the same area before the week was over, but Nashville was always the most likely destination).
So, what does that mean for Les Canadiens?
There are two paths: adding something the conventional way — and adding something the unconventional way.
The conventional way is via free agency, trade or both. The Canadiens are believed to be in on Anders Lee (potentially at seven x $8 million, but Chicago has been lurking there, too). They’ve also had interest in Wayne Simmonds and Jake Gardiner. But, with Nashville adding Duchene and preparing a lucrative extension for Roman Josi, I’m wondering if Montreal is looking at Kyle Turris. Bergevin has liked him in the past. The Predators will want to move him. And, he’s a lot better than he showed last season.
Just an idea.
There were plenty of rumours Curtis McElhinney would be signed as Carey Price’s backup. But on Sunday a few sources indicated Keith Kincaid was more likely. We’ll see.
The unconventional way is the offer sheet. The rumour is everywhere, but it’s hard to say if it is legit or tin-foil-hat conspiracy. Podcast co-host Jeff Marek’s love for chaos means he’s probably praying for a Mitch Marner play to turn this long-time rivalry into a total hatefest. This is my own mind at work, but Bergevin has an excellent relationship with Gerry Johansson, who represents Brendan Gallagher, Price — and Sebastian Aho. Who knows?
The other major news Sunday night was The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reporting Columbus made a massive last-second offer to Artemi Panarin. It indicated somewhere around eight years and $96-$100 million in total. It’s an excellent, last-second, Aaron Rodgers “Miracle in Motown” Hail Mary attempt since it is at least $12 million more than any other team is offering.
The problem is Panarin’s known this kind of money was available from the Blue Jackets for at least a year. So, unless his position on staying changes in the last hours before July 1, it’s unlikely. I wrote earlier, “The expected outcome is Panarin and Semyon Varlamov to the Islanders (Panarin at seven years, between $11-12M).” Since that was published, a few people reached out to indicate that they think Panarin is getting $12.5M or close to it, wherever he goes. The Rangers are not inclined to get there, but multiple sources indicated Colorado offered it, albeit on a shorter term. Crazy times.
Other stuff to look for:
Joe Pavelski to Dallas (I’d initially heard four x $8 million, but The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta reports it is three x $7 million-ish); Mats Zuccarello to Minnesota (five x $5.8 million); Joonas Donskoi to Colorado (AAV between three and $4 million); Brett Connolly to Florida (four x $3.5 million); Richard Panik to Washington (four x something more than $2.5 million); Jordie Benn and Tyler Myers to Vancouver; a goalie carousel that includes Sergei Bobrovsky to Florida (looking around seven x $10 million), Mike Smith to Edmonton and Cam Talbot to Calgary.
There is also the Ottawa/Toronto trade that will send Connor Brown and Nikita Zaitsev to the Senators for Cody Ceci. Not sure if anything else is in there. The Maple Leafs are also expected to sign Kenny Agostino and Nick Shore.
Now, some stuff I’m less certain about…
Two teams with room to spend are Buffalo and Columbus. I’ve heard Gustav Nyquist and the Blue Jackets; Marcus Johansson and both teams.
I’d also heard Nyquist with the Oilers, but it seemed less certain Sunday night. The Oilers are believed to be looking at Valtteri Filppula while Dallas is expected to sign Corey Perry.
Expect a crush of names once the doors officially open at 12 p.m. ET. But what happens to those who aren’t immediately signed? There’s concern that things will tighten in a hurry with a smaller cap than expected.