NHL Free Agency Day 1: The rumours, deals and takeaways

The Hockey Central panel discusses which veteran Shark is more likely to leave San Jose, and wonders if the Maple Leafs no facial hair rule would affect any talks with Joe Thornton.

Free agency is upon us.

Madness reigns like crispy dollar bills on Kevin Shattenkirk’s head.

Follow all of the official signings here on our signing tracker, which looked a lot like a spinning slot machine on Canada Day.

Below is a rundown of all the rumours, news and reaction during a hectic afternoon in NHL player movement.

Toronto one of three teams contending for Marleau
Earlier in the day, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported that UFA left wing Patrick Marleau has the Toronto Maple Leafs as one of four teams he’s considering joining today.

As of 5:20 p.m. ET, Nick Kypreos was reporting that Marleau is weighing three options: the Leafs, the Ducks, and re-upping with the Sharks.

John Shannon has the Stars in the mix for either Marleau or Alexander Radulov.

San Jose — the only NHL team Marleau has known — reportedly offered Marleau a two-year contract to remain in teal. It’s believed the scorer could get three years elsewhere.

The Leafs are deep on the right side but not on the left. After James van Riemsdyk, the Maple Leafs do not have many point-producing natural left wingers.

Marleau, 37, would provide veteran leadership and consistency. The guy hasn’t missed a single game since 2008-09 and scored 27 goals this past season. Mike Babcock is big on Marleau, whom he coached in the Olympics.

The Sharks already locked up defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and goaltender Martin Jones (both UFAs in 2018) long-term Saturday and have reportedly agreed on a one-year deal with Thornton.

OK, who’s left on the board?
More than five hours into the free agency madness, here are the biggest UFA tickets still left unsigned and the latest rumour attached.

1. Alexander Radulov: Habs made a final four-year offer, but Radulov wants at least five years. The Stars are the biggest threat to pull him from Montreal.

2. Patrick Marleau: Up to four teams — the Maple Leafs, Ducks, Stars and Sharks — are said to be in the mix.

3. Andrei Markov: Montreal has made a final offer to the best D available. Markov’s original ask of two years and $6 million was too high for the Canadiens.

Other unsigned notables: Jaromir Jagr, Thomas Vanek, Shane Doan, Mike Fisher, Drew Stafford, Jarome Iginla, Cody Franson, Nail Yakupov, Johnny Oduya, Roman Polak, Mikhail Grigorenko

Lightning add Kunitz
Tampa had been aggressive in trying to sign a veteran winger with championship experience.

The Bolts’ preference was Justin Williams (Hurricanes), but they were able to land four-time Cup champ Chris Kunitz on a one-year deal worth $2 million.

Maple Leafs sign Moore
Dominic Moore is the new Brian Boyle, and we approve of this low-risk signing. He kills penalties, wins face-offs, and will be a wonderful leader in a young dressing room.

One year, $1 million.

I interviewed Moore recently, and he spoke about life as an NHL journeyman.

Moore’s contract lengths in the past decade: two years, one year, one year, two years, one year, two years, one year, one year.

“It’s not easy,” Moore sighed. “If you ask most players, they’d like more secure contracts for a number of years and build a home somewhere. At the same time, I relish the opportunity to prove myself. I’ve always been that way.

“I have no problem continuing to prove myself. But every summer you have to figure out where you’re going to be. Even the simple logistics of moving, it’s never easy. People don’t necessarily appreciate that part of the job.”

Moore, a 36-year-old Thornhill, Ont., native, joins the Maple Leafs after collecting 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists) in 82 games with the Bruins in 2016-17.

This marks Moore’s second tenure with the Maple Leafs after he played 101 games with the team from 2007 to 2009.

Boyle signed for more than $2 million per season in New Jersey. Moore is more affordable and brings a similar skill set to the 4C role.

Penguins commit to Schultz
The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed RFA defenceman Justin Schultz, who is coming off a breakout year with the champs, for three years at a hefty $5.5 million cap hit. Hence the departures of Ron Hainsey (Maple Leafs) and Trevor Daley (Red Wings).

Thornton tests waters but remains a Shark
The Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs all made strong pitches to land Joe Thornton, but in the end Jumbo has reportedly elected to remain in San Jose on a one-year contract worth in excess of $6 million.

Important to note that Thornton’s new deal will expire before the big Vlasic and Jones extensions kick in.

The question now is: Will there be any money left to keep Patrick Marleau from walking? He’s had strong interest from Anaheim, Toronto and Dallas.

Ducks fire a chirp at Canucks fans
Vancouver South gets sassy on social media:

Bibeau gets another chance
Goaltending prospect Antoine Bibeau, who was not qualified by the Maple Leafs, has landed in San Jose.

Panthers land Vrbata
The overhaul of Florida’s forward core continues, as the Cats add Radim Vrbata on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million plus bonuses.

Fun fact: No UFA forward (Radulov included) put up more points in 2015-16 than Vrbata’s 55.

Rangers win Shattenkirk sweepstakes… and it’s official this time
The prized right-shot defenceman — a “New Yorker at heart,” according to his Twitter bio — signed a four-year, $26.6-million contract with the New York Rangers.

That’s an AAV of $6.65 million.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, Buffalo Sabres, and New Jersey Devils were also said to make strong offers.

It had been rumoured that Shattenkirk was asking for seven years at a $7 million AAV, so getting his term down to four years could be seen as a win for New York. He left money on the table to play for his boyhood team.

The Rangers will remain in win-now mode as long as Henrik Lundqvist is their No. 1 goalie.

Happy reunions all over the place!
In the past 10 days we’ve seen a bunch of NHLers return to their former clubs.

The Chicago Blackhawks have brought back Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp. The Nashville Predators have reunited with Scott Hartnell and Anders Lindback. The Florida Panthers lost and then found Evgeny Dadonov. The Buffalo Sabres have welcomed back Jason Pominville and Chad Johnson. Mike Cammalleri is a Los Angeles King again. Dominic Moore is back with the Toronto Maple Leafs. And after an eight-year break, Justin Williams hooked back up with the Carolina Hurricanes.

It’s 2017-18: Year of the Break Up to Make Up.

Our top 2018 UFA list is already taking a beating
As expected, several elite members of the July 1, 2018 unrestricted free agent class have wasted zero time re-upping with their current clubs.

The Anaheim Ducks are processing a max-term eight-year extension with defenceman Cam Fowler worth $6.5 million per season.

And the San Jose Sharks went deep on defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (eight years, $56 million) and No.1 goalie Martin Jones (six years, $5.75 million).

These are three important players that needed to be kept. Saying that, the length of these deals is massive, underscoring the California teams’ urgency to win now.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson’s attention now shifts to Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. The Sharks, Ducks and Maple Leafs are among the teams linked to the valuable veterans.

Radulov race down to Montreal and Dallas?
The Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens, two of the most aggressive teams already today, are reportedly battling it out for the services of Alexander Radulov.

Jamie Benn drops the tweet of the day:

A trade!
Kristers Gudlevskis, the Latvian dynamo, is on the move.

Alzner wowed by Montreal
Karl Alzner, one of the best (and best paid) D-men available today, tells Hockey Central that Montreal was the only city he visited in-person during the negotiating window, though he spoke with several others over the phone.

He was impressed by the role he’ll play as a Canadien as well as the practice facilities in Montreal.

The Habs also signed Peter Holland and Byron Froese today.

Williams returns to Carolina
The Carolina Hurricanes won the Justin Williams bidding war, spending $9 million over two years to bring back the Stanley Cup champion.

“We said that we needed goal scoring and veteran leadership, and Justin will bring us both,” said GM Ron Francis. “He believes in what we are doing here and is returning to Raleigh to help the Hurricanes take the next step.”

The Hurricanes don’t have a captain. Williams would make a good one.

Watch Mr. Game 7’s reaction to his new/old home:

Sabres making nice additions
So far, we like the moves Jason Botterill has made in the infancy of his GM career.

Buffalo added Edmonton buyout Benoit Pouliot today for one year at $1.15 million — an affordable gamble on a winger who could be set for a bounce-back season.

Chad Johnson, Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella should also fit in nicely.

Colin Wilson traded to Avalanche
Forward Colin Wilson has been traded from the Nashville Predators to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for a fourth-round selection in the 2019 NHL Draft.

The Predators had considered buying out Wilson, who has two years left on a $3.94 million cap hit.

Boyle joins Devils
Depth centre Brian Boyle has signed for two years with the New Jersey Devils. His former team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, reportedly never reached out to bring him back.

Maple Leafs landing Hainsey
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports the Toronto Maple Leafs have targeted UFA defenceman Ron Hainsey. The Detroit Red Wings, who have also been eager to land a UFA D-man, are said to have Hainsey on their list as well.

A two-year, $6-million deal is coming.

The 36-year-old left shot is a dependable stay-at-home defenceman with 907 games of NHL experience. All signs indicate he will not be back with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who rented him from Carolina for their Stanley Cup run this past spring.

With Kris Letang sidelined, Hainsey raised his stock with his excellent performance as part of a patchwork D core. A solid penalty killer and shot blocker, Hainsey also chipped in with two goals and six assists in his first-ever NHL post-season.

Toronto will be losing UFA defenceman Matt Hunwick this summer. Hunwick is rumoured to be headed to Pittsburgh.

Rangers win Shattenkirk sweepstakes?
According to Kevin Weekes, the Kevin Shattenkirk sweepstakes are over — but that has been disputed by Larry Brooks:

The defenceman — a “New Yorker at heart,” according to his Twitter bio — will sign with the New York Rangers for four years at a rate of $6.9 million per season, Weekes reports.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, Buffalo Sabres, and New Jersey Devils were also said to make strong offers.

It had been rumoured that Shattenkirk was asking for seven years at a $7 million AAV, so — if Weekes’ report is true — getting his term down to four years could be seen as a win for New York.

The Rangers will remain in win-now mode as long as Henrik Lundqvist is their No. 1 goalie.

The Traveling Jagrs will need another buddy
Jaromir Jagr will not be re-signing with the Florida Panthers, according to multiple reports.

While we believe this is a smart decision for the Cats, who need to give that top-six ice time to forwards under the age of 45, Jagr can still produce and improve a power play.

The living legend scored 56 points and did not miss a single game this past season. Someone, anyone, sign him!

A bunch of the latest, hottest gossip…
• Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that centre Nick Bonino is leaning toward signing with the team he helped defeat in the Stanley Cup Final, the Nashville Predators.

• Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s extensions will not be signed today, according to Sportsnet’s John Shannon.

Canucks active in filling out roster
We can’t count the number of UFAs the Vancouver Canucks reportedly contacted in the negotiating window.

Forward Sam Gagner, defenceman Michael Del Zotto, forward Alexander Burmistrov and backup goalie Anders Nilsson are all said to be headed to the Canucks today.

Burmistrov’s previous deal carried a modest $1.55 million cap hit. The versatile forward never worked out in Winnipeg but scored 14 points in 26 games as a Coyote.

Arizona elected not to give Burmistrov a qualifying offer, so he hits UFA status earlier than expected. We’d imagine this to be a one-year, prove-it deal.

Big names on blue line getting scooped up, fast
According to multiple reports…

Karl Alzner is headed to Montreal on a five-year deal.

Dan Girardi will join the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Trevor Daley will take his Cup rings to Detroit. That deal will reportedly be for three years and $9 million total.

Maple Leafs keep their backups
The Toronto Maple Leafs signed impending free agents Curtis McElhinney and Garret Sparks to two-year contracts, locking up their second- and third-string goaltenders.

The average annual value of McElhinney’s contract is $850,000 ($850,000 in 2017-18, $850,000 in 2018-19), while the annual average value of Sparks’ NHL contract is $675,000 ($650,000 in 2017-18, $700,000 in 2018-19).

McElhinney, 34, appeared in 14 games for the Maple Leafs after being claimed on waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets. The London, Ont., native posted a 6-7-0 record alongside a 2.85 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage with Toronto.

McElhinney was set to be a UFA at noon. Sparks was going to become a restricted free agent.

The goalie carousel is nearly done spinning
Despite poking around, the Devils and Maple Leafs have both re-upped with their UFA backup goalies.

Here’s what else you can bet on:

• Jonathan Bernier will sign with Colorado, filling in for Calvin Pickard, who was scooped in the expansion draft.

• Ondrej Pavelec, who fell out of favour in Winnipeg, will take a pay cut and join the New York Rangers. The Blueshirts, you’ll recall, traded former backup Antti Raanta to Arizona at the draft. Pavelec is said to be signing a one-year deal worth about $1.3 million.

• Chad Johnson, who was dealt from Calgary to Arizona, will never wear a Coyotes sweater. He’s off to Buffalo for the big Jason Pominville reunion.

• Ryan Miller will be one heck of a backup for John Gibson in Anaheim — and also be closer to his wife, actress Noureen DeWulf.

• Brian Elliott will be the No. 1 in Philadelphia.

• The Jets, who pursued Elliott as well, are about to add Steve Mason to give Connor Hellebuyck some veteran support.

• Anders Lindback is reportedly signing with the Predators.

Radulov still a wildcard
The only thing we know for certain regarding Alexander Radulov is that he will make more money today than any other winger.

Montreal is reportedly not out of the mix just yet, but the Panthers, Stars and Golden Knights are rumoured contenders to land the Russian play-maker.

Panthers re-sign Petrovic
Florida reached terms with right-shot defenceman Alex Petrovic on a one-year, one-way contract. He was a restricted free agent.

“Alex is an important part of our young core and has taken great strides in his development over the past two seasons,” said GM Dale Tallon. “He plays the type of hockey that will help us win games and we are pleased to have agreed to terms on a deal with him.”

Hanzal, so hot right now
The Dallas Stars’ aggressive off-season continues. Days after trading for Marc Methot, Jim Nill appears to have locked up Martin Hanzal, one of the best UFA centres available today.

The Stars lost Cody Eakin in the expansion draft, so they needed to fill a hole up the middle.

Dadonov expected to fly back to Florida
KHL free agent Evgeny Dadonov, who skated on the same side as Ilya Kovalchuk and Vegas’s Vadim Shipachyov, will be added to a Florida Panthers forward group that took a hit with the departures of Reilly Smith, Jussi Jokinen and Jonathan Marchessault (and, perhaps, UFAs Jaromir Jagr and Thomas Vanek as well).

Dadonov’s deal is reportedly worth three years and $4 million.

The 28-year-old is coming off his best year as pro, scoring 66 points in 53 KHL games and helping SKA St. Petersburg to the Gagarin Cup.

Dadonov was drafted by the Panthers (71st overall) way back in 2007 but struggled to keep in the lineup. He scored 20 points in 55 games for the Panthers between 2009 and 2012.

Duchene on Predators radar?
The story that won’t go away is Matt Duchene’s seemingly imminent trade out of Colorado.

Nashville and Columbus are reportedly trying to make something work, but as of Friday night, nothing had been finalized.

ICYMI: Here is a recap of Friday’s rumour mill action…

Canucks are front-runners for Del Zotto
The Vancouver Canucks are closing in on a deal with unrestricted free agent Michael Del Zotto.

The 27-year-old offensive-minded blue-liner is being allowed to walk by the Philadelphia Flyers and coming off a $4-million cap hit.

Del Zotto is one of the few UFA defencemen under the age of 30. He skates 19:30 a night and can move the puck. Under the proper circumstances, he may still have another 40-point season in him.

*cough* Leafs *cough*

Duchene trade talks still ongoing
The Matt Duchene trade rumours won’t cease until the centreman is dealt.

Any deal with the Islanders is reportedly squashed, but Columbus, Carolina, Nashville and Montreal are actively trying to upgrade their offence down the middle.

Devils gotta be the hands-down favourite for Shattenkirk now, right?
The New York Rangers just spent $17.4 million on Brendan Smith, the Buffalo Sabres traded for Marco Scandella and the New Jersey Devils, already flush with cap space, just dumped a load of salary by buying out Cammalleri and Smith-Pelly.

All this positions Devils GM Ray Shero with $27.68 million in cap room to chase Kevin Shattenkirk, the most valuable UFA on the market.

Johansen wants to make cash registers sing in Music City
Things got prickly in Columbus three years ago when Ryan Johansen’s contract with the Blue Jackets came up, and that relationship ultimately fizzled to the point that the young No. 1 centre was traded to Nashville.

It appears Johansen’s second run at RFA status won’t be easy.

According to Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News, Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, has requested at minimum of $8.5 million per season on a long-term deal. This would make Johansen the second-highest-paid Predator, behind P.K. Subban.

A few thoughts: This is an example of the trickle-down effect Connor McDavid’s $13.25 million is having. The Preds also need to lock up RFA Viktor Arvidsson, who won’t be cheap after his breakout season. And this helps explain why David Poile let $5-million man James Neal fly to Vegas without argument.

Love this pickup for Vancouver
UFA goaltender Anders Nilsson was low-key solid as a No. 2 in Buffalo this past season and will be a nice complement to countryman Jacob Markstrom, the new starter.

Nilsson will presumably be a cheaper option than Ryan Miller, who is likely headed to the Ducks. Reporter Ben Kuzma has the Ducks offering Miller $1 million for one year.

“If he goes to Anaheim, I understand it,” Canucks GM Jim Benning told The Province. “The plan for us would be to find a younger goaltender who has some upside.”

Vegas plays the waiting game
Golden Knights GM George McPhee met with reporters Friday and said that he’s still trying to trade a defenceman.

He said teams that don’t get what they need in free agency this weekend will circle back to him to discuss a trade.

Buyouts, we have a few
Interesting note from TVA’s Renaud Lavoie that the New Jersey Devils had been trying to trade the oft-injured Mike Cammalleri for at least a year before buying the centre out Friday.

Cammalleri headlines a chunk of fresh buyouts who will now make for interesting targets when Saturday’s free agency opens: Jussi Jokinen, Lance Bouma, Jimmy Hayes, Mark Stuart, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Ryan Murphy.

The Jokinen buyout is a curious one as it falls in line with the reports (denied this week by GM Dale Tallon) that the Florida Panthers were mandated to clear $10 million in salary.

Flames aren’t done dealing
We love Brad Treliving’s aggression this off-season in solidifying his goaltending tandem and top-four defence core ahead of July 1 and keeping depth forward Kris Versteeg at a reasonable rate and term.

But the Flames might have another move or two yet. They haven’t given up on Micheal Stone, though he’d be a third-pairing guy at this point.

Coach Glen Gulutzan told Sportsnet 960 The Fan (listen in full below) they have eyes on two types of free agents: “A right shot who can play centre or take face-offs [and] a winger who can play bottom six.”

What about Justin Williams, a winger but a right shot who was 54.7 per cent in the dot this past season? Nice little championship ingredient.

Gulutzan talks new-look team with Boomer and Pinder
June 30 2017

Speaking of Mr. Game 7…
The Carolina Hurricanes are pushing hard to bring back the right winger, who is going to get paid something nice. Not many 24-goal, 48-point playoff beasts floating out there.

Hartnell up!
Now that Scott Hartnell, a recent Columbus buyout, doesn’t come attached to a bloated contract, the competitive winger is receiving interest around the league. No surprise, the veteran wants to win.

Please Laich my tweet
Now back from his voyage to Robidas Island, former Toronto Maple Leafs centre Brooks Laich, 34, is staying positive and hungry to land another NHL gig.

Friedman drops gems
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman gave his thoughts on some of the landing spots for the top UFAs Friday morning, going into detail on the compelling Joe Thornton–Patrick Marleau situation in San Jose. Take a listen:

Elliotte Friedman on possible destinations for Sharks dynamic duo
June 30 2017

Later Friday, reports surfaced that the Sharks are willing to sign Thornton and Marleau for two years instead of one.

Bruins will be busy
Boston GM Don Sweeney, who just gave himself some spending money with the Jimmy Hayes buyout, is on the hunt for a left-shot defenceman.

The Bruins were reportedly in the mix for a Scandella trade. They also missed an opportunity to land Marc Methot from Vegas. Dmitry Kulikov and Trevor Daley are the best lefties on the UFA market.

What does the Minnesota-Buffalo trade mean?
The Wild cleared cap space and now have $18.44 million to spend on UFAs and, more importantly, RFA forwards Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and Marcus Foligno. So, they’ll probably not be making a big free agency splash.

The Sabres have begun to take shape nicely under new GM Jason Botterill. There is little doubt they won’t be a considerably better team in 2017-18.

Jagr’s phone on silent
Though still training in Florida, Jaromir Jagr went public with the lack of interest he’s attracting as free agent. Read in detail here.

Where do the Blackhawks go from here?
Eddie Olczyk hopped on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Friday morning to discuss the bold moves made by GM Stan Bowman this off-season and how the multiple departures from Chicago’s roster will affect its performance in 2017-18.

A friendly reminder that the salary cap always wins in the end, and you can’t sign a useful-but-unspectacular player like Marcus Kruger for more than $3 million.

Caps & Hawks have big challenges to stay among NHL's elite
June 30 2017

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