San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson locked up one major pending UFA in Erik Karlsson but has a lot more difficult maneuvering ahead if he’s to survive free agency with the Sharks (mostly) in tact and under the cap.
The closer we get to July 1, the more it feels like we could be nearing the end of an era between Joe Pavelski and the Sharks. The veteran centreman has spent all 13 of his NHL seasons in a teal sweater, with the captain’s C stitched on for the past four.
As of Sunday, pending UFAs are free to meet with teams, which means plenty of fresh rumours and reports as we near July 1. We’ll start with the latest on Pavelski.
Little Joe visits The Big D
As Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman indicated in his latest edition of 31 Thoughts, the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks are the top teams to watch should Joe Pavelski leave San Jose. And while Colorado could make sense considering all the cap space they’ve got, term could be an issue there.
[blockquote]Pavelski declined visits in a couple of places where he thought the teams weren’t close enough to winning. All eyes are on Dallas and Tampa Bay, although Chicago may try to convince him to visit. The Stars are determined to add scorers.[cite]Elliotte Friedman, 31 Thoughts[/cite][/blockquote]
Per reports, Pavelski met with Dallas brass on Wednesday followed by a trip to Tampa Bay.
Pavelski’s age won’t do him many favours when it comes to landing term on his next deal — he’ll be 35 on July 11 — but his stats certainly earn him plenty of bargaining power. He led the Sharks in goals in 2018-19 with 38 — that’s tied for the second-highest goal total of his career — and finished with 64 points in 75 games for his eighth season with 60-plus points. He’s coming off a five-year pact paying $6 million a year, and there’s no reason to believe he’d take a pay cut, especially considering his next contract is likely to be a shorter one.
The Sharks have just shy of $15 million in cap space with several notable names needing new deals — among them Kevin Labanc (RFA), Timo Meier (RFA), Joonas Donskoi (UFA), and Joe Thornton (UFA).
Of course, Pavelski might just find the best negotiations take place at home. You can never count Wilson out.
“I don’t think anybody should rush to conclusions on anything,” Wilson said via The Associated Press on Thursday. “There’s many ways to accomplish different things. My history over the years, you explore everything.”
Head coach Pete DeBoer said he’s remaining optimistic:
“He’s our captain. He’s our leader. He’s a really hard guy to replace, borderline irreplaceable,” DeBoer told NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti last week. “So I’m hopeful. I don’t play a role in that. There’s a lot of different things that go into those decisions both for him and the team, but I’m hopeful and I think he wants to be back, so that gives me optimism.”
Duchene meets with Montreal
The Nashville Predators have long been considered the front-runner to sign UFA centre Matt Duchene — and, by all accounts, it still sounds like it could be a great match for both sides, with Duchene visiting Nashville on Thursday.
A meeting with the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday added some more intrigue to Duchene’s UFA options:
In addition to Duchene, Keith Kinkaid also met with the Canadiens. The backup goalie had spent his entire NHL career with the New Jersey Devils prior to being dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline. Antti Niemi was the Canadiens’ backup in 2018-19 but the veteran signed overseas earlier this month.
Luongo’s departure leaves Panthers with a job opening
Sergei Bobrovsky and the Florida Panthers have felt like a perfect match since we first started looking into the upcoming UFA class. Now in the aftermath of Roberto Luongo‘s retirement announcement on Wednesday, there’s officially a vacancy in the Panthers’ blue paint.
Bobrovsky was in Florida earlier this week, expected to meet with the Panthers, before departing for New York City.
The New York Rangers are positioned for a big off-season, but it’s the Islanders that might turn out to be the most intriguing. GM Lou Lamoriello hasn’t signed starting netminder Robin Lehner to an extension after his incredible comeback season — The Athletic’s Arthur Staple says the two sides are far from agreeing to terms. Lamoriello’s got more than $20 million in cap space to work with (it remains unclear if some of that might still be going to Anders Lee) and might just make a splash with a pair of former Blue Jackets…
Bobrovsky and Panarin a package deal?
You can’t mention Bobrovsky without also talking about Artemi Panarin. The Russians have a strong friendship, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them both land on the same team once again, considering the markets they’re targeting.
It has long been reported that Panarin’s free agency interests are set on The Sunshine State — his old coach, Joel Quenneville, is there and the lack of income tax helps, too. Panthers GM Dale Tallon certainly sounds hopeful:
But he’s also been linked to The Big Apple, having expressed his desire to play in a big city. Staple is reporting that a play for Bobrovsky would “almost certainly” also include trying to lock up Panarin, too. Now that could be fun.
Talbot wants another shot
The Philadelphia Flyers’ goaltender situation got a little clearer on Wednesday when they signed veteran Brian Elliott to a one-year extension. Unfortunately for Cam Talbot, that might mean another move. The 31-year-old started just four games for the Flyers last season after being traded to Philly in February and wants a shot at getting back to being a No. 1.
Another quick note on a netminder:
Hall starting to weigh options?
Taylor Hall still has one more year on his contract and can sign an extension on July 1. He’s got plenty to weigh before then, and it sounds like this will be an intriguing case to watch.