Less than 24 hours until Signing Season™ kicks off for really real, and the rumours, they are a-flying.
Here are the latest updates on Matt Duchene, Michael Del Zotto, Shane Doan, Jaromir Jagr, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Ryan Johansen, Justin Williams, Kevin Shattenkirk, and much more.
Let’s get right to it.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Everywhere I look,I read:all FA getting calls from10-12teams. Me0 calls.On the contrary,I'm trying to call them,and no ones picking up.
— Jaromir Jagr (@68Jagr) June 29, 2017
FA 1994- all GMs called , FA 2017- 0 calls pic.twitter.com/7uLJm95CAB
— Jaromir Jagr (@68Jagr) June 29, 2017
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.
Holes? What holes?
Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka told local reporters he doesn’t see any glaring holes in his team’s roster.
With division rivals L.A., Calgary, Edmonton, Anaheim and San Jose all taking steps to contend this season, we’d argue that there are still just a few holes to fill.
Leafs should go for it sooner than later
Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek argued Friday on The Jeff Blair Show that the Maple Leafs are in win-now mode and thus should be aggressive in free agency. Take a listen:
Doan entertains four suitors
Unlike fellow living legends Jagr and Jarome Iginla, we know for certain that someone out there is interested in signing Shane Doan.
Doan’s agent tells Craig Morgan that four teams have reached out to the 40-year-old right wing. Doan had just six goals and 27 points this past season but vows he’s not done yet and is eager to prove his critics wrong.
We like the Vegas Golden Knights as a fit here.
Odds and sods
A bunch of more gossip ahead of the big day…