Top five UFA centres: Canadiens' Danault to be popular target

Montreal Canadiens' Phillip Danault skates prior to an NHL hockey game. (Graham Hughes/CP)

There aren’t any top-line centres set to hit the open market and join a new team, which is similar to last off-season.

There are, however, plenty of middle-six and depth centres for teams to sign when free agency officially opens on July 28.

Here are five notable centres ready to hit the open market.

Phillip Danault
The 28-year-old is coming off a three-year, $9.25-million contract with the Montreal Canadiens and should be in line for a relatively substantial raise from his $3.083-million 2020-21 salary cap hit.

Sportsnet’s Eric Engels recently reported it’s “highly unlikely” Danault will agree to a new deal with the team that acquired him from Chicago back in 2016 but Montreal GM Marc Bergevin said Thursday: “Until an agreement is signed with us or with somebody else, there’s hope that he’s back, but it’s too early to tell at this point.”

Danault, who has finished top-seven in Selke Trophy voting in each of the past three seasons, has a relatively low ceiling for offensive output yet would be an ideal third-line centre on a contending team.

Ryan Getzlaf
It appeared as though the only reason the Anaheim Ducks captain didn’t re-sign with the team that drafted him prior to last week’s Seattle Kraken expansion draft was to allow the team to protect an additional body.

Something has changed and now it sounds like Getzlaf is looking forward to exploring his options.

The 36-year-old only had five goals and 12 assists in 48 games in 2020-21 for his lowest point total since debuting in 2005-06. Getlzaf is 18 points away from reaching 1,000 for his career. The Boston Bruins are reportedly among the interested parties.

David Krejci
The lifetime member of the Boston Bruins might’ve played his final game with the franchise that selected him in the second round of the 2004 NHL Draft. In fact, the 35-year-old has contemplated returning to his native Czech Republic for personal reasons and his NHL future is up in the air.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney told reporters Thursday he has been in touch with Krejci but that nothing has been decided and he is “going to respect all of his privacy and decisions at this point in time…and there’s no timeline to make decisions.”

If Krejci does return, be it in Boston or with a new team, he remains a productive centre who’s great in the faceoff circle and a proven playoff performer that posted a career-best 61.4 Corsi For percentage in 2020-21.

Mikael Granlund
Granlund had 13 goals and 27 points in 51 games this past season while on a one-year, $3.75-million deal with the Nashville Predators. He should be a target for any team seeking some depth scoring and footspeed – that is, unless he ends up staying in Tennessee. He’s only 29 and at times in 2020-21 was Nashville’s best forward. Preds GM David Poile told reporters at a media availability he has had “some conversations” with both Granlund and fellow pending UFA Erik Haula.

“Nothing has been done there,” Poile said. “I think we’re going to be heading into next week just to see where we are, where they are, what other opportunities they have, what other opportunities we have. I think that’s about where we are.”

Alexander Wennberg
Wennberg notched a career-high 17 goals in a shortened season with the Florida Panthers after having the remainder of his previous contract bought out by the Columbus Blue Jackets. His possession metrics have declined in four years running and he is subpar when it comes to faceoffs, yet he’ll only be 27 at the start of next season and has a higher upside than most of the available centres. It would make sense for him to re-sign in South Florida although he would garner interest on the open market.

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