With still approximately 48 hours before the July 1 fireworks on Saturday, players and teams are already negotiating. Some restricted free agents have already re-signed.
That includes Keith Kinkaid, who reached a two-year agreement worth a reported $1.25 million cap hit to stay with the Devils as the backup goalie. So, scratch him off the backup goalie market. There are still plenty of options including Anders Nilsson, Jonathan Bernier, Darcy Kuemper, Chad Johnson, Antti Niemi. Vets Ryan Miller and Steve Mason probably will look for places with starter opportunities.
The Flyers re-signed forward Jordan Weal to a multi-year contract. It’s worth $3.5 million over two years which averages out to $1.75 million. A nice deal for the 25-year old who scored eight goals and added four assists in 23 games for the Flyers.
As far as some of the rumors circulating, former Blueshirt Dan Girardi could be landing in Tampa with the Lightning. According to Elliotte Friedman, they’re close. Considering that close friend Ryan Callahan is still there along with former teammate Anton Stralman, it makes sense. The Bolts weren’t exactly a lockdown team defensively. After the cohesive top pair of Victor Hedman and Stralman, it thins out with vet Braydon Coburn and Andrej Sustr. So there is room for a experienced right D who can do the nuts and bolts. As long as coach Jon Cooper does a better job managing Girardi’s minutes, it could work.
The biggest news is the much talked about new mega deal for Hart/Lindsay winner Connor McDavid. He would get over $13 million on average over eight seasons starting in 2018-19 once his rookie contract expires. Here is more on the big move that would lock up the game’s brightest young star until he’s 29.
The idea is to avoid a shorter term where McDavid would command even more if he agreed to a five-year extension. Basically, he’s saving the Oilers money by agreeing to eight years even at the reported $13.25 million average per season. Obviously, he’s well worth it. Already a Art Ross and Hart winner, the sky’s the limit for the 30-goal, 100-point scorer in only Year 2.
With Edmonton tied into contracts with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic long with the top four D of Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera and Kris Russell, the question becomes what will they pay key restricted center Leon Draisaitl. The gifted 21-year old German set career highs in goals (29), assists (48), points (77), 10 power play goals and 17 power play assists. He had a terrific playoffs leading Edmonton with 16 points (6-10-16).
In subtracting $3 million by swapping Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome, the Oilers free up space for Draisaitl. How much are they willing to go for an elite talent who along with Bruins’ breakout star David Pastrnak could attract offer sheets from interested suitors?
If I’m Rangers GM Jeff Gorton, I definitely explore offer sheeting Draisaitl. He is definitely a player with 30-goal and 80-point potential. Don’t forget who he plays with in Edmonton. If he stays as is expected, he could team along with McDavid to give the Oilers two 100-point scorers in a low scoring league. Yikes.
The Bruins have a budding power forward in Pastrnak who should only improve upon his 34-36-70 in ’16-17. Think they wish they didn’t go big on David Backes or even oft-injured center David Krejci?
If you have room to spend for a young talented forward, why wouldn’t you consider it? I’m sure other teams like the Devils would have interest if it can speed up the rebuilding process.
As far as Kevin Shattenkirk goes, reliable TSN sources have reported that he might not be a fit for the Rangers after they brought back Brendan Smith. I am not opposed to that because I think giving him a long-term deal is a waste. While Shattenkirk would help the Rangers fill a void on the back end as that top right pair D who can play the power play and contribute offensively, he can’t solve the lack of a top scoring center who can make a huge difference. The Sabres have expressed interest. For a younger team like them, it makes sense. My prediction is seven years for an average of $6.5 million per season. That would translate to $45.5 million over seven.
The roster as constituted isn’t a viable championship contender. They did the best they could with the now broken up core that included Girardi and Derek Stepan. To be honest, the ’13-14 roster had a lot better depth including Stralman paired with a then prime Marc Staal on the second pair while a younger Girardi paired well with Ryan McDonagh. Plus there were key checkers Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore who combined on the game-winner in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final over the Canadiens.
Don’t forget the cohesive third line centered by Derick Brassard with recently bought out former Oiler Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello. You had Cup proven winners Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis along with speed demon Carl Hagelin. In a nutshell, the Rangers lost a lot of talent since then. Even though they came within a period of a second straight Cup Final appearance before falling to Tampa, the team had already changed.
With it now being built around Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, constant Zuccarello and youngsters Pavel Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey, so much has changed. This is a different group minus Stepan and Girardi. While it’s the right time for a quick rebuild, I wonder how long it’ll take for the new group to gel.
McDonagh and Henrik Lundqvist remain. The clock ticking on Lundqvist’s window with the franchise goalie now 35 and coming off a inconsistent season. While he was much better in the postseason, he was culpable in the second round loss to Ottawa. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s got one more run left in him. That’s assuming the Rangers make the playoffs. They aren’t a lock.
With Brady Skjei the future D anchor and a blueline that still includes Staal, McDonagh and Smith, the Blueshirts are looking for someone to step forward. It could be one of Alexei Bereglazov, Ryan Graves, Sean Day or Neal Pionk. They need recently acquired Jersey native Anthony DeAngelo to fulfill expectations. As for Nick Holden, it’s hard to figure out what happened to him. Was it just playing with Staal? He’s not good defensively but had a solid offensive season. Most Garden Faithful don’t want to see him. But paired with the right guy, he could do better. We’ll see.
There’s also Rick Nash entering his final year. He probably will play with Zibanejad. He’s still a great skater with two-way ability who is good for 20-25 goals if healthy. Ideally, I would like to see him not play as much on the penalty kill and be properly utilized on the power play. Hint: Not in front. But as a trigger.
Although they lost Oscar Lindberg to Las Vegas, at least Michael Grabner was retained along with Jesper Fast. There’s a hole at center with Stepan and Lindberg gone. I’m not too keen on signing Joe Thornton and think he’ll stay with San Jose along with Patrick Marleau. Patrick Sharp has drawn lots of interest with as many as nine teams calling. But what is the cost for the proven right center who’s coming off a injury riddled season? Nick Bonino would make the most sense given his hockey acumen as a proven third line center who can play in every situation. But not if it becomes a bidding war.
With one last final June summer day in the city that never sleeps, puckers are counting down to 12 high noon on Saturday. Get yer popcorn ready!