Free Agents can start talks tomorrow


With the Draft finally complete, attention will turn to free agency. Starting tomorrow, free agents can begin discussions with teams. TSN insider Bob McKenzie confirmed it with this unsurprising tweet.

Everyone knows the Panthers would like to sign soon to be former Blue Jackets Russian pair Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin. Even with Florida taking top goalie prospect Spencer Knight in the first round last night, young netminders take time to develop. If proud veteran Roberto Luongo retires, that opens up the starter position for Bobrovsky.

As for Panarin, it’s anyone’s guess where he winds up. There’s sure to be a lot of interest in the electrifying playmaking Russian forward with four NHL seasons under his belt. It’s not etched in stone he will sign in Florida.

There’s also this. The Islanders could be losing another captain. They have until tonight to get something done with Anders Lee. If not, he could be gone.

Lee turns 29 on July 3. He’s scored 25 goals or better in four seasons including a career high 40 with 14 power play goals during ’17-18. That also was the same year he had a career best of 62 points.

This past season, his role was different due to losing primary center John Tavares. The Isles captain still produced 28 goals and 10 PPG’s to pace the team. He also set a career high with a plus-20 rating. In all 82 games, he totaled 51 points (28-23-51) to rank fourth in team scoring. His postseason wasn’t the best winding up with just one goal and three helpers in eight games.

As Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello indicated, he wants to re-sign Lee along with Robin Lehner, who will get a nice raise following his special year. Having already re-signed Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle, the Isles would like to retain the core that got them back to the playoffs under coach Barry Trotz. If not, maybe they’ll be in on Panarin or Leafs Group II free agent Mitch Marner. Toronto dumped salary by getting rid of vet Patrick Marleau earlier today to Carolina by including a conditional first round pick. The Canes plan to buyout Marleau making him free for a possible reunion in San Jose.

The Hurricanes are shopping defenseman Justin Faulk. He has a year remaining with a $4.833 million cap hit. There is talk he could be swapped for a forward. Carolina would like to re-sign veteran captain Justin Williams. Micheal Ferland is expected to draw interest and leave. He would be a good fit on a young team like the Sabres, who also could have interest in veteran Wayne Simmonds.

Rasmus Ristolainen is available from Buffalo. An offensive defenseman who plays the right side, he’s struggled defensively. His contract has three years left through 2022 with an AAV of $5.4 million. The Lightning did have interest, but need to sign restricted free agent Brayden Point to a long-term contract. They cleared room by dealing former Ranger JT Miller to the Canucks for goalie Marek Mazanec, a 2019 third round pick and a 2020 conditional first. Somehow, the Lightning did it again. No disrespect to Miller, who’s a solid 50-point player. But he’s not worth a first.

The Devils swapped John Quenneville to the Blackhawks for John Hayden. They also traded down in the Draft today. They were all over the place this weekend thanks to Jack Hughes and big acquisition PK Subban. We’ll see if those upgrades convince Taylor Hall to stay by signing an extension.

There will be plenty more happening this week due to Marner, Point and Matthew Tkachuk. All RFA’s. Plus the UFA’s. It’ll be interesting to keep track of.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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