An updated list of the best remaining UFAs plus the latest Rangers and Islanders speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
UPDATED UFA LIST
THE SCORE: updated their listing of the best available unrestricted free agents by position. That includes Jake Gardiner, Joe Thornton, Justin Williams, Cam Ward, and Thomas Vanek. Other notables include Patrick Marleau, Pat Maroon, Derick Brassard, Jason Pominville, and Niklas Kronwall.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of those on his list, only Gardiner can be considered still in his playing prime. The rest are all past their best-before date. Many observers are surprised Gardiner remains available. Some suggest he was hoping to be signed by the Leafs but that doesn’t seem possible with Mitch Marner due for a big raise. Last season’s back injury could also be dampening his UFA value.
It’s expected Thornton will be back for one more season with the Sharks. Their recent re-signing of Kevin Labanc to a one-year, $1-million deal prompted speculation this could also allow them to bring back Marleau for a last hurrah.
Maroon would love to stay in St. Louis but the Blues are said to be offering a one-year deal and he wants a multi-year contract. Williams is said to be mulling retirement. If he does decide to play it’ll only be with the Hurricanes.
Some Quebec pundits suggest the Montreal Canadiens should sign a Quebecker like Pominville or Brassard. It remains to be seen if the Habs intend to take that advice.
LATEST RANGERS AND ISLANDERS SPECULATION
NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis believes Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton still has to figure out how he’ll shed some salary to make room for restricted free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba. That includes deciding the future of winger Chris Kreider, who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. “Also on the trade block would be restricted free agent Pavel Buchnevich, as well as Vladislav Namestnikov.”
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples noted Cyrgalis’ report that Buchnevich could be on the trade block and wonders if the Edmonton Oilers should look at him. Staples feels Buchnevich could fill a need for the Oilers. He also noted a rumor suggesting the possibility of the Oilers acquiring Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett. He also pondered the notion of the Oilers using unhappy winger Jesse Puljujarvi in a deal for Buchnevich, Bennett, or another forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Buchnevich was considered part of the Rangers’ youth movement. Their recent, expensive signing of Artemi Panarin and their need to re-sign Trouba could make the 24-year-old winger expendable. He had 43 points in 2017-18 and tallied 21 goals and 38 points in 64 games last season. He’s filed for arbitration, which could also determine his future in New York. The Rangers probably prefer moving Namestnikov and his $4-million cap hit for 2019-20 but Buchnevich would probably attract more interest.
As for the Oilers landing Bennett, I don’t think the Flames want to move him. But if they do, it’ll likely be anywhere other than up the road to their biggest rival.
Cyrgalis also believes defenseman Nick Leddy remains the New York Islanders’ “best possible trade piece.” He feels the 28-year-old blueliner’s contract ($5.5 million annually through 2021-22) would be attractive in the trade market. However, Leddy isn’t likely to fetch a return that turns the Isles into a contender.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leddy was linked to the Canadiens last month. So far, however, there’s no indication they’re interested in acquiring him. Indeed, things have gone quiet on the Leddy trade rumors since late June.