A short list of meaningful remaining UFAs and some summer storylines to follow in your NHL rumor mill.
NOTABLE NHL UFAs STILL AVAILABLE
ESPN.COM: Tal Pinchevsky named center Sam Gagner, defenseman James Wisniewski, right wing Jiri Hudler, right wing Kris Versteeg, center Brad Richards and defensemen Luke Schenn to his short list of meaningful NHL unrestricted free agents still available this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: They’re also on my list (published July 3) of the best players still available at every position. Of the 20 players on this list, only three (Shane Doan, Justin Schultz and Chris Kelly) have been signed to new contracts, with Doan and Schultz re-signing with the Arizona Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins respectively. As I recently observed, the leverage for those players has shifted to the general managers. Most on that list will likely end up signing short-term deals for much less than they likely expected when free agency began over two weeks ago.
SUMMER STORYLINES TO FOLLOW
SI.COM: Allan Muir recently listed the contract negotiations of San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns among his notable storylines to follow this summer. Tyson Barrie’s situation with the Colorado Avalanche, the Anaheim Ducks glut of defensemen and where top pending UFA prospect Jimmy Vesey will sign on August 15 are also on his Muir’s list.
Given Burns’ age (he’ll turn 32 in March), Muir speculates the Sharks could try to offer up a five-year deal worth $7.5 million per season, while Burns could push for a similar average annual salary but for a longer term.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars and Sharks can afford to take their time re-signing these two, but they’ll likely try to get those contracts done before the start of 2016-17. Last thing they want is to have the uncertainty over their futures hanging over them as Stamkos’ did with the Lightning throughout last season. I can see Benn inking an eight-year deal worth between $9.5 – $10 million annually, while Burns could get five or six years at around $7.5 million per season.
The Avs will likely try to avoid going through arbitration with Barrie. If they can’t reach a suitable agreement before his July 29 hearing, he could be on the move. Muir suggests the Edmonton Oilers and Boston Bruins could get into the bidding.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barrie’s status will likely become the subject of growing interest over the next two weeks. You can bet clubs like the Oilers and Bruins will be monitoring the situation.
With nine defensemen under contract, the Anaheim Ducks will have to move one of them. Cam Fowler is considered the likely candidate. Boston and Edmonton could be interested, but the Buffalo Sabres could be the favorite, with Muir suggesting the Sabres could dangle winger Evander Kane.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sabres GM Tim Murray would love to land Fowler and would undoubtedly be happy if a Kane-for-Fowler swap was possible. However, given Kane’s offseason brushes with the law, I doubt the Ducks are that interested. Yes, they want a scoring left winger, but I doubt they’ll want one with the baggage of Kane.
Muir suggests Toronto (where his father is a scout), Boston (where he played his college hockey), Buffalo (where his friend Jack Eichel plays), Chicago and Dallas could be on his short list. Toronto and Boston could be the front-runners.