NHL Free Agents Update – August 21, 2016

by | Aug 21, 2016 | Rumors | 28 comments

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov is among several notable unsigned RFAs.

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov is among several notable unsigned RFAs.

 Updates on the remaining notable NHL restricted and unrestricted free agents.


SPORTSNET: Following the Calgary Flames signing of restricted free agent center Sean Monahan on Thursday, Luke Fox reviewed the status of the remaining notable unsigned RFAs. Regarding Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov, Fox observes the last update from general manager Steve Yzerman on July 27 expressing confidence in getting Kucherov under contract before the start of the season. Fox wouldn’t be surprised if the winger gets a long-term extension comparable to Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and Nashville’s Filip Forsberg

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau reportedly doesn’t wish to negotiate during his participation in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. Flames GM Brad Treliving maintains the winger will be taken care of, while team president Brian Burke recently said he believed Monahan and Gaudreau would be re-signed before the World Cup.

Fox believes a short-term bridge contract makes sense for Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba. Buffalo Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said negotiations are ongoing with blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen. Sabres GM Tim Murray recently said talks were progressing with forward Zemgus Girgensons. The Anaheim Ducks have just over $9 million to re-sign rearguard Hampus Lindholm and forward Rickard Rakell.

Ottawa Senators GM PIerre Dorion admits contract talks with defenseman Cody Ceci are taking longer than expected but remains confident of getting Ceci under contract in the next few weeks. Limited salary-cap space ($3.4 million) could make the Washington Capitals hesitant to re-sign blueliner Dmitri Orlov to a long-term deal.  Fox notes Dallas Morning News columnist Mike Heika believes the Stars will re-sign winger Valeri Nichushkin to a one-year contract. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect all of these RFAs will be re-signed before the start of the season. Kucherov will get a long-term deal worth around $6 million per season. That will bite deeply into the Lightning’s remaining cap space and could bring about a salary-dumping deal before the start of the season.

I expect Gaudreau will be re-signed before the World Cup begins, likely to a seven- or eight-year deal worth between $6.5-$7 million annually. Lindholm could also get a long-term extension, perhaps a five-year, $25 million deal. That could result in the Ducks clearing some cap space by shipping out a blueliner such as Cam Fowler.

As for the rest, I wouldn’t be surprised if most end up with two- or three-year bridge contracts. 


On August 18, prior to Jimmy Vesey signing with the New York Rangers, Fox observed UFA defenseman Kris Russell has attracted some interest from the “Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and Vancouver Canucks” earlier this summer. Regarding the Leafs, they reportedly had no interest in Russell and never made him an offer.

The Canucks and New Jersey Devils were reportedly believed kicking the tires on winger Jiri Hudler. Earlier this month there was a report Hudler was close to signing a deal and the Canucks could be in the mix. There’s nothing new to report on forward Brandon Pirri, 

Defenseman James Wisniewski recently signed a professional tryout contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Devils were rumored to be linked to blueliner Kyle Quincey. Nothing new regarding a report last month claiming goalie Jhonas Enroth was close to signing with the Leafs. The Devils are taking a “wait-and-see” approach with forward Patrik Elias, who is recovering from off-season knee surgery. There’s nothing new to report on defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and forward Dominic Moore. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  Some of the clubs that lost out on Vesey could take a look at Hudler or Pirri. Russell is apparently waiting for a few teams to free up some cap space. If Elias is good to go, I expect the Devils will bring him back for one more season. Some of the players on this list could find themselves following Wisniewski’s lead and signing PTO contracts.


  1. If Russell is waiting for a few teams to free up enough cap space to take on his reported demand of in excess of $5 mil per, he’ll be drawing his old-age pension before that happens.

    • Lol, true.

  2. Russell is a 3 million dollar player- max. There is a reason his blocks so many shots. Looking at the Star’s D he and Seidenberg would certainly help that group- got to be one of the worse.

    • I think it will be between 3-3.5 also but I think it will be a nj,Toronto or oilers that take a shot at him

      • NJ needs to do something at D. That’s an ugly group they have assembled. A solid Dman in Greene & a bunch of kids with Lovejoy & NHL castoff Moore.

        Not sure he fits in Edm or Tor although if he takes peanuts like George is suggesting almost any team would take him. It’s not like Russell is a give away machine, meaning it’s not his fault he’s forced to block shots but more that of the remaining group most commonly the forwards in Calgary & Dallas.

        A return to Dallas would make sense as well as their D scares the hell out of me as well. It wasn’t great last season with Goligoski & Demers; Russell briefly, & no slight to Hamhuis he can’t make up for those 2 losses nor can dressing 3 or 4 kids with virtually no NHL experience in Johns, Lindell, Oleksiak & Nemeth. Jamie Benn is a borderline NHL Dman as well.

        If Niemi & Lehtonen felt hung out to dry last season it isn’t getting better this season. Good thing they can score as they won’t be able to stop a beach ball next season.

    • Definitely not more than 3 for Russell but I think if Dallas does sign him he may do better over a full season in Dallas after coming from such a dreadful Flames team last season.

  3. As bruin fan, I’m glad to hear Russell is waiting for a few teams to clear up cap space. Because this means he isn’t going to Boston. I keep hearing Boston needs a transitional defenseman, what is Krug, Liles, Miller and Morrow. The Bruins need an all round dman. They don’t fall off the trees very often. But if the jets can’t get Trouba on Board, he be the kind of player I be looking for.

    • I’d take him in Ottawa on a 1 year deal at $1.5 mil as a pairing in the 5/6 tandem alongside Wideman (or Chabot if he make the team out of camp). Borowiecki would start the season in the AHL.

    • Trouba would cost a lot and the Jets would want a dman in return so I’m sure Krug would be going the other way

    • What do you think about a team possibly targeting Orlov as an RFA? He scored 8 goals & 29 points last season barely playing, TOI/GP was 16:01 & barely saw PP TOI/GP 0:31. Boston can’t bid as they don’t have their 2nd or 3rd but numerous other teams could.

      Just turned 25 with slightly over 201 NHL regular season games. Would have another season under his belt if not for a serious injury that cost him games over 2 seasons.

      Washington has 3.5 in cap space & needs to sign 2 players; Orlov & a depth Dman, still to flush out their roster.

      It’s a risky proposition but he appears to be right on the cusp of becoming a solid top 4 Dman in the next 2 years, but that road is blocked currently in Washington for him. A similar scenario as to when SJ tried to scoop Hjalmarsson out of Chicago as an RFA several years ago. July 2010 SJ offers 4 years at 14 mil.

      Would it be worth offering Orlov say 4 years at 4 to 4.5? Compensation would be a 1st & 3rd. The offer would put Washington in a tough spot if they matched. The question is does Orlov have more upside?

      • I am not a fan of offer sheets. You almost always have to overpay to make it work, and when is overpaying for anyone smart?

      • For me it depends on the compensation paid. Even at 4 to 4.5 that’s more than Orlov is currently worth but considering the compensation it might justify the cost. The 1st has value the 3rd is a crap shoot. No development costs what so ever.

        Not saying I would but curious to see what others think. What if Orlov has say top 3 abilities or even top 4 that’s reasonable money & term. What’s the top end upside? What if he continue’s to blossom & pushes top 2 range?

      • Hi Striker. I’m a caps fan and I can tell you Orlov has a high seiling. Before he went down and lost a season+ he really started to impress. He forced the offence and played solid more often than not in his own end. I think he atleast is a strong candidate to look at him as a really strong second pairing with great offensive upside in a couple of years.

      • In the spirit of Orlov and caps might lose him, they would lose him due to the signing of Marcus Johansson getting a raise that he did not deserve. Now that would be really bad!

      • Adoe.

        I agree. I picked Orlov as based on my formula/projections if given the right opportunity; quantity & quality of minutes he would shock people.

        He may not be all that much different than a Maatta, Trouba, Ceci, etc but could be had a for a steal; compared to the cost of those Dman, today potentially for a smart GM willing to role the dice. A 1st & 3rd at 4 to 4.5 mil per would be nothing for a Dman that can log solid minutes on a 1st or 2nd pairing & if Washington chooses to match, you just cost them another player as they will be over the cap & have to expend someone.

        Seems smart to me.

      • Striker;
        I would say you’re right on all points. Given a better opportunity, not playing behind Orpik, Carlsson, Alzner and Niskanen – and getting some PP time he would have some fancy stats. He has shown with his limited time that he really can make a diffrence, he might turn out to be a steal for $4m. The PP time he got last year was runaway victories with Wilson, Beagle and Chimera type of unit, and when first unit had flunked for a period – so the PP time was not quality PP with Ovi, Backstrom and Oshie.

  4. I think a lot of what’s left on the ufa market will be looking at pto contracts.

    I’d roll the dice on Pirri and Russel. After that, there’s really not much out there. Depth players and guys looking at the khl or retirement.

    • There are still several players that would interest me on short term deals, 1 year, 2 years max for certain 1’s. Hudler, Quincey, Russell, Tanguay, Wisnewski; A player on a PTO I believe can be signed by another team at any time to an NHL contract, Jones, Seidenberg, Fontaine, Boyes, Pirri, Gaustad, Moore, etc. Essentially depth players for the most part but all still capable of performing specific roles in the NHL.

      Hudler is the best forward for me, Wisnewski the best Dman.

      • Of that list I like Wiz, Tanguay, Hudler, Pirri and Moore. I certainly am not offering anything more than 1 year on any one of them. I was actually hoping NY would bring Moore back, but that looks doubtful at this point.

      • Yes with 14 forwards currently shown on Capfriendly not including Buchnevich & the only 1 not required to clear wavers being Vesey, then 1 of Glass, Gerbe or Jooris looks to need to be waived.

        Although with Linberg slated to potentially miss a month of the regular season NYR can juggle with out having to waive anyone potentially.

        I can honestly say I have no clue on LTIR rules at present. I thought I had a handle on it but clueless presently.

      • I think Jooris, Clendening, and Gerbe won’t make it. AV loves Glass. They can’t send Mcilrath down and they won’t carry 8 d-men. I think Clendening has to go down to make room for Skjei.

      • The vast majority of teams carry 13F, 8D & 2 G.

        With Lindberg not fit to start the season no 1 has to be waved & depending upon LTIR rules, NYR may or may not have to play the 1 day roster juggle so as not to have to expose anyone & maximize LTIR monies. Vesey gets sent down the day before the season starts when NYR submits it’s 23 man roster. The next day Lindberg is put on LTIR meaning he has to miss at least 10 games & Vesey is called back up for opening night.

        Should another injury not hit before Lindberg has to be activated the most likely player to be waived is Gerbe or Jooris in that order. Had NYR known they might land Vesey I don’t think Gerbe would have been signed.

        NYR didn’t sign Grabner to 2 years at 1.65 to send him down or waive him. He was brought in to play on the #1 PK unit. He has world class PK skills. That speed plays well to the PK.

        Glass played 57 games last season & really didn’t miss any of those due to injury. Yes Vigneault likes his style but in today’s NHL these types of players are seeing less & less playing time, as other than hitting Glass provides little else & if they can’t play a reliable role defensively taking a regular shift is unlikely. Glass barely played 10 mins a game of TOI/GP. He will be dressed when injures dictate or Vigneault wants his hitting.

        NYR’s roster appears set. I have them with 14 forwards but Lindberg injured & destined for LTIR, 8D & 2 G. McIlrath will rotate in & out as injuries warrant & spell off Skjei on occasion when Vigneault wants more toughness. Clendening will be lucky to play baring injures. Nothing more than a depth player at this point but needs to clear waivers & I don’t see NYR doing that unless pushed to do so.

        NYR did only carry 7 last season & got through the year only dressing 9 in total. The D stayed healthy or was able to play injured for the majority of the season.

      • Skjei can play both sides, but is more comfortable on the left. I seriously doubt Mcilrath who only plays the right side is his replacement. He’ll more than likely be rest for Girardi. Yes Glass only played 50+ games, but he was sent down early in the season and kept a regular spot upon being called back up. I don’t know why AV loves the guy , but he does.

        NY isn’t the vast majority. They haven’t carried 8 d-men in recent or distant history. They won’t this year either. But please continue to take blind stabs in the dark! Lol I kid I kid!

  5. Sharks need to sign somebody like Hudler or Tanguay & they’ll probably call up a goalie to put with Jones since they lost Reimer. They haven’t signed anybody yet so they might just call somebody up.

    • SJ’s roster appears set. They signed Boedker as a UFA & if they do anything at forward when injuries hit it will be to promote Meier; he may steal a spot regardless, or Goldobin.

      Hertl, Thornton, Pavelski.
      Donskoi, Couture, Boedker.
      Nieto, Marleau, Ward.
      Karlsson, Tierny, Desjardins.

      Move winger around anyway you like but Marleau appears destined for the #3 C spot this season due to Donskoi bumping him off Couture’s line.

      I could see Meier stepping straight into the NHL replacing Nieto at #3 LW pushing Desjardins to spare & Karlsson to RW on the 4th line, or Marleau stays at LW but plays on the 3rd line, Tierny plays as the #3 C with Ward at RW & the 4th becomes Nieto, Desjardins & Karlsson if SJ doesn’t feel Meier is ready.

      SJ has a ton of players that can play any forward position numerous who are C’s being forced to the wing.

      Regardless they don’t need another forward they have numerous knocking on the door when injures hit.

  6. The TOR situation still hinges a little on the Jared Cowen buy-out status. Anybody they’d want to sign now has to look at a low-end offer unless the Cowen buy-out is allowed (finally). Lou won’t spend all of his limited cap room right now if he feels he can get a bargain later. And with just 2 or 3 contract spots open, and the potential for some draft pick to shine enough to earn a pro-contract, I’d say the leafs are in no hurry just yet.
    With waivers coming next month and teams possibly willing to pay a little to remove an extra contract, it is wiser to wait.

    • & Horton & Robidas when put on LTIR.

  7. In Ottawa’s case, although Dorion has said openly that he’d like to add a veteran D, as long as Ceci holds off signing his hands are tied. I’m pretty sure he’d like to get Ceci signed on an affordable bridge deal first so he knows how much he can “afford” to spend of Melnyk’s money. Should Ceci get that 6-year deal he’s apparently seeking, then for Sens fans it’s “what you see is what you get” meaning a 5/6 tandem of Borowiecki-Wideman. Even at 8-10 minuted a game, that’s over 10 hours of ice-time over an 82-game schedule. Gulp.