NHL Rumor Mill – August 7, 2021
A look at the best players still available in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE SCORE: listed the best available UFAs still available.
The notable goaltenders include Tuukka Rask, wingers Kyle Palmieri, Nikita Gusev, centers Casey Cizikas, Travis Zajac, Ryan Donato and Alex Galchenyuk, and defensemen Jason Demers, Sami Vatanen and Zdeno Chara.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox took a more in-depth look at the top-10 UFA still on the market.
Rask’s future depends on his recovery from offseason hip surgery. If he does return, he’s indicated it’ll only be with the Boston Bruins. In his absence, the Bruins will start the season with Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman as their goalie tandem.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The writing appears on the wall with Ullmark signing a four-year, $20 million contract with the Bruins. If Rask is ready to return later this season, they could go with him and Ullmark as their tandem and demote Swayman as he’s waiver-exempt this season.
Palmieri, Cizikas and Zajac are believed to have handshake agreements with the New York Islanders but those agreements haven’t been officially announced yet. There’s also talk they’ve signed winger Zach Parise, who was bought out last month by the Minnesota Wild.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Consensus among most pundits is Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello has most or all of those aforementioned players under contract. It’s believed those deals haven’t been officially announced because he doesn’t want his rival GMs to know how much salary-cap space he actually has left.
That’s fueled speculation the Isles GM is working on a trade. It could be for a winger like St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko or a left-side, top-four defenseman to replace Nick Leddy, who was traded to Detroit last month.
Chara is spending the offseason in his native Slovakia with his family. His agent said his client is working out hard and keeping all his options open. During his season-ending Zoom call, however, the big defenseman seemed uncertain about returning for a 24th NHL season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chara had a decent season with the Washington Capitals but it was obvious the 44-year-old blueliner was slowing down. If he does return it would be on an affordable one-year deal and in a third-pairing role.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think there’s a fit for Galchenyuk with either club. Both have limited cap space and have already invested in other low-cost options.