NHL Rumor Mill – March 18, 2023
A look at some of this summer’s notable unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently examined where things stand with this summer’s top notable NHL unrestricted free agents. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting ones:
Patrick Kane, New York Rangers: He’ll have to take a significant pay cut if he wants to remain with the Rangers beyond this season. New York general manager Chris Drury would also have to make some hard decisions regarding restricted free agents such as K’Andre Miller, Filip Chytil and Alexis Lafreniere.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Rangers with $16.8 million in cap space with 13 roster players under contract for 2023-24. In addition to re-signing those key RFAs, the Blueshirts must re-sign or replace backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak. I don’t see Kane on Broadway beyond this season unless Drury parts ways with Chytil and Lafreniere or makes a significant cost-cutting trade elsewhere.
Ryan O’Reilly, Toronto Maple Leafs: O’Reilly may be the most coveted center in this summer’s UFA market. He’s quickly fit in with the Maple Leafs but his former club, the St. Louis Blues, hasn’t ruled out bringing him back this summer.
Fox speculates O’Reilly could point to Nazem Kadri’s $7 million average annual value with the Calgary Flames as a comparable. He wondered if the 32-year-old center would take a little less to stay in Toronto.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: O’Reilly earned $7.5 million annually on his current contract. The Leafs have $9 million in cap space for next season with 14 roster players under contract but they could get another $5.6 million in wiggle room if Jake Muzzin remains on long-term injury reserve.
That might leave enough to re-sign O’Reilly if he’s willing to accept $5 million annually. However, he might not get that opportunity if the Leafs make another first-round playoff exit.
Vladimir Tarasenko, New York Rangers: Given the Rangers’ cap limitations and the RFAs to be re-signed, Fox believes Tarasenko will be hitting the open market on July 1. He anticipates the 31-year-old winger will be among this summer’s most-pursued UFAs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No argument here.
Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild: Dumba understands that his tenure with the cap-strapped Minnesota Wild is coming to an end. He was frequently subject to trade rumors with Edmonton, Vancouver and Ottawa kicking tires. However, Wild GM Bill Guerin refused to move Dumba unless he got a comparable return.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dumba is completing a five-year, $30 million contract. The decline in his performance will affect his free-agent value. He’ll land with another NHL team but I’ll be surprised if he gets a similar contract this summer.
Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, Boston Bruins: Some sources close to the Bruins wouldn’t be surprised if Bergeron and Krejci returned for another season if this one doesn’t end with the Stanley Cup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I also wouldn’t be surprised. If they decide to return for one more season it’ll only be with the Bruins. Bergeron said last year it was Boston or retirement for him.
Krejci undoubtedly feels the same way. If he doesn’t re-sign with the Bruins, he’ll return to Czechia to finish his playing career.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will depend on Bertuzzi’s performance with the Bruins in his first-ever NHL postseason and if the oft-injured winger remains healthy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Another first-round exit and Jarry could be heading to the UFA market on July 1 regardless of whether he wants to remain a Penguin.
Michael Bunting, Toronto Maple Leafs: Fox wondered if the Leafs acquisition of Ryan O’Reilly would make re-signing Bunting less of a priority. He also noted that Leafs GM Kyle Dubas would want to see playoff improvement from his free agents.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas might not be in any position to decide Bunting’s future or those of the Leafs’ other free agents if they fail to at least get past the opening round of the 2023 playoffs.