NHL Rumor Mill – April 3, 2023

by | Apr 3, 2023 | Rumors | 22 comments

A look at some of the notable players in this summer’s unrestricted free agent rankings in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli last week released his list of this summer’s top 50 unrestricted free agents. He assesses it as one of the weakest overall free-agent classes. Here’s a look at some of the more noteworthy players.

Topping his list is Michael Bunting due to the 27-year-old winger putting together two solid seasons (44 goals and 109 points) with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Seravalli believes Bunting could garner interest similar to what former Leaf Zach Hyman received two years ago.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Michael Bunting (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bunting’s placement did surprise me considering more notable stars like Patrick Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko are also slated for UFA eligibility this summer. However, Servalli has a point since Bunting is in his prime while the other three are now in their 30s and their best seasons are behind them.

Bunting is completing a two-year, $1.9 million contract. He could get a contract comparable to Hyman’s seven-year, $38.5 million deal with the Edmonton Oilers.

Seravalli had another surprise on his list as Damon Severson sat in second place. He believes the 28-year-old New Jersey Devils defenseman will be a hot commodity “as a steady, right-shooting defenseman who can chew up minutes.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I can’t help but compare Severson to John Klingberg. He was expected to draw plenty of interest in last year’s UFA market but had to settle for a one-year, $7 million contract with the Anaheim Ducks.

Severson tumbled down the Devils’ defense chart this season behind Dougie Hamilton and John Marino. He could suffer the same fate as Klingberg this summer, especially if the NHL and NHLPA cannot reach an agreement to raise next season’s salary cap by more than the projected $1 million.

Speaking of the New York Rangers’ Patrick Kane and Toronto Maple Leafs’ Ryan O’Reilly, Seravalli has them third and fourth respectively on his list.

The 34-year-old Rangers winger could have hip surgery this summer plus he’ll have a limited market of suitable destinations. O’Reilly, meanwhile, missed considerable playing time this season to injuries. He’s also rumored to be interested in returning to the St. Louis Blues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expect both players to take pay cuts to end up where they want. It’s hard to say what destinations Kane could have in mind but I don’t believe the Rangers can afford to re-sign him unless he accepts a big drop in pay. O’Reilly must agree to accept less if he hopes to return to the Blues.

Boston Bruins defenseman Dmitry Orlov is fifth on this list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s rumored Orlov sought a seven-year deal worth well over $6 million annually from the Washington Capitals which is why they traded him to Boston before the March 3 deadline. He’s not going to get that from the cap-strapped Bruins. He also turns 32 in July which will make teams leery about making a long-term investment in him.

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Alex Killorn checks in at No. 6 and Rangers winger Vladimir Tarasenko at No. 9. While both are productive former Stanley Cup winners, their ages could be a factor.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Killorn is 33 and has played a lot of hockey with the Tampa Bay Lightning since 2013-14 with 132 playoff games under his belt along with 762 regular-season contests. Playoff clubs will be very interested in him but he’s not getting a long-term deal. Taranseko is 31 but his history of shoulder injuries could limit the number of suitors.

Colorado Avalanche center J.T. Compher sits seventh on this list while Carolina Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal is eighth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Compher turns 28 on April 8 and is enjoying a career-best 50-point campaign skating on the Avalanche’s second line. He’s currently earning $3.5 million annually on a four-year contract and could seek over $5 million per season on a longer-term deal from the Avalanche. That will bite deeply into their limited cap space. If they can’t pay it, another team happily will via free agency.

Staal, meanwhile, will be 35 in September and is completing a 10-year, $60 million contract. Seravalli said talks remain cordial with the Hurricanes and he’d like to stay in Carolina but the longer he goes unsigned the greater the chance he tests the market.

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry ranked 10th.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: On the one hand, I can see the Penguins looking at other options for their starting goaltender position. On the other, they might have little choice but to re-sign Jarry if no suitable replacements can be found. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if they part ways with him in favor of acquiring someone else via trade or free agency.

Carolina Hurricanes winger Max Pacioretty (No. 11) and Washington Capitals winger Connor Brown (No. 50) both missed most of this season to injuries. However, Seravalli pointed out that they both have more than 400 career NHL games and missed 100 days this season to injury. That makes them eligible to sign contracts for the league minimum salary that includes performance bonuses that don’t have to accrue on next season’s salary cap. If they achieve those bonuses, they can be pushed ahead to 2024-25.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli explained that’s why he has Pacioretty ranked so high on his list as he’s still among the league’s elite snipers when healthy. Given that he’s torn his Achilles’ tendon twice within a year, however, we cannot be certain if the 34-year-old left winger is still capable of regaining his usual level of productivity. Still, he’d be an affordable gamble if he’s willing to accept that low-cost one-year contract.

Seravalli also noted that injury concerns will affect the market value for players such as Tyler Bertuzzi, Jason Zucker, Nick Foligno, Jonathan Drouin and Sean Monahan.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of this group, the 28-year-old Bertuzzi will likely draw the most interest based on his physical style of play. As Seravalli observed, his injury history will affect the length of the contract and the annual salary.


  1. Sheesh. I don’t even have Bunting in the top 10.

    • SOP, yea because he’s younger so lets not go after the better players. Makes a lot of sense to me.

      Not sure what Frank means by that, as there will be players who will get more money then Bunting.

      Not a knock on Bunting, go get the max he can. Bunting will be 28yrs old in September and has career earnings less then $3m

      At this stage not about home town discount it’s about financial security.

    • I don’t have Bunting in my top 20. Of course, considering that Seravalli is the source, it should be no surprise that those rankings are not realistic. He usually is not.

  2. Bunting over rated as most Leafs usually are by the media etc. leafs can keep the diver. The more they pay him the better 😎

  3. Bunting was a real piece of work in last nights game with the Wings. Must have been coached by Sean Avery!

    • Must have watched Marchand play!

      • Never seen Marchand take a dive. Stir the pot for sure. Dive nope

      • If Bunting could do everything else Marchand brings to the table, the line-up for his services would begin at the left … and stretch out over 32 teams.

  4. Bunting is not Hyman but he’s a decent player. He’s also paying for his laughs from earlier in the year.
    Of course if he played in Boston he’d be a fine young man with no warts.
    The Bruins are perfect, don’t forget.

    • Well, you got the first part right, BC.

  5. J.T. Will get much deserved raise and stay with the Avalanche!!! The guy shows up and leaves it out there most nights unlike a lot of other teammates. GO AVS!!!!!

    • Overpaying an old-ish UFA coming off a career year is exactly what the Avs don’t do. Plus, they can’t afford him at $4.5-5M. Expect to see him on another team.

  6. I hope the Penguins can get a quality Goalie via trade or Free Agency. Jarry is the Beau Bennett of netminders.

    • So is the issue Pens fans have with Jarry his play or his injuries?

      Hasn’t he been solid over the years? His #’s are above average over the last few years and on his career.

      The guy was a gamer when he played Jr here in Edmonton, won a Memorial Cup in the process.

      I don’t know exactly what his injuries are or have been, just the basic upper body lower body stuff, so don’t how concerning they are.

      • I can’t speak for every Pens fan, but for me it comes down to dependability. He is too often injured, at least this year, to be considered reliable. And his play, when he starts while “battling through” his ailment or ailments is certainly less than average. Think Matt Murray version 2.0. You think Ottawa and Toronto are happy with Murray’s availability? Again, that’s just me.

      • Campbell’s been healthy and is coming off a shut out!
        Trade you him for Jarry’s rights straight up.

    • What are you offering for Swayman or Ullmark?

  7. Bunting is a disgrace not only to himself but the rest of the team and entire organization.

    He needs to ride the pine for a good long while.

    How embarrassing.

    • I want the Sens to make a play for patrick kane.

      Gambrell – gone
      Watson – gone
      Brown – gone
      Brassard (likely retired)
      Phanoef off the books

      A second line of DeBrincat – Norris – Kane would vastly improve their 5 on 5 numbers which are brutal. You can then bump Batherson down to the third line. Trade Pinto for a goalie. Who? I don’t know but don’t let Dorion decide.

      I think there’s a play to be made for Spencer Knight. Once he’s figured out his substance issue.

  8. Yeah, I’ve been repeatedly waking up in a cold sweat after dreaming Dorion, in an effort to solve his goaltending issues for next season, goes after yet another Pittsburgh chronic-injury IR inhabitant.

    • Well George, if Hextall is still GM, and Ottawa ends up with Jarry, you’ll be in luck. All of Hextall’s moves work out well, just not for the team that pays his salary.

      • Sure …. Kick the Pens fans when their down

        Your statement is absolutely correct

        It just hurts….. so very very bad