7 NHL Free Agents (And Where They Will Land)
1. John Tavares
The most coveted NHL free agent in recent memory. There are several teams in the running for Tavares, but its assumed that Tavares has made his decision already. He is unlikely to go back to the island this season. But its currently unknown whether he will go to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks, or even the Tampa Bay Lightning (how?!). Many believe that the Isles remain the favorite to retain their star, however. And they do deserve a ton of credit for upping their odds as of late, bringing in Lou Lamoriello as GM and Stanley Cup winning coach Barry Trotz. But, Tavares is likely going to a team that is ready to win this year. I think that the Leafs would not be a logical signing for Tavares to win now, so in my opinion they are out. The Stars have two top 15 forwards on their roster but have almost nobody on the backend, unless they can squeeze a top tier defender out of someone in a trade, they are unlikely to sign Tavares. The Lightning most certainly would have to get rid of the farm to make room, and that is not going to happen. San Jose is the one team that I can see, that makes a ton of sense for Tavares; playoff experience, good mix of young and old players, top 10 defenseman, top 15 goaltender and solid forward depth. In my humble opinion: it only makes sense for him to go to the Sharks. A near max deal for one year allows the Sharks to make a nice run this, then gives Tavares the option to go back to the Islanders if they improve their roster.
Free Agent Signing: San Jose Sharks, 1-year, 14 million
2. James Van Riemsdyk
JVR, he’s arguably the league’s best goal scorer that sits around the net. He put up 36 goals this season playing in the Leaf’s skilled top 6. He will likely go to a team that wants a bit more depth and scoring and is on the cusp of making a move for the playoffs. Calgary, Carolina, Edmonton or Vegas are decent possibilities for grabbing JVR. Calgary being the most likely landing spot because the Flames management has made some moves already. They have indicated they are going for it all this year. But, as many others have said its only a matter of time before his skill bubble pops. Thus making a long term deal, turn into a long term cap crisis.
Free Agent Signing: Calgary Flames, 6 years, 39 million
3. James Neal
Neal can be a stud, at one point he was playing on a line with Sidney Crosby and put up 40 goals. Mark my words, he will never again break 30 goals. Some team will likely overpay him and end up in cap space hell. There is no doubting Neal’s experience and leadership, so if that is what you are looking for then it shouldn’t be a problem. If you are looking at a 1st line forward without a stud centreman then look elsewhere. He may go back to one of his former teams, Dallas. The Stars would love to have a tertiary option outside of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Once again though Dallas needs to solidify the back end and find a trade for a top 4 defenseman.
Signing: Dallas Stars, 7 years, 42 million
4. Paul Stastny
Stastny cashed in last time he was a free agent, making 7 million dollars per year from his last contract. He is an effective player that wins faceoffs, kills penalties, can score the odd goal and sometimes shut down an opposing top centreman. He will cash in again and go back to the Avs this July 1. The Avs are looking for some faceoff help on the 2nd/3rd line and help on the PK. Colorado was very close to making the leap last season and with Stastny’s help they can get over the hump.
Free Agent Signing: Colorado Avalanche, 6 Years, 30 million
5. John Moore
John Moores stock has shot up due to the John Carlson and Mike Green resigning’s. This is a tough one to place because he is a left-shot, stay-at-home defenseman. Vancouver may look to upgrade their top 4 with Moore, and he will likely sign there because they are one of the only teams that will pay that kind of money. He’s a definite upgrade for the Canucks, but will he be worth it?
Free Agent Signing: Vancouver Canucks, 7 Years, 42 million
6. Joe Thornton
Big Joe will resign with his old team, taking less money for the Sharks to bring in Tavares.
Free Agent Signing: San Jose Sharks, 2 years, 8 million
7. David Perron
Of Vegas’s two stud UFA wingers, Neal has the more familiar résumé, but Perron actually enjoyed the more productive season. Career-highs in assists (50) and points (66). Philly is trying to get in on the JVR game, but will miss out because of the cap hit. The smarter signing would be Perron, his style suits the Flyers and his production was solid in a middle 6 role for the Golden Knights.
Free Agent Signing: Philadelphia Flyers, 4 years, 14 million