The open market has seen better days.
With the NHL’s financial parameters hitting an unexpected plateau as an assembly of financially unsatisfied individuals set to graduate from entry-level contracts prevent prices from being established, riches may not await those planning to explore free agency this summer.
For this reason, transaction season could be rather uneventful, with the few teams that have cleared cap space ruling the market while other free agents hoping for the world are forced to settle.
Still, we can dream, so let’s allow our imaginations to run wild.
Here’s an “all-chaos” free-agent destination wish list.
Artemi Panarin signs with the Boston Bruins
It wouldn’t dilute the product if the Panthers snag both Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Poaching the pair would, if anything, heighten the level of competition in the Atlantic Division. For teams hoping to break into the top three, though, it might seem impenetrable in the event the Bruins lock down the most talented forward in free agency instead. Panarin would not just fill the hole that the Bruins have had on the right side in the their top six; he would be an absolute luxury. An immensely talented winger with standout facilitative skills, Panarin will make a difference wherever he ends up, but landing with one of the NHL’s best and most balanced teams would be a serious power move, albeit an unlikely one.
Sergei Bobrovsky signs with the Calgary Flames
With his sights apparently set on Miami, Calgary could very well be the furthest thing on Bobrovsky’s mind in free agency. It is a fit, though. The never-ending search for the first viable starting netminder since Miikka Kiprusoff will continue in Calgary this summer with Mike Smith and David Rittich’s deals expiring. One of the top goaltenders in the game, Bobrovsky would present an enormous addition to a team that racked up a Western Conference-best 107 points last season despite uneven performances from its netminders.
Corey Perry signs with the Edmonton Oilers
Luring Perry to the Oilers with the idea of playing him beside Connor McDavid seems misguided. Fun, but misguided.
Joe Pavelski signs with the Colorado Avalanche
Where else would you rather be? The destination for Joe Pavelski, who the San Jose Sharks just might not have the capital to satisfy, might very well be Colorado. With an impressive fleet of prospects on the way and cap space to wield, there are few teams more in vogue than the Avalanche right now. Plus, it’s a perfect fit. There is an obvious need for a well-rounded and impactful pivot to help turn the Avs into a complete attack, rather than one that relies predominantly on one line. In terms of money and opportunity, the best situation for Pavelski might be the Avs if he ends up being squeezed out of San Jose.
Matt Duchene signs with the Montreal Canadiens
With apparently strong mutual interest, and now $9 million in cap space created after the P.K. Subban trade, every indication is that Matt Duchene will wind up in Nashville. It would be far more interesting if those best laid plans were somehow disrupted. Montreal winning the CAA sweepstakes for Duchene satiates the appetite for chaos. Because not only would one of the more polarizing players in the league be joining a hyper-focused market in Montreal, but the Predators would be forced to scramble to fill the Subban void.
Jake Gardiner signs with the Toronto Maple Leafs
Where else would he make more headlines? With Patrick Marleau’s money now residing in Carolina, retaining Gardiner is no longer out of the question.
Anders Lee signs with the New Jersey Devils
If it were the New York Rangers, maybe it could then rival the John Tavares departure from Long Island last summer. But a second captain leaving in as many seasons, and not having to travel too far, would be juicy nonetheless. The expectation should be that the Devils remain aggressive after taking steps toward building a winner around Taylor Hall following the Subban acquisition and landing No. 1 overall draft pick Jack Hughes. Top 10 in power-play goals over the last four seasons, Lee would give the Devils a dynamic they are largely missing as the organization hurries to assemble a postseason contender.
Tyler Myers signs with the Vancouver Canucks
It’s a story when a player leaves one Canadian market for another. It’s a little more interesting when that player’s value is subject to debate. Myers leaving Winnipeg for Vancouver would be tremendous fodder for the online discussion — especially at upwards of $8 million.
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