With the expansion draft now concluded and the roster freeze now over, teams are ready to start negotiations with players and looking to complete trades. With the offseason soon to be in full force, come free agency there should be lots of movement due to the flat salary cap and Seattle Kraken entering the league. The following players are leading candidates to get dealt prior to the start of free agency on July 28, 2021.
Zach Hyman – Toronto Maple Leafs
It’s well documented that the Toronto Maple Leafs will have to walk away from their versatile left winger this offseason because of their tight cap situation. Hyman is due up for a big pay raise this offseason after making $2.25 million for the last four seasons.
There is a slim-to-none chance that the Maple Leafs will be able to bring Hyman back into the fold considering the term and value he is asking for. After granting permission to Hyman’s camp to discuss a potential fit elsewhere, it appears that there are many potential suitors. The Leafs would be wise to try and trade Hyman’s rights to a team that has shown interest in order to recoup some sort of assets. With the market for Hyman being as active with several teams included the Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, and Edmonton Oilers trying to acquire the forward the Leafs could take advantage and perform a sign and trade so that the acquiring team can get an extra year on the term of the deal.
A pending deal seems to have been worked out in Edmonton. Speculation is the Leafs and Oilers may try to come to terms on a smaller rights deal in order for an eight-year extension to be possible.
Marc-Andre Fleury – Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas goaltending situation has been a hot-button topic and ongoing controversy going back to the 2019-20 playoffs after the infamous Twitter post by Fleury’s agent during their playoff run. Fleury saw most of the action in the Golden Knight’s most recent playoff run but was unable to backstop the team into the Stanley Cup Final. Not to hang the blame on Fleury but even after his Vezina winning season, it appears that the team will need to make some cap room in order to address the team’s need at the center ice position.
Fleury will be 37 in November and will make $7 million for one year before being a free agent at the end of the 2021-22 season. The Golden Knights will head into the offseason with just over $5 million in cap space and if they believe that they need more cap space to address needs on the team Fleury could be on the move considering Lehner is still under contract for four more seasons carrying an AAV of $5 million.
Vladimir Tarasenko – St. Louis Blues
To many people’s surprise, the Russian sniper was not selected by Seattle in the expansion draft. Instead, the saga continues on with where Tarasenko will end up next season. There were already multiple teams looking to acquire him when the news broke that the relationship between Tarasenko and the organization had gone south. More suitors emerged closer to the expansion draft with the opportunity to have some salary retained by the Kraken. In the end, Tarasenko is still part of the Blues and one of the biggest players available who are already under contract.
The disconnect between the Blues and Tarasenko is primarily because of the way his injury was handled leaving the star disgruntled and looking for a fresh start. While there remain questions regarding his health and his twice surgically repaired shoulder he is a former 40 goal scorer in the NHL and would be a welcomed addition looking for scoring and powerplay help.
Dougie Hamilton – Carolina Hurricanes
The right-hand shot defenceman is arguably the biggest name in the free-agent market and after the Hurricanes granted Hamilton and his camp to speak to other teams it is increasingly likely he won’t be returning. The 28-year-old should have a lot of interest around the league after putting up 42 points in 52 games last season and can drastically improve any team’s powerplay with his offensive abilities.
He should command upwards of $8 million per season on the open market as he is the best unrestricted free agent defenseman available. Hamilton falls into the same situation as the aforementioned Hyman where it looks like there will be a sign-and-trade scenario that would allow the team that is acquiring the blueliner to sign him for eight years instead of seven.
Seth Jones – Columbus Blue Jackets
This name shouldn’t come as a surprise to many people because the chances of Jones returning to Columbus were highly unlikely when he announced he wouldn’t re-sign in Columbus once his current contract expires at the end of the 2021-22 season. Columbus has struggled to keep star players in the organization and Jones joins a long list of them that have already departed. Jones is a solid and fairly young right-hand shooting two-way defenseman that any team would welcome to their roster. The Chicago Blackhawks are one of the teams reportedly making a run at Jones after acquiring his brother Caleb Jones who was part of the Duncan Keith trade.
With the news coming in the middle of the offseason on his intent not to return it was evident that a deal of this caliber wouldn’t go down until closer to the NHL Draft. The Blue Jackets would be wise to move Jones prior to the season beginning in order to maximize assets so a team can use him for the entire season as opposed to half of it if he’s moved at the deadline. The NHL Entry Draft is a realistic time for a deal of this stature to go down considering there could be significant draft pick compensation available that teams are willing to part with.
Jack Eichel – Buffalo Sabres
A franchise-type player like Eichel doesn’t come around too often and definitely doesn’t often become available for trade but after some tough years with the Sabres and not much success, there is potential that he is moved. Eichel also has had disagreements with the organization on how the injury that saw him land on the long-term injured reserve for most of last season was handled. In media availability at the end of the 2020-21 season the superstar center came out and addressed his disappointment with the organization.
Eichel has lost trust in the organization and medical staff and the lack of success the team has had only made matters worse. It appears that the relationship between the two is beyond repair at this point meaning a rebuilding Sabres team should be looking for a big return on their former second overall selection. With cap space now opened up for some teams as well as roster positions from some free-agent departures, there should be a bigger market for Eichel and his $10 million cap hit.
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