The day is finally here. NHL free agency officially gets underway at noon on Wednesday as teams across the league attempt to improve their respective rosters ahead of the 2022-23 season.
Calgary Flames star Johnny Gaudreau is the top free agent that will be available as he’s expected to test the open market. Gaudreau is coming off the best year of his professional career as he recorded 115 points (40 goals and 75 assists). The veteran winger is likely going to command a hefty salary in the $10-12 million range per season.
Claude Giroux signs with Senators
Veteran forward Claude Giroux has agreed to a three-year, $19.5 million contract with the Ottawa Senators. The deal will be for $6.5 million per season.
Giroux hails from Hearst, Ontario and will now be playing close to home for the first time in his career. Giroux had previously spent the first 15 seasons of his NHL career with the Philadelphia Flyers before the franchise traded him to the Florida Panthers prior to last season’s trade deadline. The star forward is coming off a season in which he registered 65 points (21 goals and 44 assists) between the Flyers and Panthers.
Following the move to Florida, Giroux had three goals and 20 assists to cap off the 2021-22 campaign. The Senators have been extremely active this offseason. Prior to the draft, the Senators acquired star winger Alex DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks. Ottawa now has a significant amount of star power in Brady Tkachuk, DeBrincat and Giroux to solidify their top six forward group.
Vincent Trocheck expected to sign with Rangers
With Andrew Copp and Ryan Strome both hitting free agency, the Rangers have made the center position a priority by adding former Carolina Hurricane Vincent Trocheck. Over his last two seasons in Carolina, Trocheck was an incredibly effective and underrated player. Last season, Trocheck tallied 21 goals and 30 assists, making him a strong second-line center. If the Rangers were looking for someone to play behind Mika Zibanejad down the middle, they could have done much worse than Trocheck,
Nazem Kadri’s potential destinations
The Avalanche likely won’t be able to retain Kadri’s services due to having to pay winger Artturi Lehkonen and defenseman Josh Manson, who are also free agents. The New York Rangers showed interest, but appear to be signing former Carolina Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck to stabilize their second line. That leaves the Detroit Red Wings as a team that would make a ton of sense for Kadri given their young forward group. The Boston Bruins could also be an option if they can’t get something done to bring back Patrice Bergeron for his 19th season.
Jack Campbell expected to sign with Edmonton
The Oilers have addressed their lackluster goaltending situation by signing former Maple Leaf Jack Campbell to a five-year contract worth $25 million. He should be a notable upgrade over Mike Smith, who faltered in the postseason. Still, Campbell has some questions of his own. In the first three months of the 2021-22 season, Campbell looked like a Vezina Trophy favorite, but he cratered down the stretch. If he can bounce back, Edmonton will be much better between the pipes.
Gaudreau informs Flames that he’s leaving
On Tuesday evening, Johnny Gaudreau informed the Calgary Flames that he plans to enter free agency and won’t be re-signing with the team. Gaudreau, who is originally from New Jersey, has been linked to the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers.
“It is my strong belief that this was a family decision and I respect that fully,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving said on Tuesday evening. “John has every right and we have nothing but respect for John the player and John the person. I firmly believe there’s nothing more we could have done. We respect it … I think this was a real hard decision for John …I think everybody operated with the right intentions.”
The Flyers would need to clear significant cap space in order to make a deal with Gaudreau work. On the other hand, the Devils have a ton of cap space available — if the franchise wants to pair Gaudreau with star center Jack Hughes.
Malkin stays with Penguins
In a surprising turn of events, Evgeni Malkin is re-signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins after stating that he would test free agency. Malkin signed a four-year, $24.4 million contract to remain with the Penguins, according to a press release from the team.
Malkin’s new deal holds an average annual value of $6.1 million.
Penguins general manager Ron Hextall has been extremely active leading up to the start of free agency. Pittsburgh also signed veteran defenseman Kris Letang to a six-year, $36.6 million contract in order to avoid Letang leaving in free agency. Additionally, the Penguins signed winger Richard Rakell to a six-year contract extension that carries an average annual value of $5 million.
Malkin has spent his entire 16-year career with the Penguins. Only Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby have played more seasons in Pittsburgh with 17 to their credit. Malkin is a two-time Art Ross Trophy winner (2009 and 2012), which is annually awarded to the league’s regular season leading scorer. He also won the Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP back in 2012.
Kane re-signs with Oilers
“A big part of my decision to say in Edmonton was because of the opportunity given to me only seven months ago, but also the chance to be a part of a championship team,” Kane wrote in a Twitter post. “I want to win, and I believe after signing this deal, we will be able to add the right pieces along with myself to accomplish that goal: a championship.”
Kane signed with the Oilers in January 2022 after his contract was terminated with the San Jose Sharks. The veteran winger was suspended the first 21 games of the 2021-22 season after attempting to use a fake COVID-19 vaccination card. On January 8, 2022, Kane was placed on unconditional waivers and ultimately ended up landing with the Oilers later that month.
In 43 regular season games with the Oilers, Kane recorded 39 points (22 goals and 17 assists). He also scored a team-high 13 goals in the postseason in which the Oilers reached the Western Conference Final before being defeated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.