Saturday, August 13, 2022

NHL free agency tracker: Johnny Gaudreau tells Flames he’s leaving, Evgeni Malkin staying with Penguins

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.

While Gaudreau is easily the biggest fish available, veteran forwards like Nazem Kadri, Claude Giroux, Andrew Copp, and goaltender Darcy Kuemper are also up for grabs.

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

Veteran forward Evander Kane has re-signed with the Edmonton Oilers on a four-year, $20.5 million contract. Kane’s deal will hold an average annual value of $5.125 million.

“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.

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