Rumours are flying, the insiders are tweeting, and bloggers are writing. It’s the offseason, baby.
Last year, the Vegas Expansion Draft was the talk of the league as every team looked to avoid losing a key piece. It was expected to be one of the craziest offseasons in NHL history, but honestly, it was underwhelming.
This year, it won’t be an expansion draft making noise, it will be the number of star players who could be on the move. John Tavares and John Carlson are top-tier NHL talent and both will likely hit the UFA market come July 1. You also have names like Erik Karlsson, Ryan O’Reilly, and Max Pacioretty on the trading block.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone if we see more than a few big splashes this summer, but which teams could be the busiest? Here’s my list:
THE OBVIOUS CANDIDATES
CAROLINA: New owner Tom Dundon seems eager to make big changes. He already fired his GM and followed it up by saying that pretty much everyone on the roster is available, so it’s clear that the Hurricanes won’t be sitting on their hands this summer.
Expect names like Justin Faulk, Jeff Skinner, Elias Lindholm, and Noah Hanifin to potentially be moved.
MINNESOTA: Paul Fenton takes over as GM as the Wild will look to finally put together a Stanley Cup Contender. They’ve been sitting in the middle of the pack for too long and there’s no doubt they want to kick things into high gear.
Matt Dumba, Tyler Ennis, and Charlie Coyle are names that I could see them move.
BUFFALO: They’ll pick first overall and add Rasmus Dahlin to their blueline, but that seems to be the only sure thing around the Sabres organization. Rasmus Ristolainen, Sam Reinhart, and Ryan O’Reilly are their most talked about trade chips, but I’m more interested in what the Sabres could add this summer.
I think they’ll want to take advantage of Dahlin’s ELC window and they have close to $20 million in cap space. They could certainly make some big splashes.
NEW YORK: Lou Lamoriello will do everything in his power to bring back John Tavares and it wouldn’t surprise me if they go out in search of another big name to show their franchise star that they’re serious about winning.
They have $28 million in projected cap space via Cap Friendly, so they have the room to make big moves. They also have five free agent d-men right now and will need to find a starting goalie.
BIG GAME HUNTING
MONTREAL: The Habs have eleven forwards, eight d-men, and two goalies already under contract with $12 million in cap space. If they want to go out a sign a big fish, or two, they certainly could.
While names like Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk on their trading block, I’m more interested in what Marc Bergevin will do in free agency.
Paul Stastny, Mike Green, James Neal? Or will they hit big and sign John Tavares? The possibilities in Montreal appear endless.
SAN JOSE: They already inked Evander Kane to a new extension, and it sounds like they’ll be buying out Paul Martin in order to gain even more cap space.
If Martin is bought out, the Sharks will have close to $10 million in cap space with twelve forwards, seven d-men, and two goalies already signed. On top of that, they only have one forward (Evander Kane) that’s under contract after 2020. Their longterm flexibility is incredible.
John Tavares and Ilya Kovalchuk have both been linked to San Jose, so it’s clear the Sharks are looking to add a big piece.
VANCOUVER: Jim Benning wants to change the teams’ culture in what will be their first year without the Sedins. He also has some bad contracts. Could be a busy summer for the Canucks.
NEW YORK: The Rangers are admittedly in a rebuild and there’s no doubt names like Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, and Marc Staal could be moved.
CHICAGO: After missing the playoffs, the Hawks will look to make big changes. With only $6 million in cap space and only 17 players signed, they’ll need to get really creative if they want to improve their club.