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Flurry of trades, signings expected ahead of NHL free agency

By on July 10, 2022 0

While Julien BriseBois knows exactly how confident he is about re-signing playoff player Ondrej Palat and veteran defenseman Jan Rutta, he’s not saying it.

“I’m still working on that,” said the two-time Stanley Cup-winning Tampa Bay Lightning general manager. “Too early to say.”

He’s also correct that it’s too early to tell exactly what NHL free agency will look like when it begins on Wednesday. Colorado, which beat Tampa Bay in the Cup final, is looking to sign playoff star Valeri Nichushkin from a group of potential free agents, and others like Calgary MVP contender Johnny Gaudreau, Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin and Florida trade deadline pickup Claude Giroux could all get new offers to stay rather than hit the open market.

“It’s not July 13 yet,” BriseBois said. “These guys can all be signed by then.”

A big star reconstituted with his team has happened a few times already: the Pittsburgh Penguins signed veteran defenseman Kris Letang for six years and the Nashville Predators signed winger Filip Forsberg for eight years. Teams have until midnight EDT Tuesday — 12 hours before free agency begins — to make the most of signing players for eight years, after which they can only get seven.

Yet even that timeline feels like a lifetime in the hockey world, especially with most of the offseason condensed into less than three weeks.

“We have time,” Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said of talks with several pending free agents. “We know we won’t be able to sign everyone. We know that. But we have our priority and then we’ll see. I think some players will test the market and see what’s available to them and see if they want to come back, but time will tell.

The Avalanche not only have Nichushkin but center Nazem Kadri, forwards Andre Burakovsky, Darren Helm and Nico Sturm and defensemen Josh Manson, Jack Johnson and Ryan Murray should be unrestricted free agents if they don’t re-sign. not.

Kadri looks the most likely to be out for a big payday after a career year and the playoffs, though that would give Colorado some room to tend to other players.

“I think we’re in the stadium with some of the guys,” Sakic said. “I’m not going to go into details with who, but hopefully we can make an announcement and not all go to the market on Wednesday.”

Calgary general manager Brad Treliving expressed similar optimism about Gaudreau, who set career highs with 40 goals, 75 assists and 115 points and finished fourth in Hart Trophy voting as a player. most valuable in the league. He said those things take time and pointed out that Gaudreau isn’t the first or last high-profile player not to sign until the final days between free agency and talks.

“You’re looking at all the options, but we’re focused on Plan A, and until Plan A isn’t a reality, we’ll focus on that,” Treliving said. “The only objective is to try to sign him, and we will continue to work towards that end.”

The same seems to be the case for the Panthers and Giroux, the longtime captain of the Philadelphia Flyers they acquired at the trade deadline. The Boston Bruins are also awaiting news of their longtime captain, Patrice Bergeron, who is only expected to play for them if he returns for a 19th season.

“He’s given us some really good indications that he’s following the right trend, but until he makes that proclamation, we’ll wait,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said.

Some teams can’t afford to wait until Wednesday to act because they need to clear salary cap space before then. After a weekend of musical chairs for draft goaltenders and others to come on that front, Minnesota general manager Bill Guerin thinks the league will be buzzing with activity ahead of free agency.

“You could definitely see it,” Guerin said. “Teams are doing everything in their power to get cap space, so I got to see a lot.”

Follow AP Hockey writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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