July 13 — Free Agency Begins & the Tender-Totter

Last Night’s News 📰

NOT MALKIN AWAY: Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins have agreed to a four-year, $24.4 million extension. After rumors abounded that Malkin was to hit free agency, the 35-year-old will likely end his career in Pittsburgh. 

PLAYOFF PAYOFF: Two days before he hit free agency, Valeri Nichushkin agreed to an eight-year, $49 million contract that will keep him with the Colorado Avalanche through 2029-30. Nicushkin is coming off a strong postseason for the Stanley Cup winners in which he scored nine goals and 15 points in 20 games.

MAPLE MURRAY: On Monday, the Ottawa Senators traded goaltender Matt Murray to the Toronto Maple Leafs for future considerations. The 28-year-old former Pittsburgh Penguins netminder has two years left on his contract after going 5-12-2 with a 3.05 goals-against average (GAA) and a .906 save percentage (SV%) in 20 games for the Senators this past season.

CAM I AM: Five days after the Minnesota Wild re-signed Marc-André Fleury to a two-year contract, the Wild sent Cam Talbot to Ottawa in exchange for Filip Gustavsson. Talbot, 35, went 32-12-4 with 2.76 GAA and .911 SV% in 49 games for the Wild before giving way to Fleury in the playoffs.

OSCAR STRONG TO OSCAR SORRY: Oscar Lindblom was rewarded with a three-year contract in July 2020 after returning from an Ewing’s sarcoma diagnosis in late 2019. Two years later, the Philadelphia Flyers are buying out the final year of that contract. Lindblom will become a free agent if he clears waivers later today.

DUNCAN OUT: While Sportsnet confirmed it on Friday, Duncan Keith officially announced his retirement from the NHL yesterday. Keith won two Norris Trophies and three Stanley Cups in 16 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks before playing his 17th and final season with the Edmonton Oilers.

SCOTTY STEPS ASIDE: With free agency starting today, the biggest name on the market might be a special advisor. Scotty Bowman, winner of 14 Stanley Cups, did not renew his contract with the Chicago Blackhawks but plans to continue working in hockey.

Who Said It

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1) “When we talk about his character, it’s his desire to be a difference-maker. You see it in the way he plays, you see it when you speak to him that he’s a very charismatic kid… He’s very independent. He’s confident without being arrogant, and we think that this is a kid that not only has the mindset that we’re looking for, but we also evaluate where he is in his game and what he has in terms of natural abilities and where he could be if we help him along in the process.”

A. Tom Fitzgerald on Šimon Nemec
B. Kent Hughes on Juraj Slafkovský
C. Ron Francis on Shane Wright

2) “I love [this team], I’m so honored to be here. I have a ton of family [there] so they’re all pumped up there, they’re huge [team] fans and so am I. So this is the best day of my life.”

A. Seamus Casey
B. Frank Nazar
C. Logan Cooley

3) “We had really prepared for the best and the worst-case scenarios, so we were extremely excited for him. He is exactly what we need, and he’s got a chance to be a No. 1 center in the National Hockey League.”

A. Ron Francis on Shane Wright
B. Steve Yzerman on Marco Kasper
C. Bill Armstrong on Logan Cooley

Answers can be found at the bottom of the email.

Top NHL Unrestricted Free Agents

NHL free agency begins today at noon Eastern time, and while some pending free agents have re-signed, plenty of potential impact players are still available. Here is a look at some of the top Unrestricted Free Agents by position.


Johnny Gaudreau

Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Johnny Hockey is the cream of this year’s free-agent crop. The 28-year-old left wing had a breakout season in 2021-22, registering a career-high 115 points (40 goals, 75 assists) in 82 regular-season games for the Calgary Flames, which tied for the second-most in the NHL. He also had 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in 12 playoff games. Calgary wants him back (as evidenced by the lucrative offer the Flames have reportedly offered him), but if he goes elsewhere, that team will be getting a dynamic playmaker who looks to be in his prime.

Nazem Kadri

Nazem Kadri, Colorado Avalanche (Getty Images)

Like Gaudreau, the 31-year-old Kadri had a breakout year, finishing the regular season with 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) in 71 games for the Colorado Avalanche. He was also an integral piece of Colorado’s Stanley Cup title run, scoring 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 16 postseason games. If the veteran center ends up somewhere other than Colorado, that team will get a gritty two-way forward. Although, it will be interesting to see if he can replicate this year’s success with a different team around him.


John Klingberg

John Klingberg, Dallas Stars (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Klingberg, fresh off of a season in which he had 47 points (six goals, 41 assists) in 74 games with the Dallas Stars, heads the thin defensive free-agent class. The 29-year-old is likely heading elsewhere after eight seasons in Dallas. Whatever team signs him will be getting a skilled defenseman who moves the puck well and can strengthen a power-play unit. Since entering the league, he ranks 11th among all NHL defensemen in power-play points (148).

Josh Manson

Josh Manson, Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

At 30 years old, Manson improved his stock during the 2022 Postseason, tallying eight points (three goals, five assists), including a game-winning overtime goal in the second round against the St. Louis Blues, to help the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup. Manson had nine points (four goals, five assists) in 45 regular-season games with the Anaheim Ducks and seven points (two goals, five assists) in 22 regular-season games with Colorado and isn’t a typical top-line defenseman. However, he could be a significant addition to a team hoping to contend next season.


Darcy Kuemper

Darcy Kuemper, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Multiple goalies have already moved this offseason, while many others, including Kuemper, will be available on the free-agent market. The 32-year-old, who was acquired by Colorado during the last offseason from the Arizona Coyotes, played a career-high 57 regular-season games in 2021-22, going 37-12-4 with a 2.54 goals-against average (GAA) and a .921 save percentage (SV%). In the playoffs, he went 10-4 with a 2.57 GAA and a .902 SV% in 16 games. While the veteran may not be an elite netminder, he showed this past year that a team could win the Stanley Cup with him between the pipes.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Campbell will be looking for a new team after the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Matt Murray from the Ottawa Senators on Monday. At 30 years old, 2021-22 was Campbell’s first season as a starter, and he performed well. After going 31-9-6 with a 2.64 GAA and a .914 SV% in 49 regular-season games (47 starts), Campbell was 3-4 with a 3.15 GAA and a .897 SV% in seven playoff games (all starts). While he has performed well during his career, his small sample size as a full-time starter might scare some teams away.

Follow the Goalie Carousel

First, we saw roughly one-third of the league engage in a game of musical chairs amongst head coaches. With that mostly completed (save for the late-to-the-party San Jose Sharks), teams have moved on to the goaltender carousel. Six teams have addressed their situation between the pipes in the past few days, with clubs like the Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, Ottawa Senators, and Buffalo Sabres lurking as possible netminder destinations.

The already-formidable challenge of tracking which goalie is manning what net will get considerably harder once free agency brings about a barrage of movement across the NHL, so let’s catch up on where things stand:

New No. 1’s

Several talented teams had glaring needs between the pipes, meaning that a few lucky goalies now find themselves in pretty cushy, albeit pressure-filled, situations. The Colorado Avalanche elected to move on from Darcy Kuemper and traded for former New York Rangers backup Alexandar Georgiev. Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs raised some eyebrows with the acquisition of shaky, injury-prone Matt Murray, formerly of the Ottawa Senators, to replace Jack Campbell.

Random Tandem

Hoping for a return to the playoff picture, the New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, and Senators each bolstered their goaltending ranks to support incumbents who may not be able to handle a starter’s workload. New Jersey acquired Vitek Vaněček from Washington in a draft-day trade to pair with Mackenzie Blackwood, Detroit traded for and signed 2021-22 breakout star Ville Husso to work in tandem with Alex Nedeljkovic, while Ottawa added Cam Talbot yesterday to join Anton Forsberg in the Sens’ crease.

The Carousel Keeps Spinning

And we’re not done yet! Free agents Kuemper and Campbell still need to find new homes, with Washington and Edmonton looking like their most likely respective destinations. There are also the Sabres and a host of clubs in the market for backup help. Some of those teams will have to navigate the trade market, where puck stoppers like John Gibson, James Reimer, and Semyon Varlamov could be available.

Who Said It Answers

  1. Kent Hughes on Juraj Slafkovský
  2. Seamus Casey
  3. Bill Armstrong on Logan Cooley