With the NHL playoffs finished, everyone is still chasing the two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Even an unusual, 56-game season didn’t change the fact that the Bolts are hockey’s very best.
So, as free agency approaches, it’s worth digging into NHL trade rumors and what blockbuster moves could be on the horizon.
Some of the biggest names from Stanley Cup contending teams are set to become free agents at the end of July, including Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, Washington Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin, and more. We’ll keep this list updated throughout the offseason with rumors, signings and more.
When does the NHL free agency begin?
In a regular 82-game season, free agency is typically set to begin July 1, with NHL trade rumors and signing chatter hitting their peak as soon as the playoffs end.
However, to accommodate the late start to the season and all of the other delays, free agent frenzy begins on July 28 at noon EST, after the July 21 expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken. With many teams pinching on salaries to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic, contract signings could shorten or decrease in AAV, which could make for a very interesting offseason.
Breaking down the latest NHL trade rumors
Columbus Blue Jackets’ Seth Jones is reportedly Chicago Blackhawks’ top trade target
After the Blackhawks traded away championship defenseman Duncan Keith to the Edmonton Oilers, it’s hardly a surprise they’re looking for another top-flight player to fill out that position.
The Athletic‘s Scott Powers and Aaron Portzline reported that Columbus’ Jones is Chicago’s “No. 1 target.”
It’d make sense for Jones to want a change of scenery. Going to an organization that’s won multiple championships in relatively recent years might be a great next step for him, especially with the Blue Jackets transitioning to a new coach and coming off a downright bad season.
If the Blackhawks can shore up their blue line with someone like Jones and improve their overall defense, a huge bounce-back from their recent dip in form could be in store in short order.
Philadelphia Flyers not resting after Ryan Ellis trade; eyeing key Buffalo Sabres players
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman (h/t Yahoo Sports) reported in a radio interview that the Flyers have been circling Buffalo and potentially trying to swing yet another trade after landing Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis.
Chief among Philly’s trade targets is Jack Eichel. Although Friedman stated, “I think Philly’s not in on Eichel anymore”, he did suggest Sam Reinhart as a target.
Reinhart is only 25 years old and scored 25 goals with 15 assists this past season. The Flyers obviously need a lift after middling offensive production during the 2020-21 campaign, not to mention a boost between the pipes due to the struggles of young goalie Carter Hart.
It’s possible that Hart could bounce back in a big way. He thrived so much on the energy of friendly fans en route to an amazing 20-3-2 record in home starts during 2019-20. Finding additional firepower at the forward spot is a little more complicated.
Landing a legitimate star like Eichel is just the type of splash move the Flyers must consider. However, acquiring Reinhart wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize at all — and the price wouldn’t be as steep.
New Jersey Devils ‘looking for a taker’ to trade P.K. Subban
Bally Sports Midwest’s Andy Strickland reported the trade buzz on P.K. Subban, who’s entering a contract year.
Subban would probably love to get out of town, because the Devils are straight-up bad. They need to continue stockpiling assets, and the added bonus of this scenario would be taking Subban’s cap hit off the books.
It’s starting to seem like Subban won’t ever be the offensive threat he was earlier in his career. Then again, if he’s traded to the right club, maybe he can rally back and play some inspired hockey again.
New York Rangers’ new regime being proactive with multiple trade candidates
General manager Chris Drury and new coach Gerard Gallant make for a fascinating leadership tandem in the Big Apple. Whether or not they can restore the Blueshirts to prominence remains to be seen.
Daily Faceoff reported that Rangers restricted free-agent forward Pavel Buchnevich and goalie Alexandar Georgiev are rumored to be among the players New York is considering moving on from.
Per the report, Buchnevich has been shopped “for week” while Georgiev “is seeking a fresh start.”
Rather than signing Buchnevich to a lucrative new contract, it’s not a bad idea to explore trade options for him. As for Georgiev, New York already has a more promising young netminder in Igor Shesterkin. The Rangers should probably look for a cost-effective veteran backup and make Shesterkin their workhorse going forward.
Teams who want to trade for Jack Eichel need to give up a lot
David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reported what the Buffalo Sabres’ asking price is for their young star forward:
Jack Eichel is one of the most dynamic players in the NHL, and he’s probably, understandably thinking about how life could be much better elsewhere. He suffered through an injury-plagued season in Buffalo and watched the Sabres crash to the bottom of the NHL standings.
One silver lining to Buffalo’s ineptitude was its good fortune of landing the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. That said, the club is still at least a couple years off from putting together a legitimately competitive roster.
If any suitor is willing to cough up the reported asking price for Eichel, perhaps the Sabres could talk themselves into parting with a would-be franchise cornerstone to build depth and still build for a bright future.
Key free agency narratives driving NHL trade rumors
Boston Bruins end Taylor Hall’s NHL free agency rather quickly
For the second straight offseason, former MVP winner Taylor Hall entered free agency after his season with the Boston Bruins comes to a close. Of course, Hall was one of the key subjects of NHL trade rumors before he was dealt to the Bruins from the Buffalo Sabres, as his $8 million price tag made him unattainable for many teams, and a lot of people felt like it was too big for the points he produced as a Sabre.
Then, he found new life in Boston, and was vital in the Bruins’ 3-1 series victory over the Washington Capitals. While this is Hall’s fourth team in two years–he played with the Bruins, Sabres, Arizona Coyotes and the New Jersey Devils (with Palmieri and Zajac), the former Edmonton Oilers draft pick is, undoubtedly, a talent in the league.
Hall doesn’t want to be relied on to lead a team, but could be a valuable second line player with a gift for scoring goals. The Bruins saw his value, and opted to retain him on a four-year, $24 million contract.
Gabriel Landeskog will likely remain with the Avalanche
On the least year of a team-friendly contract, Gabriel Landeskog‘s just over $5.5 million AAV will likely increase with a new contract. Born in 1992, the Avs captain is one of the youngest in the league’s history, and considering his prime age, production, and leadership quality, he is a prime candidate for a huge contract.
Considering the Avalanche’s current cap situation, NHL trade rumors surrounding an inability to re-sign Landeskog to the contract he deserves have begun to swirl. But, it seems unlikely that Landeskog, a fixture in the Denver community, will leave the Avs organization, even as teams like the St. Louis Blues, per Sportsnet’s Eliotte Friedman, are interested.
The second overall draft pick in the 2011 NHL draft, Landeskog became the captain almost immediately, and has been involved in several community initiatives since he started playing with the club.
With Brandon Saad and Philipp Grubauer also becoming free agents this season, it’s possible–even probable–that general manager Joe Sakic and company can work some magic and have these key parts resign in the same way that Nathan MacKinnon did. MacKinnon took less money to stay with the Avalanche, hoping that it would help them build a successful team.
After all the NHL trade rumors, what’s next for Kyle Palmieri?
Former New Jersey Devils Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac were dealt to the New York Islanders at the trade deadline, both in the last years of their contracts with the Devils. Moving within the tri-state area, the two were acquired to add depth to the Isles’ roster for a lengthy playoff run. Palmieri, in particular, has made a noticeable impact for his new club, scoring big goals and proving his 30-goal scoring capability.
But, when free agency opens, what will happen for Palmieri and Zajac? While it seems feasible that Zajac could retire, Palmieri is still young, and has a lot of hockey left in him. Palmieri was the subject of NHL trade rumors before, when he was dealt to the Devils from the Anaheim Ducks, but this is his biggest test in free agency thus far.
Could he go back to New Jersey? Would he want to? He’s from the tri-state area, with his family in New Jersey. Is that where he wants to stay? Only time will tell.
The future of Dougie Hamilton
Dougie Hamilton is, arguably, the most capable defenseman on the free agent market. The Carolina Hurricanes were one of the top teams in the league this year, and has already been the subject of NHL trade rumors, as he was dealt from the Calgary Flames to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2018, just before free agent frenzy.
The young, big blue liner has been a huge boost for the Canes, and a team like the Philadelphia Flyers could really benefit from his all-around skill and prowess.
Of course, many other teams–the Canes included–could benefit from having Dougie Hamilton on their roster, which likely means that many teams will be pursuing Hamilton. It will certainly make for one of the biggest stories in the offseason, as NHL trade rumors persist.