All the latest pre-free agency rumblings


We’re less than four hours away from the free-agent market officially opening, and there are plenty of reports linking players to new teams already.

Remember, none of these deals can be made official until noon ET, so things can change in a hurry. But there’s a good chance that a lot of these verbal commitments turn into contracts once the clock strikes 12:00 p.m. ET.

To stay up to date with all today’s transactions, keep an eye on PHT’s free agent tracker.

TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie has already linked a number of key free agents to their likely destination. According to McKenzie’s Twitter timeline, here’s what we can expect to go down today:

–The Vancouver Canucks don’t have a very good roster right now, but that won’t stop them from potentially landing three interesting free agents. It looks like they’ll be getting Sam Gagner, Michael Del Zotto and Anders Nilsson this afternoon.

–The Winnipeg Jets have been searching for a reliable goaltender to help out Connor Hellebuyck, and Steve Mason is expected to be their guy. The 29-year-old hasn’t been the most consistent goalie over the last few years, but he should be an upgrade on Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec.

–Speaking of Pavelec, McKenzie suggests he could end up being Henrik Lundqvist‘s backup in New York. The Rangers traded Antti Raanta away to Arizona, so they’re definitely in the market for a backup goalie.

–Another goalie to keep an eye on is Brian Elliott. The former Calgary Flame is probably heading to Philadelphia to replace Mason.

Trevor Daley, who has won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Penguins, will stay in the Eastern Conference, as he’s been linked to the Detroit Red Wings.

–Dan Girardi will be playing for a different team after he was bought out by the Rangers earlier this month. That new team is likely to be the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Chad Johnson spent the 2015-16 season with the Sabres before spend last year with Calgary. It sounds like he’ll be returning to Buffalo.

–Anaheim will likely bring in veteran goalie Ryan Miller from Vancouver, which means last year’s backup, Jonathan Bernier, will be on the move. Bernier is expected to join the Colorado Avalanche, who lost Calvin Pickard in the expansion draft.

–As we wrote about yesterday, Evgeny Dadonov is expected to leave the KHL to sign a lucrative, multi-year deal with the Florida Panthers.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman also had some interesting tidbits earlier this morning, as he’s also linked potential free agents to new cities.

Here’s what Friedman is reporting:

–6-foot-6 center Martin Hanzal split last season with Arizona and Minnesota, but he isn’t expected to return to either city. Instead, Friedman says to keep an eye on the Dallas Stars. If they can land Hanzal, that would give them terrific depth down the middle with Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza already on the roster.

–The San Jose Sharks reportedly upped their offer to Patrick Marleau from one year to two years, but it’s unclear if that’s enough to get something done with the veteran. If Marleau decides to walk in free agency, Mike Cammalleri could be their fallback plan.

On another note, Blackhawks beat reporter Mark Lazerus is reporting that Patrick Sharp will be signing with Chicago. The veteran forward spent 10 seasons with the ‘Hawks.

McLellan excited about addition of ‘utility player’ Strome

Leave a comment

To hear Todd McLellan explain it, Ryan Strome could be wearing many hats next season.

That’s what the Oilers head coach said on Wednesday of the former Isles forward, acquired earlier this summer in the Jordan Eberle trade. McLellan expressed excitement over Strome’s ability to play both center and wing.

“He (Strome) is a utility player,” McLellan said, per the Sun. “He has the ability to play center and has in the past. He’s been able to win faceoffs and he’s comfortable on the wing. We have the luxury of moving players around, and as the fans here know, we like to do that.”

That last sentence is clearly a reference to Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl has flipped back and forth between playing as Edmonton’s No. 2 center and as a winger on the top line alongside Connor McDavid. The talented German’s had success at both, which is why Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is still unsure if Draisaitl is a center or a winger.

More: Strome pumped at prospect of playing with Draisaitl, McDavid

As for Strome, he certainly gives Edmonton some flexibility — on the ice, and on the books.

With a $2.5 million cap hit (compared to Eberle’s $6M), he’s provided Chiarelli with more cap space to get the Draisaitl contract done. And there’s also the potential for him to be a real bargain. Remember, Strome is only two years removed from a sophomore campaign in which he scored 17 goals and 50 points in 81 contests. His subsequent two years with the Isles were a disappointment, but the talent is still there.

The wildcard in all this is the fact that Strome’s heading into a contract year. He’ll be a restricted free agent next July, so the ’17-18 campaign will go a long way in determining his value… and, potentially, his future in Edmonton.

McDavid disappointed at NHL decision to skip Olympics


TORONTO (AP) Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid said he’s disappointed the NHL won’t be sending players to the Winter Olympic in South Korea.

“It would have been a special group, and you’re just hopeful to be a part of it,” McDavid told reporters at a charity event Wednesday. “It’s disappointing, but that’s the way it is. You want to be able to represent your country on the highest stage, and the Olympics is obviously the highest stage possible.”

McDavid’s comments came a day after Hockey Canada announced it was looking for non-NHL talent for Canada’s roster in Pyeongchang.

Sean Burke, the team’s GM, said Tuesday the bulk of Canada’s team will come from players based in Europe.

The NHL’s reasons not to participate in the upcoming Games include disagreements over costs as well as problems accommodating the Games during its regular season.

When asked whether there was the possibility of getting permission from the Oilers to attend the Olympics, McDavid was non-committal.

“I’m not too involved in all that stuff,” he said.

The NHL Players Association has said the league’s decision is “short-sighted.”

The NHL allowed its players to compete in every Olympics since 1998 Nagano Games, and Canada was won three of the last four gold medals.

Markov, Habs officially part ways


Andrei Markov‘s run of 17 consecutive seasons in Montreal is over.

On Thursday, the Habs announced that Markov — who’s played all 990 of his career NHL contests with the Canadiens — wouldn’t be brought back for the 2017-18 campaign.

The news comes after months of rumblings about Markov’s contractual status. It was initially believed the 38-year-old UFA was looking for $12 million over two years, and there was a brief flirtation with the Flyers (which, it later turned out, was simply Markov’s interest in going to Philly, not the Flyers actively pursuing him).

Montreal GM Marc Bergevin stated on several occasions he wanted to bring Markov back, but only at the right price and term. That’s because Bergevin knew Markov still played an important role — despite appearing in just 62 games last year, the Russian rearguard was offensively productive, with six goals and 36 points, and averaged nearly 22 minutes per night.

That said, Bergevin also knew the financial realities. He dished out big bucks this offseason — a combined $154.8 million for Carey Price, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk and Karl Alzner — and just didn’t have the money left to give Markov a big ticket.

Instead, Bergevin played it conservative in rounding out his defense, which included Tuesday’s one-year, $700,000 deal for Mark Streit. Some saw that deal as the writing on the wall for Markov in Montreal.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see where Markov ends up. If he lowers his asking price, there’s no doubt an NHL team would be interested. If he doesn’t, he could angle for a KHL deal and the opportunity to represent Russia in the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Malkin wants to see Ovechkin win a Stanley Cup


Evgeni Malkin‘s career is far from over, but he’s already accomplished so much.

The 30-year-old has won three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Hart Trophy, two Art Ross Trophies and a Calder Trophy.

Fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin has also won a number of individual awards, but he hasn’t been as fortunate when it comes team awards and playoff success.

There always seemed to be a rivalry between the two Russian forwards, but that doesn’t mean Malkin isn’t rooting for Ovechkin to take home a championship before his career is over.

“I was a bit luckier than (Ovechkin), that’s why I won those cups,” Malkin said, per Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko. “He has everything ahead of him. I wish him to win the cup.”

How do Penguins fans feel about that?

Malkin was also one of the more controversial omissions on the NHL’s “Top 100 Players” list. The Pens forward was disappointed about being left off the list, but hoisting Lord Stanley again seems to have erased that sting.

“I was a little bit disappointed when I wasn’t included in the list of 100 greatest players,” added Malkin. “But I won the cup and am happy.”