NHL free agency is only days away. Teams have had the opportunity to talk to some of their targets over the last few days, so we have an idea of which general mangers are interested in certain players. Some player/team fits are better than others. Let’s take a look at five free agent fits that could make sense for some organizations around the league.
Here we go:
• Paul Stastny to Montreal
The Canadiens have a huge hole down the middle and we already know that John Tavares isn’t interested in going there. GM Marc Bergevin, who is armed with cap space, has already reportedly enquired about Stastny’s interest in coming to Montreal.
Bergevin’s squad doesn’t look like it’s going to be ready to be a serious Stanley Cup contender anytime soon, but they might be able to offer more money than any other team in the league. Sure, Stastny will want to go somewhere where he can win, but money talks, too.
Once Tavares is off the market, teams looking for a center will have to focus their attention to Stastny. There’s a really good chance he ends up getting overpaid, but that’s the price it takes to land a second-line center.
Whether or not you think the Canadiens should go after veteran players over 30 years old instead of rebuilding is a different story, but you have to believe that Bergevin wants to get this team back in the playoffs as soon as he possibly can.
• Rick Nash to Columbus
Nash spent the first nine seasons of his NHL career with the Blue Jackets, so there’s some familiarity there. He scored over 20 goals nine times while playing for Columbus and he was the first impact player the team was able to land.
The Jackets are a young team with solid goaltending and a steady defense, but they could certainly use some more help in the scoring department. Even though Nash isn’t as productive as he once was, he still managed to score 21 goals in 71 games in 2017-18.
The 34-year-old is more of a secondary scorer than a go-to guy right now, but that shouldn’t bother the Blue Jackets, as they have Artemi Panarin (for now) as a top offensive option.
If Nash wants to go somewhere he can win and somewhere that’s comfortable, he could do much worse than Columbus.
• Robin Lehner to Detroit
Lehner’s career hasn’t panned out the way many expected so far, but he’s still young enough that he can develop into a steady starting netminder.
There aren’t many teams looking for a number one goalie right now, so landing with the Red Wings might make sense for a few reasons.
Yes, Jimmy Howard is still there. But he’s 34, he’s entering the final year of his contract and there’s no reason to believe that the Wings don’t want to get younger at that position. By bringing in Lehner this summer, Detroit would get a quality backup goalie that could potentially take over if Howard leaves in the near future.
The 26-year-old could benefit from a fresh start.
• Riley Nash to Vancouver
The Canucks, who should be in rebuilding mode, don’t seem to want to embrace the fact that they aren’t a powerhouse anymore. There’s no denying that they’re thin down the middle though, so it’s entirely possible that they could throw a bunch of money on a player like Nash, who is coming off a strong season.
The 29-year-old put up career-highs in goals (15) and points (41) with Boston last season. He even filled in for Patrice Bergeron for a while when the Bruins’ top line center was banged up during the year.
Vancouver might be one of those teams that believe Nash’s production can continue trending up if they give him added responsibility.
Again, the Canucks should probably be focused on giving their younger players an opportunity to get significant ice time, but that hasn’t been their approach in recent years.
• Patrick Maroon to St. Louis
Maroon is from the St. Louis area, so there’s a chance that he could be looking to come home. The Blues are also looking for some added scoring depth and Maroon showed that is capable of chipping in offensively if put in the right situation.
The 30-year-old is coming off back surgery, but he managed to score 17 goals and 43 points in 74 games with Edmonton and New Jersey last season.
Of course, everything will have to check out medically if he’s going to land a nice deal.