NHL free agency matchmaker: Best landing spot for Hoffman, Duclair, and more

NHL Free Agency

The initial NHL free agent signing frenzy has passed, but there is still some talent available on the open market that can make an impact.

So let’s play another round of matchmaker to try and fit the best fit for top remaining free agents.

Mike Hoffman

By far the most productive of the players still available. He is a one-dimensional player whose value is tied to his ability to score goals. Fortunately for him, he is very good at scoring goals.

You know you can pencil him in for 25-30 goals at the start of every season and he is going to give you exactly that. He is not going to carry a line or be a cornerstone player, but in the right role with the right linemates he could be a very effective complementary player for a contender.

I like the idea of Boston as a potential landing spot, but the Bruins still have to re-sign Jake DeBrusk, and with just a little over $6 million in salary cap space it would be extremely difficult to sign both players unless one of them took a significant discount.

The Blue Jackets could definitely use another goal-scoring option on the wing and have plenty of salary cap space to work with, even taking into account the fact they need to re-sign Pierre-Luc Dubois.

The other obvious team here is Nashville. The Predators shed a ton of salary this offseason by trading Nick Bonino, buying out Kyle Turris and allowing Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith to leave in free agency. That is three of the top-four goal-scorers from a team that was only 17th in the league in scoring. There is an obvious need for offense here.

Out of those options Nashville seems to be the most sensible landing spot at this point when you take into account team need, salary cap space, and fit.

Anthony Duclair

Probably the most intriguing player still available.

Like Hoffman his value is tied to his ability to score goals, but while he has not yet provemn to score at quite that level he is not far behind, is five years younger, and might have an even bigger upside.

The only reason he is even available at this point is because the Senators did not give him a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent, allowing him to go to the open market. Somebody should have signed him by now.

Even if he does not score at that same pace he did this past season (23 goals in 66 games) he has still proven to be a 20-goal scorer in the NHL, and there is still a lot of value in that.

I see two good options here.

The first is a short-term contract with a young, rebuilding team where he can get a big role and boost his value. A team like Detroit or New Jersey comes to mind. He could get big minutes there, score, and end up on a contender by the trade deadline.

the second is a team like the Dallas Stars. Even though they just played in the Stanley Cup Final, they could still use a little more scoring punch in their lineup and Duclair would be a great, cheap option to provide that.

Mikael Granlund

There is the potential for somebody to get a really good bargain here. Maybe his time in Nashville did not work out as expected, but he’s still a talented player that could seemingly be had for cheap at this point.

Columbus is the team that comes to mind here, and when combined with the additions of Max Domi and Mikko Koivu could make for a very nice offseason to boost their forward depth.

Dominik Kahun

We always hear about how Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is quick to correct his mistakes.

Trading Kahun at the deadline this past season was a mistake.

He has a chance to correct that with Kahun back on the UFA market after he was not qualified by Buffalo. The Penguins’ bottom-six needs more scoring and Kahun seemed to be a great fit in the first half of the 2019-20 season.

Carl Soderberg

Vancouver is the team that jumps out to me, but only if it can make another corresponding move.

That move: Find a way to dump Brandon Sutter or Jay Beagle‘s remaining contracts. They would not only have to do that to create a roster spot, but also to create the necessary salary cap space.

The Canucks’ roster is incredibly top heavy offensively and their bottom-six needs a serious infusion of talent and offense. Soderberg isn’t a star by any means, but he’s a potential 20-goal, 40-point man and would be the third-best center on the roster after Bo Horvat and J.T. Miller.

They took a huge step forward this past season but still need more depth to become a serious Stanley Cup contender. Maybe Soderberg isn’t a long-term solution to that problem, but he could be a very nice short-term addition.

If that doesn’t work because of the salary cap, any team that needs extra center depth should be calling Soderberg, including Minnesota and Nashville.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

tampa bay lightning
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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

Rasmus Sandin
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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.