Which team(s) need to make the biggest splash in NHL free agency?
James O’Brien, NHL writer: The Islanders maneuvered brilliantly to open up cap space (even if they put themselves in a pickle), and considering the dwindling window for some top players, it would be disappointing if they didn’t add that extra punch to put them over the top. The Hurricanes keep sending signals about going cheap, which would be frustrating since they’ve been hovering around a deep run for agonizingly long. They need to stick with it, even if their splashes merely translate to keeping Dougie Hamilton and signing Andrei Svechnikov. I’m not totally sure how the Wild would make it work, but they clearly called their shot in opening up a lot of cap space this year specifically with the still-kind-of-bewildering buyouts of Parise and Suter.
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: The Islanders really strike me as a team that needs to do something bold. Whatever you think of their style of play and approach, they have advanced in the playoffs three years in a row and made it to the Stanley Cup Semifinal/Eastern Conference Final round twice and have been unable to get over that hurdle. They are close. They spent the first part of the offseason clearing salary cap space. There is a chance to try to get somebody significant that might really be able to make a difference. What better way to open your new arena? Whether it is Gabriel Landeskog, or a Vladimir Tarasenko trade, or maybe even something really bold like one of the top defenders they should be shopping.
Beyond them, I want to say Boston. Their Cup opportunity is still there with this group, and even after re-signing Tuukka Rask and David Krejci (which I am assuming they will) they should still have enough salary cap space to do something in free agency or the trade market. When you have the kind of players they have at the top of the lineup you owe it to them to try everything in your power to get to another Cup Final and win it.
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: After re-signing restricted free agents Filip Chytil, Libor Hájek, and Igor Shesterkin, the Rangers will still have the salary cap room to add an impact UFA (Gabriel Landeskog?) or go big in acquiring Jack Eichel.
With the management change this spring and the edict from ownership that it’s time to start winning, the Rangers’ roster building needs to take a big step this offseason. Adding Barclay Goodrow and Sammy Blais shakes up the bottom-six, and a Landeskog or Eichel would really put some oooomph up front.
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: I think the Seattle Kraken will make the biggest splash in free agency. They have plenty of money to spend, around $30 million, and with the cap being flat for a couple of seasons, and likely more to come, some teams are hamstrung with big contracts and that will allow the Kraken to come in and swoop a player or two. Look for Gabriel Landeskog to get some consideration from the Kraken. The Canadiens also need to make a big splash, especially after selecting Logan Mailloux with their first pick. They need to take the pressure off themselves for the controversial pick and making a big splash in NHL free agency will help.
Who is the UFA you feel will receive the most eye-opening contract (good or bad)?
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Landeskog should get the most eye-opening contract as the Kraken should be all in on him. It will be a big surprise around the league that Colorado won’t be able to sign him and an even bigger surprise that he goes to Seattle.
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Teams are going even wilder than usual for grit and snarl lately, so I feel like Gabriel Landeskog’s contract will widen a lot of eyes. He’s a good player — very good, actually — but for his style, a huge $ amount and term could make things go sour quickly. Then again, Zach Hyman sure looks like he’s going to be an even more obvious example of “good player who becomes a problem because someone gives him way too much money and term.”
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Blake Coleman has been a valued member of the Lightning’s last two Stanley Cup championship teams. He can provide valuable depth up front for any team, but we all know how NHL general managers looooove to overspend when they’re desperate. That mix led to the Goodrow contract in New York, and will likely lead to a contract with similar term but more dollars attached to it for the 29-year-old.
Would you be surprised to see something in the realm of four or five years with a $5 million cap hit attached to it?
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Blake Coleman is the easy answer here because I think he could get one of the biggest contracts of anybody in the free agent market. He is the rare player that everybody agrees on whether your look at analytics or intangibles and eye test, he has the Cup winning clout (two years in a row) that GMs love, and he is a really good player. It would not surprise me if he signs for six or seven years somewhere and for more than $5 or $6 million per year.
The other name I am watching though is Casey Cizikas for an eye-opening contract. If Brandon Tanev and Barclay Goodrow can get six-year contracts worth more than $3.5 million per season who is to say that Cizikas can not get a similar contract? He absolutely can.