Claude Giroux

NHL Power Rankings: Top free agents for 2022 offseason

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With the NHL Free Agency starting on Wednesday we are taking an updated look at our top unrestricted free agent Power Rankings from back in May, removing the players that have already re-signed with their teams (Kris Letang, Filip Forsberg, Valeri Nichushkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Rickard Rakell) and adding some of the restricted free agents that were not given qualifying offers on Monday.

The latter list includes former Blackhawks Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik, goalie Ilya Samsonov, and winger Danton Heinen.

You might notice one name missing from the list: Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron. We made the decision to leave him out of the rankings because while his contract is technically expiring, he has made it clear that there are only two realistic options for him: Re-signing with the Boston Bruins or retirement. That does not really make him a fit here with the rest of the players on the rankings.

Which players make the cut and where do they rank?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau picked a heck of a team to have a career year and be the second-leading scorer in the NHL. Gaudreau is an incredible talent, one of the most productive players in the league, and is still at an age where he should have a lot of productive hockey ahead of him. Whether it is Calgary or somewhere else, he is going to cash in this offseason. [UPDATE: Johnny Hockey is heading to the Blue Jackets on a seven-year, $68.25 million deal.]

2. Nazem Kadri. The pro: He had an incredible season and is a really good two-way player at a premium position. The concern: He will be 32 when his next contract begins and he has never really produced at this level prior to this season. Can he duplicate that on a different team, and for how many years?

3. Evgeni Malkin. If he is healthy he is still an impact player, especially on the power play. Maybe not as dominant as he was at his peak, but you would take him on your team if given the opportunity. It seems weird imagining him in a uniform other than the Penguins but that seems to be the way this is heading after it was revealed on Monday that he is testing the open market. [UPDATE: Malkin has signed a four-year, $24.4 million extension to stay in Pittsburgh.]

4. Claude Giroux. Pretty similar to Malkin in the sense that he is not quite the player he was at his peak, but he will definitely make somebody a better hockey team. Would Philadelphia bring him back? Or does he want to take another serious run at a Stanley Cup? [UPDATE: Giroux has signed a three-year, $19.5 million deal with the Senators.]

[NHL free agency tracker 2022: Full list of offseason signings]

5. David Perron. Perron is a steady producer with a track record of being a top-line player on winning teams. Also an overlooked mean streak that some teams will probably love. It probably does not matter where he actually signs because he always finds his way back to St. Louis anyway. [UPDATE: Perron is moving on after signing a two-year, $9.5 million deal with the Red Wings.]

6. Vincent Trocheck. Trocheck is a strong second line center option. Can do everything well, good production, and solid player. The bad news: This is the type of signing in free agency that will look good for two years and then by year three or four you are wondering what you are going to do with him and his salary. [UPDATE: Trocheck is heading to the Rangers after signing a seven-year, $39.375 million deal.]

7. John Klingberg. Klingberg seems to be the type of player whose reputation will depend on who you ask and when you are asking it. His defense gets a lot of criticism, but he can provide some offense from the blue line and is a better all-around player than his critics might have you believe. But is he the player you want to build your defense around? With Letang staying in Pittsburgh he is by far the top defenseman available.

8. Ondrej Palat. Palat might sometimes get overlooked on that Tampa Bay roster, but he has been one of the top players for one of the league’s top teams for a decade. Great second or third line forward for a contender. Not sure Tampa Bay will be able to re-sign him with that salary cap situation. [UPDATE: Palat heads to New Jersey with a five-year, $30 million deal with the Devils.]

9. Andrew Copp. Outstanding defensive forward whose offensive game reached another level this season. Also had a very strong playoff showing that will boost his value for sure. [UPDATE: Copp is moving on to the Red Wings with a five-year, $28.125 million deal.]

10. Evander Kane. Kane is a good player and has been very productive in Edmonton, but when you sign him you are not just signing the player. You are signing everything that comes with the player off the ice, and his off-ice issues are well documented and quite significant (read about them here, here, here, and here). There is a reason Edmonton was able to sign him for so cheap mid-season. But like with Edmonton, it only takes one team being willing to do it. [UPDATE: Kane has re-signed in Edmonton with a four-year, $20.5 million extension.]

11. Darcy Kuemper. Finally, a goalie on the list. Kuemper had a great regular season and has a very solid resume over his career. But teams might look at what happened to Phillip Grubauer when he left Colorado and wonder what happens when a 32-year-old Kuemper is playing behind a worse team. He is leaving Colorado after the team traded for Alexandar Georgiev. [UPDATE: Kuemper signs a five-year, $26.25 million deal with the Capitals.]

12. Jack Campbell. Campbell can be very hit and miss. At times over the past two years he has looked like he put everything together, and at other times he has looked just ordinary. How much faith do you have that you are consistently getting the good version? [UPDATE: The Oilers have given Campbell a five-year, $25 million contract.]

[Related: Tkachuk, Gaudreau headline offseason questions for Flames]

13. Andre Burakovsky. Really productive player and one of the younger players on the list, so his play will probably not drop off too much right away. [UPDATE: Burakovsky heads to the Kraken on a five-year, $27.5 million contract.]

14. Nino Niederreiter. Not a superstar, but he is going to score you 20-25 goals and be a strong possession driver. That is a valuable top-six winger.

15. Ryan Strome. He ended up being a really good addition for the Rangers the past few years and a solid No. 2 center. [UPDATE: Strome heads west after inking a five-year, $25 million deal with the Ducks.]

16. Dylan Strome. There is an argument to be made that Dylan might be an even more attractive option than Ryan given his age and the fact he might be a little cheaper and a better value. It is a mild surprise that the Blackhawks did not want to retain him, but the problem might be that he is just too good for what Chicago wants to accomplish this season. [UPDATE: Strome has signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Capitals.]

17. Dominik Kubalik. Kubalik came out of nowhere with a 30-goal (in only 68 games) performance as a rookie three years ago but has not been able to match that number ever since. He does have some finishing ability and could be a good scoring option for a team that needs some depth. Like Strome, he was not given a qualifying offer by the Blackhawks. [UPDATE: Kubalik is a Red Wing after signing a two-year, $5 million deal.]

18. Max Domi. Creative playmaker with some defensive shortcomings. Good complementary player but probably not much more than that. [UPDATE: Domi heads to the Blackhawks with a one-year, $3 million deal.]

19. Reilly Smith. Very similar player to Niederreiter in terms of what to expect production wise, but maybe not quite the same level of possession driving ability. [UPDATE: Smith is staying in Las Vegas on a three-year, $15 million extension.]

20. Ilya Samsonov. Samsonov was supposed to be the Capitals’ long-term solution in goal and replace Braden Holtby. It has not worked out at all. With the trade of Vitek Vanecek and not qualifying Samsonov the Capitals are now completelly overhauling their goalie position. He might draw some strong interest in an alarmingly thin goalie market with somebody hoping he can still reach some of his potential. [UPDATE: Samsonov has signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract with the Maple Leafs.]

21. Brett Kulak. The former Montreal defenseman teams should have been trying to acquire when the Ben Chiarot bidding war happened. Nothing flashy about his play, but he is a very good mid-pairing defender. [UPDATE: Kulak moves to the Oilers with a four-year, $11 million contract.]

22. Danton Heinen. Heinen had a strong season for the Penguins, scoring a career high 18 goals. But that was probably going to drive up his price tag due to arbitration and the Penguins obviously did not want to go there, especially with the re-signing of Rickard Rakell. Good all around player with some scoring touch.

23. Mason Marchment. A late bloomer, Marchment had a really nice year for the Panthers. Can he repeat it? How much is that one year at age 26 worth on the open market? [UPDATE: Marchment is heading to Dallas after signing a four-year, $18 million deal.]

24. P.K. Subban. Still a big name, still extremely talented with the occasional “wow” moment, but not quite the consistent impact player and superstar he was in his prime.

25. Phil Kessel. Kessel is a new addition to the list with some of the other wings re-signing. He is not an elite goal scorer anymore, but he is always going to be in the lineup and while his goal scoring has started to dry up he remains an excellent playmaker. You need a specialized role for him, but he can still provide something.

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    NHL Power Rankings: Best free agent signings so far this offseason

    NHL Power Rankings
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    In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look at the best free agent signings of the offseason (so far).

    While there are still a handful of top free agents still available (Nazem Kadri, John Klingberg), most of the top players have already found new homes. Some of those signings are going to work out very well. Others might not.

    So let’s try to figure out which ones might be the best investments. We are limiting it this to players that signed after the opening of the free agent signing period this past Wednesday. So players that re-signed with their teams before that are excluded from the list. Also a reminder: This is not a ranking of the best players to sign. It is a ranking of the best signings, taking into account the player, production, contract term, salary cap hit, risk, and total value.

    Who all makes the cut?

    To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

    1. Johnny Gaudreau, Columbus Blue Jackets (seven years, $68.25 million). The most stunning free agent signing was also the best. Yes, most long-term free agent contracts end in a buyout or a trade. But there are always exceptions. This could very easily be an exception. Gaudreau is a top-tier offensive force and is still at an age where he should perform at an extremely level for the foreseeable future. The Blue Jackets needed a star, and they got one. Even If Gaudreau is not a 115-point player again and levels off at an 80-or 90-point level he will still be worth it.

    [Related: How good can Blue Jackets be after signing Gaudreau?]

    2. Claude Giroux, Ottawa Senators (three years, $19.5 million). Giroux might be getting older, but he is still an outstanding player and the Senators are getting him on a really good deal. Not too much term, reasonable salary cap hit, not much risk, and it helps round a rapidly improving Senators’ top-six. Are they a playoff team because of it? Probably not. But they are better. And more entertaining.

    3. Darcy Kuemper, Washington Capitals (five years, $26.25 million). The Capitals badly needed a goalie and completely revamped the position by dumping Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek and signing Kuemper in free agency. Kuemper drew some criticism in the playoffs this year, but his overall track record in the NHL is very strong. Among goalies with at least 100 games played over the past three years, Igor Shesterkin is the only goalie with a better all situations save percentage than Kuemper’s .920.

    4. Frank Vatrano, Anaheim Ducks (three years, $10.95 million). Absolutely love this signing by the Ducks. Vatrano is not a star, but he can do two things really well: Generate shots and score goals. The Panthers never should have traded him, the Rangers are going to miss him, and the Ducks got him on a nice three-year deal for just $3.6 million per year.

    [Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker]

    5. David Perron, Detroit Red Wings (two years, $9.5 million). Perron is getting older, but this is a really strong deal for a Red Wings team making to take a big leap forward. He is a legit top-line winger and the Red Wings have almost no risk on a two-year contract.

    6. Andrew Copp, Detroit Red Wings (five years, $28.25 million) . This deal reminds me a lot of the Philip Danault signing in Los Angeles a year ago. Similar term, player, cap hit, and team situation. I like Copp over somebody like, say, Vincent Trocheck because he is a year younger, better defensively, and has a term that is two years shorter.

    7. Vincent Trocheck, New York Rangers (seven years, $39.375 million). Trocheck is a very good player and will be a nice second-line center for the Rangers. But this is also the type of free agency contract I hate and the type that should scare the heck out of you as a fan of a team. A seven-year term for a soon-to-be 30-year-old non-star is not going to end well. Also, the Rangers had to watch Copp, Ryan Strome, and Vatrano all leave to make this signing happen. Does that make them a better team?

    8. Andre Burakovsky, Seattle Kraken (five years, $27.5 million). Good player on an okay contract, but I do wonder what the overall plan is here for Seattle? Just a weird approach from the very beginning. How will he produce away from the high powered Avalanche offense?

    9. Ryan Strome, Anaheim Ducks (five years, $25 million). Strome averaged a 22-goal, 60-point pace per 82 games during his time with the Rangers and was a legit second-line center offensively. He has had some shortcomings defensively at times, but if he repeats what he did in New York with the Ducks he will be a fine addition.

    10. Dylan Strome, Washington Capitals (one year, $3.5 million). What I love about this deal is just how cheap it is. One year and only $3.5 million? For a player that will probably a produce a similar level of offense as Copp or Trocheck down the middle? He might be a half-tier below those two as overall players, but the price is certainly right as they look to get by without Nicklas Backstrom.

    11. Mason Marchment, Dallas Stars (four years, $18 million). If he is just a late-bloomer and his 2021-22 season was not a fluke this contract could be one of the best signed all summer. But he has so little NHL track record to go by it is tough to be fully convinced of that.

    12. Ondrej Palat, New Jersey Devils (five years, $30 million). He is not Johnny Gaudreau or Alex DeBrincat, but Palat is a strong top-six addition to a Devils team that badly needs some complementary players for Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. In the short-term, at least. How many more years does he have as a top-six producer?

    13. Calle Jarnkrok, Toronto Maple Leafs (four years, $8.4 million). Jarnkrok is one of the steadiest players you will find in the NHL in terms of what he brings. He will score 15 goals, 30 points, play good defense, and be a really solid third-line player. The four-year term is maybe a year too long, but you can not beat the salary cap number.

    14. Brett Kulak, Edmonton Oilers (four years, $11 million). Kulak is not going to carry the Oilers’ defense, but he was very good after being acquired at the trade deadline and this is a very strong re-sign by the Oilers after he went to market. In a thin defense crop, the Oilers did well.

    15. Dominik Kubalik, Detroit Red Wings (two years, $5.5 million). This is a nice gamble for the Red Wings. Kubalik has his flaws, but he does have some finishing ability as a goal scorer even if it it peaked as a rookie. The price is right for this.

    16. Ilya Mikheyev, Vancouver Canucks (four years, $19 million). The Canucks always have a couple of random players in the middle of their lineup making far more than you realize for too many years. This one might continue that trend. Mikheyev does a lot of things well, but I am not sure he is going to score 20 goals again.

    17. Jack Campbell, Edmonton Oilers (five years, $25 million). Just not sure how much I trust Campbell to be the answer behind a weak defensive team. That contract is concerning.

    18. Josh Manson, Colorado Avalanche (four years, $18 million). Manson was a good addition for Colorado at the trade deadline, but this also seems like a luxury re-signing (and maybe even an overpay) for a team that is already loaded on defense.

    19. Jan Rutta, Pittsburgh Penguins (three years, $8.25 million). The Penguins really tried to overhaul their defense this offseason and it started with the Rutta addition. He is not going to be one of their top defenders, but given what players like Erik Gudbranson and Ben Chiarot signed for this is not a bad deal for what the Penguins will expect of him.

    20. Justin Schultz, Seattle Kraken (two years, $6 million). Another bizarre move for Seattle, but again, given the market for other defenders it is not a terrible deal.

    Senators vastly improved, may set up salary cap problems

    Senators vastly improved, but could set up salary cap headaches
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    During previous offseasons, people understandably joked about the Senators being “cheap.” Plenty of smaller moves followed that pattern, too. With some incredibly promising and deeply unexpected moves in free agency/trades, the Senators flipped that script this summer.

    However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve dropped every organizational strategy or blueprint.

    Amusingly enough, while the Senators have pinched pennies on a year-to-year basis, they’ve also curiously inspired a thought. (At least, personally.)

    “Hmm, they’re sure paying full price and giving plenty of long-term contracts to their young players.”

    Such a thought re-entered my skull when the Senators signed Josh Norris to a beefy eight-year, $63.6 million contract on Thursday. This latest contract is just the most recent piece to a puzzle that mostly looks promising, but carries at least a few red flags.

    Here’s why.

    Signing young players to value contracts (or luck into rookie contract windows) can really help teams open up windows for success

    Allow me to share another personal belief. Building a Stanley Cup contender isn’t just about finding talented players, and getting the most out of them. It’s also about picking your spots about how you use your salary cap space. Eventually, the bill comes along for top talent, and often the supporting cast members who put you over the top.

    But there’s real value in opening windows — even small ones — where you get more than what you pay for from key players.

    The Penguins won their first Stanley Cup of the Sidney Crosby era while Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal were still under their rookie contracts. Alex DeBrincat‘s former team the Blackhawks won their first of three Stanley Cups in the final year of rookie deals for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

    [Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker]

    Of course, few teams will be able to line up entry-level contracts with peak opportunities to win Stanley Cups. But we’ve seen plenty of contenders eye value. The Avalanche bought low on the likes of Valeri Nichushkin, Nazem Kadri, and Devon Toews (among others), lining up advantages for a period of time.

    Sure, it stinks to eventually lose some of those extra players who possibly gave you that additional push. Yet, spry contenders figure things out. Look at the Lightning, a franchise that gained some real value stretches from key players before they had to pay up (and make painful cuts).

    In other words, you can travel to great places with “bridge” contracts, even if it opens up some uncertainty at the end of the tunnel.

    For example: now-former Blackhawk Alex DeBrincat will finish his bridge contract this year, when his $6.4 million contract expires with the Senators. Clearly, Chicago couldn’t take advantage of that bargain. But that was to no fault of DeBrincat, who was easily worth that $6.4 million.

    Senators have instead opted to skip the ‘bridge’ contract process

    For better or worse (my guess: better and worse), the Ottawa Senators have generally skipped those “bridge” contracts. In some prominent cases, core players jumped from rookie contracts to whoppers.

    Between Chabot, Tkachuk, Norris, and Batherson, that’s a touch less than $30 million in mostly-long-term investments.

    Overall, it feels like something of an organizational strategy. Up front, there’s a lot of sense to it, too. From Erik Karlsson to Mark Stone all the way down to older examples like Dany Heatley, the Senators experienced heartbreak after heartbreak when it came to losing important players.

    By locking up so many players through 2027-28 or even 2029-30, that’s not much of a worry.

    That said, it could make it trickier to keep other pieces together.

    How much might DeBrincat, Stützle, and defensive upgrades cost?

    If you’re like me, when the Senators pulled off the surprising Alex DeBrincat trade, your mind shifted (probably too quickly) to the doubtful side. Sure, DeBrincat costs $6.4M now, but he’s set up for big money starting next season. What if he wants out of Ottawa, anyway?

    The general answer to that is: the Senators would have options to move on if needed. And, failing that, there’s a very real element of “You need to spend money, to make money.” At the absolute minimum, the Sens are showing that they aren’t just going to sit idly by in trying to exit their rebuild.

    But … yeah, it does seem like things are getting expensive, and could get downright exorbitant.

    In the event that Alex DeBrincat stays, it’s hard to fathom him not becoming the most expensive Senators player. The cheapest scenario seems like it would be DeBrincat matching Brady Tkachuk’s $8.2M cap hit. (Disclaimer: Johnny Gaudreau was expected to get more than he did, especially with Columbus, so there’s always room for chaos.)

    Getting paid peer pressure

    To me, the most interesting Senators wildcard isn’t DeBrincat, actually. Instead, it’s the No. 3 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft, rapidly improving center, and chuckle-buddy of Brady Tkachuk: Tim Stützle.

    It’s logical and better that Evolving Hockey models its contract projections based on league-wide comparisons. Yet, one wonders about the potentially large influence of what players on someone’s team makes.

    • Back in the wilderness era of the Avalanche, $6M felt like something of a benchmark/personal dispute for Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly. Maybe it even nudged Nathan MacKinnon closer to that range (the biggest factor being MacKinnon’s brief puck luck issues, of course).
    • By signing John Tavares to that $11M deal, did the Maple Leafs bring on challenges? Both Mitch Marner and especially Auston Matthews could point to that $11M, and at least argue they were worth something in that neighborhood.
    • It’s possible that Sidney Crosby’s 87 fixation not just kept his cap hit artificially low, but also kept Evgeni Malkin in that general stratosphere ($8.7M as well from 2009-10 to 2013-14; $9.5M from 2014-15 through last season). It’s unlikely coincidental that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane carrying match $10.5M cap hits that expire after the same (2022-23) season.

    With those situations in mind, and DeBrincat likely in line for at least the same $8M minimum if he stays with the Senators, then what about Tim Stützle? Wouldn’t he feel slighted if they tried a bridge deal with him after not even doing so with Norris?

    Don’t get this wrong, Norris could very well end up worth $8M-ish. He just feels like someone who maybe still needs to prove that he’s a true core player, but now he’s getting paid as such.

    If you’re Tim Stützle, how could you not want an explanation if the Senators get trigger-happy on a long-term, $8M-ish contract after they handed out quite a few in that range?

    Look at a Stützle – Norris 5-on-5 RAPM comparison from Evolving Hockey, and you’ll note that they even drive play in similar ways. (And the younger Stützle, in particular, is in that stage of his career where he’s making real season-to-season gains as a more polished overall player.)

    Senators vastly improved, but could set up salary cap headaches
    via Evolving Hockey

    Last season, Norris scored more goals (35 to 22) while Stützle generated three more points (58 to 55). Again, Stützle is younger, and has higher draft pedigree. He’d have a credible argument for asking for the same money and term.

    [The Flyers show there are far, far worse situations to be in]

    Maybe the Senators could boldly say “sorry, we can’t.” But it seems like a potentially challenging conundrum.

    Especially when you add DeBrincat, likely the richest contract if he stays. That belt gets even tighter if the Senators trade for a defenseman like MacKenzie Weegar (also cheap now but needing a new contract after 2022-23) or Jeff Petry (who’d carry similar costs as Claude Giroux, and at the same age of 34).

    The pessimistic size blurts out: “The Senators sure feel like they’re spending like a contending team without a guarantee that they’ll even be good.”

    There are worse problems to have — the Senators know that all too well

    However, the optimistic side should be heard, loud and clear.

    For one thing, the Senators really have faced the threat of losing all of the (hopefully) blue-chip prospects they’ve locked down. Logically enough, the Senators may have felt that it was worth paying a premium to keep core players signed through their primes.

    Tkachuk’s 22, Norris is 23, DeBrincat is just 24, Chabot’s still young at 25, and Stützle is remarkably advanced at 20. There are other intriguing players in the pipeline. Some (Jake Sanderson, 20) inspire more recent optimism than others (Erik Brännström) but you can picture scenarios where quite a few of those prospects pan out. Maybe those are the players the Senators try to squeeze cheap “bridge” years out of?

    Getting better on defense is crucial, and easier said than done. Even so, perhaps Senators coach D.J. Smith could evoke teams like the 2021-22 Panthers in guiding a team that simply creates much more offense than it gives up?

    Senators vastly improved, but could set up salary cap headaches DJ Smith
    via Hockey Viz

    Those circumstances only make MacKenzie Weegar — a key catalyst for the Panthers relentless transition attack — an even more exciting potential addition.

    For sure, there’s a part of me that wonders if the Senators may suffer from a severe lack of flexibility if they realize that their promising pieces need that extra (expensive) “oomph.”

    That’s particularly true in an Atlantic Division that could be even tougher if the mainstays remain great, and the Red Wings take big steps of their own. Despite some lingering concerns about the team’s structure, this much is clear: the Senators really do have a lot to be excited about.

    Senators land Claude Giroux with three-year, $19.5M deal

    senators giroux
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    Claude Giroux is heading to the Ottawa Senators after signing a three-year, $19.5 million deal Wednesday.

    “We’re thrilled to add a player of Claude’s calibre to our lineup,” said Senators general manager Pierre Dorion. “He’s an elite offensive talent with exceptional face-off prowess and a player who maintains a strong work ethic. His leadership skills are arguably among his best assets. We’ve set out to bolster our roster this off-season and this addition is another important component in helping us achieve that. We’re very happy to welcome Claude and his family home to Ottawa.”

    The longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain finished the 2021-22 NHL season with the Florida Panthers following a March trade. Giroux, 34, finished with 21 goals and 65 points in 75 regular-season games between the two teams. He would later record eight points in 10 playoff games before the Panthers were swept in the Second Round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    According to Cap Friendly, Giroux will make $7 million in salary next season; $7 million in salary in 2023-24; and $5.5 million in the final year. The contract also features a full no-movement clause in all three years.

    Signing Giroux continues an aggressive offseason for Dorion. Last week he sent a trio of draft picks to the Chicago Blackhawks for 40-goal scorer Alex DeBrincat. Days later he freed up salary cap space by moving two picks and goaltender Matt Murray to the Toronto Maple Leafs. To replace Murray in net, the GM then swapped Filip Gustavsson with Cam Talbot in a deal with the Minnesota Wild.

    [NHL free agency tracker 2022: Full list of offseason signings]

    The experience Giroux will bring to a Senators team that is trending upward will help in the development of their young forwards like Josh Norris, Shane Pinto and Tim Stützle.

    Giroux’s deal leaves the Senators with a little under $16 million in cap space, per Cap Friendly. Restricted free agents Alex Formenton, Erik Brännström, Mathieu Joseph and Josh Norris still need to be signed, with Norris, a 35-goal scorer last season, likely taking up a big chunk.

    These moves and future ones, like retaining homegrown players like Norris and Formenton, show that the Senators are ready to win this coming season. Maybe they’re not Stanley Cup dreaming yet, but these are steps towards to end their five-season postseason drought.

    “I wouldn’t sign here if I didn’t think we had a chance to win a Cup,” Giroux told TSN. “…I’m not saying we’re going to win the Cup this year, but the plan is the build on it and have baby steps to that.”


    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    NHL Power Rankings: Top storylines heading into NHL Free Agency

    NHL Power Rankings
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    In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look ahead to the start of free agency on Wednesday and the top storylines that will unfold over the next few days.

    Will Johnny Gaudreau reach the open market? Will Pittsburgh find a way to keep Evgeni Malkin? Just how low will the Chicago Blackhawks go in their rebuild? How about that goalie market?

    We take a look at all of those stories and more.

    What are we paying attention to most?

    To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

    1. Will Calgary get Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk signed long-term?

    Gaudreau and Tkachuk were one of the most dominant duos in the NHL during the 2021-22 season, and there is a very strong and convincing argument to be made that they were the most dominant duo. When those two were on the ice the Flames were a runaway freight train that steamrolled over everybody they played. They are both in need of new contracts this offseason, with Gaudreau still eligible for unrestricted free agency and Tkachuk a restricted free agent. Gaudreau will have no shortage of suitors if he reaches the open market and would seem a lock to sign the biggest contract this offseason. The Flames’ ability to re-sign him and work out an extension with Tkachuk will go a long way toward determining what their next few years will look like.

    2. Will Evgeni Malkin be back in Pittsburgh?

    The Penguins have already re-signed two of their top unrestricted free agents by agreeing to long-term deals with Bryan Rust and Kris Letang. Malkin still remains a mystery with the start of free agency just days away. The main sticking point seems to be term, with the Penguins seemingly preferring a two-or-three year deal and Malkin wanting a four-year deal. The concerns with Malkin are fair. He is going to be 36 years old, he has had major knee injuries the past couple of years, and he is going to start slowing down. In all honesty, he already has. The counterpoint to that is that he is still almost certainly a better option than any potential replacement the Penguins can bring in this offseason.

    [Related: Penguins re-sign Kris Letang to six-year, $36.6 million contract]

    3. What is Toronto going to do in goal?

    This is starting to get interesting. Talks with Jack Campbell do not seem to be progressing, and the goalie market has dried up significantly over the past week with Marc-Andre Fleury, Alexandar Georgiev, and Ville Husso all going off the market. Can they afford Darcy Kuemper? Do they trade for Matt Murray and hope he can rebound? This is a big question mark that still needs to addressed and the options are getting thin.

    4. How deep will Chicago’s rebuild go?

    Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Hagel, and Kirby Dach are gone. Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome seem unlikely to get qualifying offers. Brett Connolly is getting bought out. This team already stinks and it is going to get dramatically worse. The only next logical steps are trading Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. They will almost certainly have to eat salary to make those moves happen, and Toews’ value is probably in the tank, but there is really no point in keeping them around at this point given the direction this team is clearly taking.

    [Related: Blackhawks trade Alex DeBrincat to Ottawa Senators]

    5. What will Edmonton do with its newfound salary cap space?

    Thanks to Duncan Keith’s retirement and the trade to dump Zack Kassian’s remaining salary the Edmonton Oilers are actually entering the offseason with some salary cap flexibility. Despite their success this past season it is still a team in need of some major improvements regarding its depth and goaltending. How much are they willing to pay Evander Kane? Can they get Kuemper in free agency?

    6. How much will John Klingberg get?

    With Letang re-signed in Pittsburgh, the already-thin UFA defense market gets even thinner. It is basically Klingberg, and then a pretty gigantic gap to the next best player. That is bad news for everybody except John Klingberg. He can still bring plenty of offense and is not just the best option for a team in need of a top-four defenseman in free agency; he is probably the only option in free agency.

    7. What will the Canucks do with J.T. Miller?

    He has been on the trade rumor mill for more than a year. He has just one year remaining on his contract, and it remains to be seen whether or not they can get him re-signed. He has been outstanding with the Canucks and is coming off a career year that saw him record 99 points. He is an impact player, but do not get high hopes for a massive trade return. These deals never bring back what you expect.

    8. Who can Colorado keep?

    There is no downside to winning, but if there were a downside it would probably be the fact your players get more expensive and you can not keep everybody. Darcy Kuemper is already done, but Andre Burakovsky, Valeri Nichushkin, and Nazem Kadri are all unrestricted free agents, while Arturri Lehkonen is a significant restricted free agent. They do not have the salary cap space to keep everybody. Nichushkin in particular seems like he might be able to really cash in after his playoff run.

    [Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Signing Tracker]

    9. How does Tampa Bay solve its salary cap crunch?

    The Lightning enter the offseason with no salary cap space and have already traded Ryan McDonagh. Most of the roster remains under contract, but Ondrej Palat is a pretty significant unrestricted free agent. Can they move somebody like an Alex Killorn to create more flexibility?

    Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

    10. The Bruins offseason

    All signs point to Patrice Bergeron returning, but nothing is official yet. There is speculation that David Krejci could return, but that is far from a given. There is also the looming David Pastrnak contract extension that needs to be settled. They could either still look like a strong contender, or take a pretty significant step backwards depending on how all of those play out.

    11. Offer sheets?

    This is typically a waste of time to discuss because it is rare to see them signed, and even rarer to see them not get matched. But we have seen more of a willingness to go that route in recent years, at least as far as Montreal and Carolina are concerned. Could Calgary be vulnerable to an offer sheet for Andrew Mangiapane if they re-sign Gaudreau and Tkachuk? Would Toronto try to get bold and go for Jake Oettinger? Is there somebody in Carolina (Martin Necas) that Montreal could target to continue their RFA back-and-forth? Somebody might want to look at Arturri Lehkonen in Colorado is the Avalanche have a salary cap crunch.

    [Related: NHL Power Rankings: Most intriguing restricted free agent situations]

    12. What do the Rangers do?

    The New York Rangers had a great playoff run, but there was nothing about it that seemed sustainable. They still need to get better and that might be a challenge. Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, and Ryan Strome are all unrestricted free agents and will need to be replaced while also making the necessary improvements to take the next step. As of Monday they have about $10 million in salary cap space to do all of that.

    13. Does Detroit have another big move?

    It is time for the Red Wings to take the next step in their rebuild. They have some great young core players, made a big move for a goalie (Husso), but they are still facing an uphill battle in that division.

    14. How do the Islanders get better?

    Speaking of New York teams needing to get better, what about the Islanders? It is pretty clear they think they can still compete and that the 2021-22 season was a fluke (and maybe it was), but they have got to add some offense somewere. Alex DeBrincat and Kevin Fiala have already been traded. Filip Forsberg re-signed in Nashville. Johnny Gaudreau seems like a pipe dream. Could they put together enough of a trade package for J.T. Miller? They need to do something because the team as constructed is not close to good enough.

    15. What is the market for the big names that are declining?

    Specifically, Claude Giroux, Phil Kessel, and P.K. Subban. Of the three, Giroux is probably still the most productive, but how much is a team willing to give him? Could he return to Philadelphia? Re-sign with Florida? Maybe go closer to home to a suddenly improving Senators team? Kessel is also intriguing because even though his goal scoring has dried up, he remains a solid playmaker that could still produce in the right role.

    16. Capitals questions

    They still have Ilya Samsonov in net, but is he the answer? How do they find a complement to him? Also what are their plans at center with Nicklas Backstrom’s injury situation? Will he back? Do they LTIR him and find a replacement?