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The top players expected to be available in NHL free agency include an MVP candidate who may have a chance to go home and a veteran who has changed his old playbook to become a Stanley Cup champion.
Each had a career year at the perfect time.
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Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau and Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri could be the richest beneficiaries in free agency when it opens on Wednesday. Seven-year contracts worth up to, if not more than, $10 million a year are possible.
That is, unless Gaudreau is with the Flames. “Johnny Hockey” can sign eight years until midnight EDT Tuesday night.
“They’re big decisions,” Calgary general manager Brad Treliving said. “Those are life decisions. If he doesn’t sign with us, he’s got the opportunity to look at the market. It’s something he has to think about.”
All Gaudreau can think about is playing for the Philadelphia Flyers team he rooted for while growing up in Carney’s Point, New Jersey. They need to clear significant cap space to make room for Gaudreau, who had a career-best 40 goals, 75 assists and 115 points last season in leading Calgary to the Pacific Division title and the second round of the playoffs. mother.
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Gaudreau, who turns 29 in August, was fourth in Hart Trophy voting as the league’s most valuable player.
Kadri was one of Colorado’s top performers en route to lifting the Cup for the first time with Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen and the third time in franchise history.
Three years ago after the last playoff suspension, he got out of another lengthy ban in the 2021 postseason and put up 87 points in the regular season and 15 more in 16 Avalanche Cup games.
But the soon-to-be 32-year-old could be one of those odd men out, seeing as Colorado also has wings Valeri Nichushkin and Andre Burakovsky and defensemen Josh Manson and Jack Johnson set to become unrestricted free agents.
“We know we’re not going to be able to sign everybody,” said Joe Sakic, who was promoted from general manager to president of hockey operations on Monday. “We know that. But we took our lead, and then we’ll see. I think some players will test the market and see what’s available for them and see if they want to come back, but time will tell.”
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Here are some other interesting players who could test the market Wednesday afternoon EDT:
Colorado’s Cup-winning goaltender will not return after a trade with the New York Rangers to make Alexandar Georgiev the starter moving forward. With a 2.57 goals-against average and .902 save percentage, Kuemper has been unspectacular in the Avalanche’s back-to-back title, though that stability could be what the next top scorer needs.
The 32-year-old could be a perfect fit for the Toronto Maple Leafs, another team looking to win the playoffs with solid play in net. They already cleared cap space by trading Petr Mrazek to Chicago and are in a position to make a move at the most important position in hockey.
Toronto’s latest starting goalie could return or see what’s in store for the 30-year-old who showed he can carry the load in the regular season and win in the playoffs.
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Campbell put up a 1.81 GAA and a .934 save percentage in his first season in 2021, which wasn’t enough to help Toronto advance but would be a fair amount. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers will be able to provide that, and Campbell is an upgrade on the boom-or-bust 40-year-old Mike Smith.
Robin is to Sidney Crosby’s Batman for 16 years as a star in his own right as Scottie Pippen was to Michael Jordan with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. The big question now is whether Malkin will stay with the Pittsburgh Penguins at age 36 or leave for a new opportunity.
A person with knowledge of the decision said Malkin has opted to enter the free agent market and see what his options are. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because neither Malkin nor the Penguins have announced his intention to test the waters in free agency.
Penguins GM Ron Hexall last week predicted a deal soon with defenseman Kris Letang and finalized a six-year, $36.6 million contract a day later. In the same breath, Hexall said the talks with Malkin were on a different level — far from a sure thing.
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Malkin was a point-a-game performer last season after returning from right knee surgery.
In a free agent class up front and deep on the blue line, Klingberg is by far the best defenseman available.
The Dallas Stars knew before the trade deadline that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to re-sign Klingberg before free agency began. Last week, GM Jim Nill acknowledged that the soon-to-be 30-year-old Swede will talk to other teams as each side evaluates what’s best moving forward.
Klingberg is a very talented right-handed defenseman who can run a power play and break big tackles. The $63 million, seven-year contract Dougie Hamilton signed with the New Jersey Devils a year ago is a good combination.
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The longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain who recently joined the Florida Panthers helped them reach the second round of the playoffs, but the Presidents Trophy winners were then swept in the second round by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Giroux chose Florida as his destination because of the no-movement clause in his contract, and he could return as long as nothing is signed before Wednesday.
Another option is to stay close to home and join the Ottawa Senators, who are moving from a rebuild to the early stages of contention and have shown that by acquiring high-profile forward Alex DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks. Giroux is from nearby Hearst, Ontario, and will be the type of veteran that the Senators’ young core needs to lead the way to success.