Some of hockey’s biggest names may be on the move as NHL free agency kicks off July 13.
The excitement of the NHL offseason heats up Wednesday as players looking for a contract will be able to sign wherever they choose. Among the top names include Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau, who had the best year of his career in the 2021-22 season finishing with 115 points.
Gaudreau will enter as the top name on the board but there are more on the offensive and defensive side to be keeping an eye out for as their signings could seriously shake up the NHL.
Here’s where we expect some of the top names to end up as NHL free agency gets underway:
Johnny Gaudreau re-signs with Calgary Flames
There was a time when it seemed Gaudreau and the Flames would be looking to go their separate ways this offseason but after what was a shining season for the player and the team, a return seems like the best option for both parties. The 28-year-old will be 29 when the puck drops to begin the 2022-23 season and it would be shocking if Gaudreau wasn’t on the wing for Calgary’s season opener.
The career-highs in goals, assists, points and plus/minus displayed how well Gaudreau fit in Flames head coach Daryl Sutter’s system. The two sides have expressed wanting to make a contract happen. It’s not surefire but it should be if the Flames want to be in contention next season.
Nazem Kadri re-signs with Colorado Avalanche
Kadri played a major part in the Avalanche holding up the Stanley Cup and bringing him back will be their number one priority. It was a career year for the 31-year-old center this past season. Kadri had 28 goals and 59 assists on his way to helping the Avalanche win the whole thing. Unlike Gaudreau, Kadri doesn’t feel like a lock to return to Colorado as he will be looking for a big-money deal. If the Avalanche cannot meet the number he has in his head, expect Kadri to walk.
There’s going to be turnover for the defending champions but keeping the fan-favorite Kadri brings them a step closer to potentially going back-to-back.
Evgeni Malkin signs with Toronto Maple Leafs
Who loves paying old, former All-Stars to fill out the gaps on their team? That’s the Maple Leafs’ style! After blowing a 3-2 lead in the first round of the NHL playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto has to figure itself out all over again. Auston Matthews won the Hart Trophy and his special season was pretty much wasted. The Maple Leafs had the home-ice advantage and still don’t know how it feels to win a playoff series. If Evgeni Malkin moves on from the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Maple Leafs could get a bargain.
Malkin has shown he’s still one of the best in hockey but his injuries are piling up. That fact alone may be what makes his contract a cheaper one despite the point-per-game average during the 2021-22 season. Jason Spezza retired after all so this feels like a perfect match.
Kris Letang re-signs with Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins will have to decide who they want to keep — Malkin or Letang. Based on health and importance, it feels like the defenseman is probable to return. Letang has (mostly) shaken off the injury woes he experienced in his career to remain one of the best two-way defensemen in the game. In 78 games, the long-time Penguins defenseman finished with 10 goals and 58 assists, proving he still has plenty left in the tank at 35 years old.
There isn’t much more to discuss here as Penguins general manager Ron Hextall has made it clear he expects a Letang contract to be signed.
NHL free agency opens Wednesday, July 13 at 12 p.m. ET.