Predicting the Next Landing Spots for NHL Players Rumored to Be on the Move

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    No sooner had the Stanley Cup Final ended than the NHL’s silly season began. Teams wasted no time in making moves to strengthen their rosters, create salary-cap space and shake up their personnel.

    The Ottawa Senators kicked things off when they hired former NBC Sports analyst Pierre McGuire as their senior vice president of player development. It was a controversial move given McGuire’s reluctance to fully embrace advanced analytics at a time when most teams in the NHL are leaning into data tracking and numbers more than ever.

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    The Minnesota Wild then announced their stunning decision to buy out the contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, who both signed identical 13-year, $98 million deals on July 4, 2012. The duo had been the faces of the franchise ever since, and it was a strange move considering it created more dead money than cap space. 

    The New Jersey Devils traded for Ryan Graves on Thursday night. General manager Tom Fitzgerald gave up a lot for the 26-year-old defenseman, sending emerging forward Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round pick in the 2021 draft to the Colorado Avalanche, but it filled a big need for a club that is desperately trying to take the next step in its extended rebuilding phase. As for the Avs, they got a return for a player they could have lost for nothing in Wednesday’s expansion draft.

    Who is staying, and who else is going? Here is a look at eight players and where they may land next.

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    This felt like a foregone conclusion from the minute the Wild announced the forward’s buyout. Zach Parise left the New Jersey Devils in 2012 to return to his home state of Minnesota and be closer to his late father, J.P. Parise. Former Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, the current GM of the New York Islanders, tried hard to re-sign a player he drafted in 2003, but the hometown draw was too strong. 

    However, the ties to Long Island are strong with Lamoriello there—and even stronger when you consider J.P. played for the Islanders. Zach’s production declined this season to the point that he received fourth-line minutes, was taken off the power play and was a healthy scratch to start the postseason. The Islanders have a need for some cost-conscious forward depth. The 36-year-old won’t be expensive.

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    Lamoriello already tried to trade for Parise in 2020. Over the past year-and-a-half, he’s traded for three former Devils (veteran defenseman Andy Greene, center Travis Zajac and winger Kyle Palmieri) and signed one after a buyout (goalie Cory Schneider). There are just too many ties to ignore, and it’s a positional fit.

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    The Parise buyout wasn’t a shock based on his declining performance, but buying out Ryan Suter at the same time was a huge surprise. Suter was still playing a top-four role for the Wild. It sounds like he wasn’t expecting this move, either, considering he hung up on Wild general manager Bill Guerin, per Michael Russo of The Athletic.

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    On his 31 Thoughts podcast, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said Suter could be headed to the Washington Capitals. But the Caps already have a lot of defensemen, and if they re-sign impending free agent Alexander Ovechkin, they won’t have much cap space. The Boston Bruins have also been mentioned as a potential landing spot.

    But the team that plays just north of the Minnesota-Canada border might be the best fit. The Winnipeg Jets badly need help on the blue line. While the priority might be a top-pairing defenseman, one of that caliber isn’t exactly easy to acquire through a trade—at least not without giving up significant assets—and teams would have to overpay in free agency.

    Suter still chews minutes and can play in all situations. He’s not a No. 1 anymore, but he’s a solid option if the Jets don’t make a play for a free agent like Adam Larsson.

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The Florida Panthers bought out the remaining two years on Keith Yandle’s contract Thursday, and after years of rumors tying the Milton, Massachusetts, native to the Bruins, it feels like the time is finally right. 

    The veteran defenseman is a good puck-mover with some offensive upside, even at 34, and he has a history of producing on the power play. At this stage of his career, he needs favorable matchups and sheltered minutes, but the Bruins can put him on the back end and give him exactly what he needs to contribute offensively. Boston’s lack of depth was exposed in the postseason, and Yandle would help remedy that.

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Blake Coleman was a hot commodity at the 2020 trade deadline, and after winning back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he’ll be a popular player once free agency begins July 28.

    Coleman is a versatile depth forward who played on Tampa Bay’s shutdown third line, but on any other team, he’s probably a top-six winger. He’s an excellent penalty-killer, brings a ton of energy and physicality and does a lot of little things right to win puck battles and set up plays. He should also probably be playing on the power play, but he’s only seen limited time on the man advantage because of the Devils’ desire to develop him and the Lightning’s tremendous depth.

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    Tampa Bay is already over the salary cap and will likely lose Coleman and his linemate, Barclay Goodrow. Coleman’s hometown Dallas Stars could use a winger of this mold and will have about $15 million to work with. The 29-year-old has established himself as a 20-goal scorer, so a realistic price might be in the $4 million-per-year range, which is within reach for the Stars.

    Coleman and his wife, Jordan, also a Dallas-area native, are building a house in the area for their family. He’s a walking advertisement for Dallas youth hockey. This could be a chance for Coleman to live out his childhood dream of helping bring a Stanley Cup home to Texas.

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Blake Coleman’s former team needs a No. 2 goalie. Last year, the Devils signed Corey Crawford as a free agent to back up Mackenzie Blackwood and also serve as a mentor since the team cut ties with his previous mentor, Cory Schneider. But Crawford’s sudden retirement threw a wrench in New Jersey’s plans.

    By trading for Ryan Graves, general manager Tom Fitzgerald signaled that the Devils are trying to take a big step in this arduous rebuild after three disappointing seasons. Look for Fitzgerald to make a similar signing with a goalie.

    The Devils believe Blackwood is their No. 1, but they would like a 1a behind him, which is what it takes to be successful in today’s NHL. The Andrei Vasilevskiys and Martin Brodeurs are not as prevalent as they used to be. Maybe teams use a 60-40 or even a 70-30 split with their goalies.

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    Robin Lehner brings the mentorship and the playoff pedigree. He would be a great complement to Blackwood. The Devils’ problems have primarily started with goaltending and defense, and the club appears to be strengthening those areas of weakness and can do so with more than $30 million in cap space.

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    In the middle of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic dropped a bomb with a report that Vladimir Tarasenko had requested a trade out of St. Louis. The Blues winger was once one of the most dangerous snipers in the league, but three shoulder surgeries have kept him off the ice and limited his effectiveness in recent seasons.

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    Still, there will be a team willing to take a chance on a winger who scored 33 goals as recently as 2018-19. The Philadelphia Flyers are on the list of teams to which he would approve a trade, per Adam Hermann of NBC Sports Philadelphia. The Flyers fell off a cliff this past season, but their window is open as long as Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov are around.

    Blue-line help is probably the priority for Philadelphia, but adding a healthy Tarasenko would make the forward group more dangerous. The question is, how healthy are the 29-year-old and his shoulder? It’s a big cap hit to take on since Tarasenko is owed $9.5 million in 2021-22 and $5.5 million in 2022-23 but maybe a deal can be centered around someone like Nolan Patrick.

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    Peter Power/Associated Press

    Zach Hyman has already received permission from the Toronto Maple Leafs to talk to other teams ahead of the July 28 opening of free agency, which is what happens when the two parties aren’t anywhere close in contract negotiations.

    The Edmonton Oilers seem high on the winger, willing to offer him what Toronto will not, which is projected to be $5.5 million-6 million average annual value over five years.

    Hyman might be a late bloomer, but he probably has a few years of top-line skills left in him and should be a top-six forward for the next four years. The Oilers need a top-six forward, though if they are going to give him a long-term contract, they may have to pay for the decline.

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    With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins locked up, another top-six forward like Hyman would significantly strengthen the lineup.

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog expressed disappointment in how contract negotiations have gone with general manager Joe Sakic and the rest of the brass in Denver.

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    On the 31 Thoughts podcast, Friedman said Landeskog, 28, is seeking a seven-year deal at $8 million AAV. For a captain who puts up numbers, lays down hits and can play in all situations, that number isn’t out of the realm of possibility, but there are many critics who say his playing style isn’t conducive to maintaining this production after the age of 30.

    The problem is the Avs have to give star defenseman and impending restricted free agent Cale Makar a raise, and goalie Philip Grubauer needs a new contract as well. Both of those deals will limit cap flexibility over the next few seasons. Plus, Colorado acquired Mikhail Maltsev, which could mean the club is readying another left wing in the event of Landeskog’s departure. Swapping Graves for Maltsev helps with the salary cap since Graves carried a hit of $3.17 million through 2023, but the blueliner probably would have been exposed in the expansion draft anyway. 

    Still, it feels like the player who has captained the Avs since he was 19 will be back in the Mile High City next season. Maybe he’ll give them a hometown discount or compromise on the terms of the deal.

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    If not, expect him to go to a contender with cap space. It wouldn’t be the first time a longtime captain departed in free agency, and it might be time for Nathan MacKinnon to take over as the locker-room leader.

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