With the NHL playoffs drawing to an end, many are beginning to discuss the upcoming off-season. While trades and transactions do happen before it, NHL Free Agency begins in early July, and that's when the big names move.
Keeping that in mind, my fellow Poweranks writer Ryan Gilbert and I have decided to pen a monthly column predicting where the top free agents will go. New knowledge leaks out every couple of weeks, so by the time our next attempt is published, we will likely have some changes. The third attempt will be out a day or two before the free agents are allowed to sign, by which time we could have some obvious matches.
We decided to predict twenty free agents' locations, picking a combination of the most interesting and the best players. There's a good chance a player that's missing isn't there because he's too obviously going to re-sign with his current team as well, so keep that in mind. If you don't see someone in the twenty that you're curious about, drop us a comment, or if you disagree, let's debate in the comments as well! Without further adieu, here is our first attempt:
Brandon - Minnesota Wild - I'm picking Minnesota here because of Vanek's obvious connections to the area, to Pominville, and the fact that the Wild have the money and the need. As of this second, I'd be surprised if he goes anywhere else.
Ryan - Minnesota Wild - As Brandon points out, Vanek is likely to return to his roots in Minnesota where he played for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Wild have shown that they are willing to make a big splash in free agency (Parise, Suter, Pominville) and have the money and connections to land Vanek.
Brandon - New York Rangers - This is with the expectation that Brad Richards has his contract bought out. Stastny is the best center available, and the Rangers will badly need a center.
Ryan - Montreal Canadiens - Stastny plays for Team USA in the olympics, but has dual Canadien/U.S. citizenship. He was born in Quebec, and his father played for the Nordiques in the 1980s. I expect Paul to return to his home province and provide the Canadiens with depth up the middle.
Brandon - Columbus Blue Jackets- The Jackets saw Jokinen up close and personal in their first round playoff matchup and will want a replacement for Marian Gaborik.
Ryan - New York Islanders - After losing both Vanek and Moulson this past season, the Islanders will be in the market for an experienced winger.
Brandon- New Jersey Devils - The Devils have always shown interest in veteran wingers, and if Michael Ryder leaves, Cammalleri would be a perfect fit.
Ryan - New Jersey Devils - Brandon and I actually agree on this one (for now). I can see the Devils trying to sign another veteran like Cammo to try for one last push for Marty (assuming he re-signs).
Brandon - Florida Panthers - I'm pretty confident Callahan will sign with the Panthers, Sabres, or Lightning. The Lightning say they want Callahan back, but I think they would have re-signed him after the trade if they truly did. Both Florida and Buffalo will be looking for a forward with captain material for their young players.
Ryan - Tampa Bay Lightning - Callahan played well in Tampa after being traded there in March. He might try to test the open market, but after realizing that his price is set too high, he'll go back to familiar territory with the up and coming Lightning.
Brandon - Los Angeles Kings - I expected the Kings to get him at the deadline, and I expect them to get him in free agency. Jonathan Quick's brother-in-law Moulson fits perfectly as a replacement for Gaborik.
Ryan - St. Louis Blues - The Blues are a competitive team with a lot of money coming off the books. A scoring winger like Moulson would fit well in the Blues top 6.
Brandon - Nashville Predators - Dave Poile will not stop talking about how his team needs offense. Marian Gaborik represents a scorer and a guy that is currently in the midst of an outstanding post-season.
Ryan - Dallas Stars - The Stars tandem of Benn/Seguin could use a great scoring winger like Gaborik. Gaborik could also slot in the 2nd line, providing another scoring threat to take away the tough match ups from Dallas' 2 stars.
Brandon - Colorado Avalanche - A replacement for Paul Stastny and some veteran presence for a team of youngsters. Perfect fit.
Ryan - Pittsburgh Penguins - He's just that type of player.
Brandon - Pittsburgh Penguins - Another one of those older guys that may get a one year deal with an above average team. Makes sense in Pittsburgh if Jokinen leaves.
Ryan - Toronto Maple Leafs - Why not?
Brandon - Philadelphia Flyers - Would fit well in the same role he had with the Washington Capitals last season.
Ryan - Colorado Avalanche - Role player that could help out on a young Avalanche team.
Brandon - Pittsburgh Penguins - As of this second, I think he re-signs, but it's tough to call. I think what should happen is the Penguins sign Anton Stralman and the Rangers sign Matt Niskanen. Though the Rangers would be losing out a bit there, the Penguins need a defensive defenseman and the Rangers need an offensive one.
Ryan - Pittsburgh Penguins - Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik showed some weaknesses this year and I see the Pens re-signing Niskanen.
Brandon - Washington Capitals - The Capitals are always in the market for defense, and Boyle will likely want to play for a team that's at least in the mix every season.
Ryan - Columbus Blue Jackets - The Blue Jackets are going to want to sure up their blue line, and Dan Boyle is a veteran defenseman who can do that for them.
Brandon - New York Rangers - See Matt Niskanen.
Ryan - New York Rangers - Yeah, very underrated guy who the Rangers will re-sign.
Brandon - Montreal Canadiens - Markov seems to want to return and the Canadiens want him to. It's fishy that a deal hasn't been reached yet, but I think one will be.
Ryan - Montreal Canadiens - Can't see him going anywhere else.
Brandon - New York Islanders - Garth Snow has never seemed into #fancystats and the Islanders will be on the lookout for a strong veteran defenseman.
Ryan - Colorado Avalanche - Coach of the year Patrick Roy and star-rookie Nathan MacKinnon have made the Avalanche relevant again, and they could use a veteran defenseman.
Brandon - San Jose Sharks - There's a lot of talk about Miller wanting to play on the west coast, and the Sharks are looking to make a splash.
Ryan - St. Louis Blues - The Blues may have lost in the first round, but they have a group of great defensemen in front of Miller and the cap room to sign him and another big name this offseason.
Brandon - St. Louis Blues - I could just as easily see the Blues signing no goalies, but with a contending team, they likely will want a proven goalie rather than starting Jake Allen out of the gate.
Ryan - Washington Capitals - The Capitals had a bit of a goalie carousel late in the year, and Hiller could help put a stop to that. The Captials' new management will be wanting to make a decently large splash as well.
Brandon - New York Islanders - The Islanders acquired his rights from the Capitals and immediately he said he would be interested in signing. I think Garth Snow gets this one done IF the Islanders have enough money.
Ryan - New York Islanders - The Islanders trading for his rights has shown that the Islanders are wanting to sign Halak. Unless Halak is asking for a huge pay raise, he should sign on the Isle.
Brandon- Winnipeg Jets - I know the Jets say they love Pavelec, but let's be real here. Brodeur seems dead set on playing and playing often, and with Winnipeg, he could at least think he could play every day, and the Jets could still run out Pavelec enough nights. The key here is that Brodeur must be willing to play for a non-contender or fake his belief that the Jets are a contending team.
Ryan - New Jersey Devils - He is, and will always be, a Devil.
Brandon - Anaheim Ducks - While the Ducks have both John Gibson and Fredrik Andersen, I see them wanting a surer backup than Andersen and shipping him away.
Ryan - Winnipeg Jets - They have Pavelec under contract for a few more years, but they can't continue to start him if they want to compete, can they?
There you have it. Debate away!
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Ryan Gilbert is a sports writer for Poweranks, specializing in hockey and baseball. He can be found on Twitter @RiskyBryzness. Give him a follow!