NHL Free Agent Frenzy 2018: The John Tavares Sweepstakes - BOS, DAL, SJS, TOR?
Happy Canada Day everyone!
For many of us, July 1st signifies the start of summer vacation. It’s a time where we all kick back, enjoy a couple of beers, and just lounge around outside in the evening.
The same cannot be said for any General Manager in the Nation Hockey League.
You see, July 1st represents the first day of Free Agency in the NHL and boy, do we ever have a good crop of Free Agents this year. Here at The Sports Rooster, we decided to analyze each of the NHL’s 31 team rosters in order to pick out exactly which pieces each team needs to add during this year’s off season. So, without any more fluff, here’s my take on the matter. Let’s look at what he found, shall we?
(Photo courtesy of mapleleafshotstove.com)
Los Angeles Kings:
LA has pretty much addressed everything they needed to this off-season. They started things off by completing the signing of the highly touted, Ilya Kovalchuk, to add some serious offensive firepower. Next, they solidified their backline by locking up Drew Doughty for eight years at $11 million per. With all of that sorted out, the only thing left to do is look for a cheap top 6 to round out their team.
Possible options: Andrej Sustr, Eric Gryba
Tampa Bay Lightning:
The bolts did some great work signing JT Miller to a long-term contract earlier this month to bolster their top 9, but they still have a little work to do. Though they do have the likes of Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk lurking in their system ready to make a move, it would be wise for the Lightning to make another top 9 veteran signing to complete their team.
Possible options: Rick Nash, Valtteri Filppula
The Penguins re-signed Rust and Sheahan to keep their top 9 depth looking great. They also re-signed exciting prospect Daniel Sprong who, after a 30-goal season in the AHL, looks ready to make the jump to the NHL. Now, although their forward depth is looking great, the same cannot be said for their defence corps. The Penguins should look to add a cheap top 6 defenceman if they elect not to send an offer sheet to RFA Jamie Oleksiak.
Possible options: John Moore, Brandon Davidson, Cody Franson
Things are looking exciting for the cats. The trade which nabbed them Mike Hoffman, AKA the husband of the wicked witch of the west (Monica Caryk for those of you who haven’t paid attention to anything hockey within the last month), looks quite good for their hockey club. Hoffman rounds out an exciting batch of young top 6 forwards in the sunshine state that aim to impress this year. Florida has done some really good business and the only realistic addition we could see them making is a relatively cheap veteran top 9. Someone to kill penalties and add some character in the locker room, much like their captain Derek MacKenzie.
Possible options: Antoine Vermette, Jay Beagle
(Photo courtesy of sportsnet.ca)
Poor old Chi-town. The windy city’s budget is really quite small this year and ever since they traded away their prized Breadman (Artemi Panarin), they’ve been hurting for any kind of secondary scoring. Dylan Sikura is one exciting bright spot for Chicago and we expect him to challenge for a roster spot come time for training camp. That being said, the addition of Sikura isn’t going to give them the top 6 forward presence they desperately need. Chicago could benefit by signing a JVR style player in order to augment an absolutely woeful powerplay (16% during the 2017/2018 season).
Possible options: James van Riemsdyk, Rick Nash, James Neal
Minnesota is looking very rich in terms of prospects for this upcoming season. Fans should be excited with the likes of Luke Kunin, Jordan Greenway, and Joel Eriksson-Ek all getting some NHL experience over the course of the regular season and playoffs last year. Look for all of those three forwards to break the opening roster come time for the 2018/2019 NHL season. The only real place the Wild could look for improvement would be on the back end. Minnesota has some spending money, and they should use it to try and steal a solid top 4 defenceman.
Possible options: Jack Johnson, Paul Martin, Thomas Hickey.
Oh Edmonton, where to begin. If I were an Oilers fan I really don’t know how I’d react to the current roster. A few years back, the Oilers had all the offensive firepower anyone could dream of, yet now they’ve been reduced to McD and friends. Besides Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers struggle to find many offensive options. RNH did chip in with 24 goals this past year, but Edmonton really does need some help on the top 6 front. I really couldn’t tell you what Peter Chiarelli was thinking when he offered Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome in a one-for-one player swap deal, but I guarantee it didn’t work out quite as well as he’d planned it. At any rate, Oil town has some money to spend, and they really do need help up front. Oilers fans can only hope Kailer Yamamoto is ready to showcase his offensive talents this year.
Possible options: David Perron, Thomas Vanek.
(Photo courtesy of fanragsports.com)
Boston is looking good. Very good. Their plethora of talented rookies stole the stage last year, and it seems as though they’re only going to get better come the upcoming NHL season. The one area of interest for the Bs is their top 6. It’s unlikely that Rick Nash will re-sign in Boston, which leaves a spot for some serious talent to play with Krejci and DeBrusk up top. There has been quite the speculation that John Tavares may very well be coming to Boston in the past few weeks and to be honest, it is very much so a realistic possibility. Johnny T would fit in quite well with the Bruins and they definitely have the space to sign him. It’ll be interesting seeing which top 6 forward the Bruins do sign come July 1st.
Possible options: John Tavares, James van Riemsdyk, James Neal.
Nashville honestly has pretty much all the pieces they need to make another cup run. They’re quite solid in terms of top 9 forwards, and even more stable on the back end. The only thing they need to focus on is re-signing their key RFAs in Ryan Hartman and Juuse Saros. We could also see them adding a 7th defenceman to further boost their depth on the blueline should they let Emelin walk.
Possible options: Greg Pateryn, Luke Schenn.
They did it. They won the Stan- Oh sorry, I forgot. That’s old news. The real juicy stuff is that UFA-to-be John Carlsson is a UFA no longer after inking that huge eight-year $64 million deal with the Caps. The moves they made to offload Grubauer and Orpik were instrumental in this signing and really, all that’s left for the Caps to do is to re-sign RFAs Madison Bowey and Tom Wilson. Other than that, we could see them adding a complimentary top 9 forward to lighten the load on the top 6 forwards.
Possible options: Michael Grabner, Riley Nash.
The Ducks are in an odd place. Their top 6 core is aging fast, and they need to be cognizant of the fact that their starting goaltender, John Gibson, is an RFA next year. That being said, their first priority this year should be to re-sign pending RFA Brandon Montour. After that, they could use some help up front with a top 9 center.
Possible options: Tyler Bozak, Valtteri Filppula.
St. Louis Blues:
The Blues definitely have a good-looking team for next year. Their top 9 forwards look quite nice (provided they re-sign Fabbri) and their defence corps is one of the best in the league. Their immediate issue is the fact that they have many RFAs to re-sign, and that Carter Hutton remains a UFA. St. Louis should look to prioritize the re-signing of Hutton and their RFAs before seeking some additional help killing penalties by adding a solid bottom 6 forward.
Possible options: Antoine Vermette, Brian Gibbons.
Columbus Blue Jackets:
(Photo courtesy of thehockeywriters.com)
Columbus has some serious work to do. As it stands, Artemi Panarin still has no contract extension and that is a problem. To add onto the issues for the Jackets, they have a plethora of RFAs and UFAs to deal with. Many of the UFAs look poised to test the market, which means Columbus had better get down to re-signing their RFAs quickly. Should they fail to negotiate a deal with the Breadman, Columbus would be looking to add a top 6 forward.
Possible options: James van Riemsdyk, David Perron, James Neal.
Oh goodness Buffalo. What on Earth is your goaltending situation? The Sabres' need for a netminder is no real surprise, but boy is it ever serious. Prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is looking good but is also only 19 and is DEFINITELY not ready to be a starter in the NHL. Although Buffalo has some serious needs for a goaltender, their top 9 forwards and top 4 defence situation may actually not be quite as horrible as you’d think for once. With Alex Nylander another year older and stronger, you’d think it’s finally his time to crack the lineup and so long as Buffalo re-signs pending RFA Sam Reinhart, they shouldn’t look too bad up front. I’m sure we’ll see the Sabres chase any and every available goalie on the market.
Possible options: Carter Hutton, Kari Lehtonen, Petr Mrázek.
Montreal is bad. Really bad. Like we’re talking garlic, onion, coffee breath bad. One can only scratch their head as to why the Canadiens elected to keep their number 3 pick in the draft only to select Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Not to take anything away from the kid, but if you knew as an organization that he was your guy, why would you not trade your pick…? Why not trade down in the draft to select Kotkaniemi and leverage that 3rd overall to get another first rounder + a much-needed top 9 NHL-ready forward? At any rate, with that selection Montreal has shown that they’re willing to wait for Kotkaniemi to develop, which only further wastes Carey Price’s prime. In other news, the Habs are in desperate need of goal scorers and I’m not too sure that last year’s 9-goal scorer Max Domi will do the trick. Look for Montreal to do a whole lot of nothing on July 1st. I highly doubt any top goal scorers are going to sign in Montreal given the state they’re in, but for argument's sake, here are a few players that would fit in nicely in Montreal.
Possible options to try and fix Berge- I mean the Canadiens: James Neal, James van Riemsdyk, Rick Nash.
San Jose Sharks:
The Sharks have some serious cash to splash and they are making no bones about it. This Californian giant has got it covered on the blueline and in the net, so they’re really only looking to boost their top 6 offensive production. The name on many lips has been none other than John Tavares, and honestly, it makes a lot of sense for him to sign here. The Sharks have the money and could use the extra offense. Look for them to be one of the front runners in the Johnny T sweepstakes.
Possible options: John Tavares, Joe Thornton, James van Riemsdyk.
If there were ever a time to be a Sens fan, let me tell you it is NOT right now. With Erik Karlsson looking poised to leave, Ottawa are left looking like Montr- I mean hot garb- I mean they’re in for one tough year. Their whole team is a mess from top to bottom and honestly, it’s time to start selling every single asset for whatever pick they can find.
Not to add insult to injury, but what on Earth was Dorion thinking when he elected to draft Brady Tkachuk over Filip Zadina? To put this into perspective, Zadina was just as good as – if not better than – Tkachuk at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship scoring four more goals (7 to Tkachuk’s 3) and only one less point (8 to Tkachuk’s 9). Not only that, but Filip also finished with 44 goals, and 38 assists to combine for 82 points in 57 games for Halifax this year, while Tkachuk finished with 8 goals and 23 assists in 40 games for Boston College. Now, I know what you’re thinking, College is different than Junior, and I totally agree, but tack on the fact that Defenceman Dante Fabbro (teammate of Tkachuk at Boston) finished with 9 goals while playing two less games as a defenceman. Who knows how Tkachuk will turn out, but in truth, I really do feel horrible for Sens fans.
Anywho, the one bright spot for Ottawa is the few prospects they do have in Logan Brown, Colin White, and Alex Formenton.
Don’t expect anyone to sign here in Ottawa. It’s so bad we don’t even have possible options.
The Yotes need a goalie, that’s pretty simple, but even more than that they need help up front. Their prospect pool is decent enough, and so is their blueline, but in all seriousness they need help in the net, and help scoring goals. We don’t expect many high-profile scorers to sign here, but the Coyotes really could use a top 6 guy.
Possible options: Robin Lehner, Carter Hutton, Thomas Vanek, David Perron.
Dallas elected not to buyout Jason Spezza, which I thought was a touch confusing, but they still have some space to make a big-time move. Dallas has a load of prospects ready to make the jump in Julius Honka, Denis Gurianov, and Jason Dickinson, which should save them money while adding to their roster. The key here is that they’ll have big time money to spend on one very large piece: John Tavares. Dallas could definitely use the offensive boost now that the aforementioned Spezza is on the decline, and we could definitely see Johnny coming to Texas. The Stars will be looking to add some offence to their roster come July 1st.
Possible options: John Tavares, James van Riemsdyk, Paul Stastny.
(Photo courtesy of nhl.com)
The Avs made an interesting move by signing Grubauer along with buying out Brooks Orpik after that deal they made to send their 2nd rounder over to Washington. I can’t say I dislike the deal, as it solidifies Colorado’s goaltending situation, but they still have to address the addition of a veteran top 9 forward. The Av’s definitely have the money, it’s just a matter of WHO, not IF.
Possible options: Joe Thornton, Thomas Vanek, Rick Nash.
The Broad street Bullies are in need of a goaltender. Their top 9 looks to be quite decent, and their blueline situation should be quite nice – so long as they re-sign pending RFA Robert Hägg and pending UFA Brandon Manning. The only thing that’s left to help complete the playoff puzzle for Philly, is a bona fide starting goalie. Hopefully the Flyers can try and sort this situation out so that Neuvirth and Elliott aren’t left to flop like they did last year.
Possible options: Carter Hutton, Steve Mason.
The Hurricanes are actually looking quite decent after their 2nd overall selection of Andrei Svechnikov. Their forward and defensive depth is looking to be quite promising with prospects like Jake Bean, Haydn Fleury, and the previously mentioned Svechnikov all on the table. The one area of worry for this rebuilding franchise is the situation in the crease. Their goaltending woes were all too real last year, and they’ll look to add a solid option in net going forward.
Possible options: Jonathan Bernier, Carter Hutton.
New Jersey Devils:
The Devils would’ve been the Cinderella story of the year had it not been for the Vegas Golden Knights upstaging them. Going from winning the draft lottery, to playoff bound team was amazing for the city of New Jersey. This year however, they won’t catch anyone by surprise. First and foremost, New Jersey has some work to do tendering offer sheets to RFAs Blake Coleman, Stefan Noesen, Miles Wood, and Steven Santini. Their next pressing issue should be the addition of a solid secondary scoring top 9 forward. Should all those moves come through, the Devils should look poised to make another run at the playoffs.
Possible options: Tyler Bozak, Riley Nash, James Neal.
Vancouver is very much so in a rebuilding phase. I don’t expect them to make much of a move on Canada Day, but I must say their prospect pool is looking quite nice. Adam Gaudette and Nikolay Goldobin look ready to challenge for a roster spot come training camp, and other prospects in Oli Juolevi and Elias Pettersson aren’t far off. In a dream world, Vancouver would sign a top 6 forward, but really that’s not looking likely any time soon.
Possible options (what they could use): Joe Thornton, David Perron, Paul Stastny.
The Flames made some interesting moves leading up to the 1st day of Free Agent Frenzy, but they haven’t done it all just yet. Calgary should prioritize re-signing all RFAs in Hanifan, Lindholm, and Jankowski and after that should look to add some secondary scoring depth with a top 9 forward. Their prospect situation is looking good on the blueline with Rasmus Andersson looking poised to make the jump from the AHL to the NHL, so here are a few options I think would work well in Calgary.
Possible options: James van Riemsdyk, Paul Stastny, Valtteri Filppula.
The Jets have some work to do tendering offer sheets. Their first priorities should be the re-signing of Vezina Candidate goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, and solid young defencemen Jacob Trouba, and Josh Morrissey. They also have quite a few other RFAs that they should consider re-signing in Brandon Tanev, Adam Lowry, Marko Dano, and Tucker Poolman, but they aren’t nearly as pressing. After those signings are completed, the Jets should still have a decent amount of funds left to play with. They should be looking to sign a top 6 forward to play with Laine and Ehlers just like Paul Stastny did during the playoffs.
Possible options: Paul Stastny, Joe Thornton, Tyler Bozak.
New York Rangers:
The Rangers are looking like they’ve got a good future ahead of them. Prospects like Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, and the newly acquired Ryan Lindgren look quite promising. The only issue for New York is that they desperately need to start re-signing all their RFAs – emphasis on all, because there are many of them. Once they’ve sorted out the RFA situation, the Rangers could look to add some defensive depth with a top 4 defenceman should they feel like they want to push for playoffs.
Possible options: Ian Cole, Calvin DeHaan, Thomas Hickey.
Vegas Golden Knights:
(Photo courtesy of fanragsports.com)
The Golden Knights were definitely the surprise Cinderella story of last season. Expectations were exceedingly low, nobody had any hopes for the cast of rejects, and nobody took them seriously. The same cannot be said for this upcoming NHL season. Vegas, unfortunately, looks like they’ll lose many of the UFAs that made them quite a threat last year, but their main priority should be to re-sign leading goal scorer William Karlsson. The Golden Knights should also look to re-sign defencemen Shea Theodore and Colin Miller before attempting to skim the free agent market for a top 6 forward.
Possible options: James van Riemsdyk, Thomas Vanek, Paul Stastny, Rick Nash.
New York Islanders:
Oh lord does Lou ever have some serious work to do. First of all, he has to be stressed out beyond belief with the whole John Tavares situation sweeping over the NHL, but that’s not all the 75-year-old has to deal with. Lamoriello definitely has to focus on trying to coax John Tavares into staying with the Isles, but he also has to try to re-sign UFAs Thomas Hickey, and Calvin DeHaan along with RFAs Brock Nelson, and Ryan Pulock. Should the Isles fail to re-sign Tavares, they’d have to seriously consider making a splash in the Free Agent Market by signing multiple top 6 forwards.
Possible options: John Tavares, Joe Thornton, James van Riemsdyk, James Neal, David Perron.
Toronto Maple Leafs:
As many of you know, I am indeed an absolute die-hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan, but I also consider myself to be quite fair and realistic when discussing hockey matters involving any of the NHL’s 31 franchises.
The Leafs are finally starting to look good, and boy does it feel good to be a fan right now. With upcoming prospects in Andreas Johnsson, Travis Dermott, and Kasperi Kapanen looking NHL-ready, the Leafs look quite nice in terms of their bottom 6 forwards. The Leafs have a definite need for help on the blueline, which should definitely be addressed this off-season, but with the golden opportunity of signing elite centreman John Tavares right at the door, who could pass that up? With UFAs Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, and Leo Komarov more than likely leaving, Toronto will have a few key roster spots to fill.
Their first priority should be re-signing RFAs William Nylander and Andreas Johnsson in order to ensure they aren’t sacrificing their future just because they want to bring in a big name. With Timothy Liljegren looking like he’ll need another year in the AHL, the Leafs should also be targeting a top 6 stay-at-home defenceman, but again, with Johnny T right there, who could resist chasing him?
The truth is that Toronto really doesn’t have much of a chance of signing Tavares, and their main goal should be targeting a defenceman, but they are still very much in the running, and I don’t think anyone would be opposed to seeing Tavares in blue and white.
Possible options: John Tavares, Joe Thornton, Dylan Demelo, Mark Fayne.
As per usual, these are only our opinions here at The Sports Rooster. If you have other thoughts on where John Tavares will/should end up, let us know!