Here is a look at next year’s BEARD Hockey free agents and a BOLD prediction on where each of them might land once they hit the open market.
Some of these players could still sign with their respective teams but it’s fun to speculate on tomorrow, especially for those teams with no hope at the playoffs today.
The team with the most to lose is most likely Washington who has four excellent D that could be looking for a new home in Ryan Ellis, Erik Karlsson, Jared Spurgeon, and Alec Martinez in addition to a solid goaltender in Petr Mrazek and two of the top forwards in J.T. Miller and Bryan Rust. The Capitals will have a lot of free cap space but if they don’t retain at least two of the D and one of the forwards they could be in real trouble.
Although Tampa hasn’t had the success this year that Washington did, they also have a lot to lose with three top forwards likely to hit the market in Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, and Reilly Smith.
Of the teams that can be expected to be real players in free agency the following teams have the least amount committed to the cap:
Golden Knights: $35M
Blue Jackets: $52M
Here are the top players available and a brief prediction of where they will end up.
David Rittich 81 OV (DET): David Rittich will find a new home in Nashville who easily has the worst goaltending in the league. Rittich is young enough to get a long term deal and good enough that Nashville should throw money at him.
Anton Khudobin 81 OV (TBL): Vegas will spend money to upgrade the crease and the second best goalie available will find himself on the Strip.
Petr Mrazek 80 OV (WAS): Washington will try to resign Mrazek but they will be outbid by the Anaheim Ducks who have lost patience with Martin Jones.
Corey Crawford 80 OV (DAL): Crawford is unlikely to remain behind Rask in the Dallas net and will find a nice home in Washington to replace the departing Mrazek.
Braden Holtby 79 OV (EDM): The Minnesota Wild will pay some money for a mentor for Thatcher Demko who has been shell-shocked tis year.
Phillip Grubauer 79 OV (FLA): Florida will resign Grubauer to a relatively cheap deal once the other big names have signed. Their problem hasn’t been in net. More on that later.
Ryan Ellis 79 OV (WAS): Washington will move heaven and earth to re-sign Ellis. He will stay.
Erik Karlsson 79 OV (WAS): Sorry Erik, you are older than Mr. Ellis and will not be returning to the caps as they won’t be able to afford you both. The Golden Knights take a swing on the former Norris winner to try and improve their porous back end.
Matt Niskanen 79 OV (SJS): Nashville signs the former Shark and he immediately becomes their best defenseman.
Alex Goligoski 78 OV (MON): He’s not leaving a good team. Montreal knows they have an open window and will do everything they can to keep their best defenseman.
Jared Spurgeon 77 OV (WAS): Washington will also keep Spurgeon investing heavily in their back end. Retaining Ellis and Spurgeon will be a successful offseason and allow them to remain competitive.
Jake Muzzin 77 OV (TOR): The Bruins will add Muzzy to the blue line where he becomes their best defender.
Brayden McNabb 76 OV (MON): Boston too. A new top pair.
Nate Schmidt 76 OV (ARI): The Coyotes will take a run at retaining Schmidt but in the end the Blues come out of nowhere to shore up their defense.
Brady Skjei 76 OV (BUF): The Kraken have a very average defense and Skjei will get a good contract to help up the average a bit.
John Klingberg 76 OV (CAL): The Flames have the cap space to re-sign their best offensive D man and will do so.
Brent Seabrook 76 OV (CAR): Feels like a Buffalo guy. Don’t know why.
Brendan Dillon 76 OV (SJS): Will also sign with Kraken to give the team a top pair that is tough to play against.
Chris Tanev 75 OV (BUF): Ugly enough to end up in Vancouver.
Cody Ceci 75 OV (DAL): Not sure why, and they don’t seem to have a lot of cap to work with, but he becomes an Islander.
Johnny Boychuk 75 OV (OTT): Washington gets him on the cheap.
Alec Martinez 75 OV (WAS): In a total surprise the Kraken invest heavily on the blue line and get another defender.
Blake Wheeler 82 OV (TBL): In a total surprise the Caps reallocate their cap up front and stun the world by signing the top forward on the market.
J.T. Miller 79 OV (WAS): In retaliation, the Lightning finally spend some money and land Miller.
Eric Staal 79 OV (VAN): Retires.
William Karlsson 78 OV (WIN): Signs in Vegas to become their best center.
Evander Kane 78 OV (TBL): In a surprise move signs with the New York Rangers (ssssshhhhhhh).
Taylor Hall 78 OV (NJD): The Oilers land him in a feel good story and they immediately win the next 4 lotteries.
Brock Nelson 78 OV (EDM): A guy named “Brock”? Feels like a Boston guy.
Reilly Smith 77 OV (TBL): Tampa quietly resigns Smith.
Mike Hoffman 77 OV (NJD): Adds some scoring punch in Big D who have a solid core and can spend some money.
Alex Killorn 77 OV (NJD): Defensive forward somehow ends up in Montreal to make them…..more defensive.
Evgeny Kuznetsov 77 OV (DAL): The Panthers are starved for offense and will spend a good chunk of money to land one of the most gifted offensive players available.
Ryan Getzlaf 77 OV (CAR): Will sign cheep for the Red Wings.
Adam Henrique 77 OV (DET): Will sign less cheap for the Flames in an underrated move.
David Perron 77 OV (LAK): The Penguins haven’t spent much but will pair Perron with….well….not a lot up front.
Jeff Skinner 76 OV (WIN): Will end up on the Blue Jackets to create some offense.
Bryan Rust 76 OV (WAS): Minnesota has been quiet, not now. They land Rust.
Brandon Saad 76 OV (VAN): Wild also land Saad. Elias Lindholm finally has someone to play with.
Paul Stastny 76 OV (COL): Will also end up in Pittsburgh. He and Perron will give some offense to a young group up front.
Derick Brassard 74 OV (MON): Montreal resigns the vet.
James Neal 74 OV (OTT): He’s off to the KHL.
Adam Lowry 74 OV (TBL): I have no clue why but seems like a Duck.
Brian Boyle 74 OV (WAS): Habs quietly make another shrewd depth signing. The above is all obviously conjecture.
Let’s hear what the other GMs have to say. Which player are you going to take a run at and where do you see the guys you could be losing end up?