A way-too-early look at NHL's 2023 free-agent landscape
The 2022 signing season is practically over. The unrestricted free-agent pool has almost completely dried up (whenever you're ready, Nazem Kadri), and teams still have plenty of time to work out new deals with their RFAs.
With that in mind, let's take a look at who could be on the market next summer. Many of these players are likely to sign extensions before testing the open waters, but until then, we're free to speculate what may happen.
Don't get your hopes up. There's next to zero chance Joe Sakic lets his best player get anywhere near free agency. In fact, there's apparently a reasonable chance MacKinnon locks in this summer. The only question is where the superstar will rank among the league's highest-paid players when he puts pen to paper.
Pastrnak's discounted six-year deal is about to expire, and he has a chance to be next summer's biggest fish. 40-goal scorers don't come around often, and Boston needs to do everything in its power to retain the 26-year-old sniper to keep its competitive window open.
Larkin would be an attractive free-agent addition for any team, but it feels like he's a lifelong Red Wing. He's a Michigan native, and Detroit has ample cap space to give him whatever deal he wants. Getting rid of your captain as your rebuild hits its upswing just doesn't make sense.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane
Trade rumors have already begun to swirl around the three-time Stanley Cup champions. As the Blackhawks stare down a scorched-earth rebuild, many project Toews and Kane to be trade bait for the 2023 deadline. If they aren't moved by then, the pair will have their pick of the litter in free agency.
J.T. Miller and Bo Horvat
Miller still might get traded this summer, but regardless of who he suits up for next season, the versatile star will be one of the most coveted free agents next July. Horvat is due a decent raise from his current $5.5-million cap hit, but it's difficult to envision a scenario where Vancouver lets its leader walk.
Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O'Reilly
The Blues are in a similar situation to the Canucks. They probably can't afford to retain both, and given Tarasenko's past trade request drama, common sense points to St. Louis trying its best to keep O'Reilly, given the choice.
Huberdeau is already on record saying he's open to signing long term in Calgary. We shall see - Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau said the same. Sorry for the reminder, Flames fans.
Other notable players: Joe Pavelski, Tyler Bertuzzi, James van Riemsdyk, Max Pacioretty
Given the financial burden attached to the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts, the Wild may not have a path to giving Dumba the contract he commands. Dumba's offense has dried up a touch in recent years, but he remains a right-side, top-four minute muncher that could help plenty of teams. If he hits the market, he'll be one of the top available options.
Klingberg headlined this summer's free-agent defenseman class and only landed on a one-year prove-it deal. He can essentially manufacture his own market with a strong season in Anaheim.
Dumoulin has been an underrated ingredient in the Penguins' winning formula for years now, and Pittsburgh made it crystal clear this offseason that it's on board with keeping the band together. It wouldn't be a shock to see the near 31-year-old stick around.
The right side of the Devils' blue line looks set with Dougie Hamilton and John Marino in place while Simon Nemec is on the way. That likely makes Severson expendable next summer, and he should have a long list of suitors. The Saskatchewan native can be deployed in a top-four role at even strength and quarterback a top power-play unit to boot.
Reliable, tough as nails, right-handed, and relatively cheap. Mayfield won't command a huge payday, but he'll draw plenty of interest if he doesn't re-up in Long Island.
Other notable players: Radko Gudas, Dmitry Orlov, MacKenzie Weegar
Andersen bounced back in a big way in his debut season in Raleigh but will be 33 when his current deal expires next summer and is coming off another major injury. What size contract could he realistically command?
Varlamov, 34, is in the process of handing the starting reins to Ilya Sorokin, which damages his chances of landing a lucrative contract following next season. However, as illustrated by this summer's goalie market, teams are always in need of stability between the pipes.
This could be the end of the line for Quick. The 37-year-old was one of the most accomplished goaltenders of his era, and based on the recent retirement of captain Dustin Brown, he could be getting a statue in the City of Angels.
Based on age alone, Jarry, who'll be 28 next summer, is the most attractive option. If Pittsburgh lets him get that far, of course.
Other notable players: Alex Nedeljkovic, Jonathan Bernier, Cam Talbot, Jake Allen
The success of Ottawa's move to acquire DeBrincat hinges on whether he signs an extension. The diminutive sniper adds a new element to the Senators' attack, and if he bags 40 goals next season, the club better be ready to pony up.
Kyrou's eyes must have lit up when he saw teammate Robert Thomas ink an eight-year, $65-million extension earlier this summer. Kyrou is equally important to St. Louis' success and could seriously cash in if he proves his 75-point campaign wasn't a one-off. His impending raise is also a big factor in the aforementioned Tarasenko/O'Reilly situation.
Barzal hasn't taken off the way many expected him to since he burst onto the scene, managing 0.81 points per game over the past four seasons. The talent is there, but the results, for whatever reason, aren't. Maybe a new coach and a contract year is the motivation he needs to reach another level offensively.
Dubois' relationship with Winnipeg appears tenuous at best, but he'll have to sign one more contract as an RFA before he can test the open market. Unless, of course, a trade materializes.
Caufield won't have a ton of negotiating leverage coming off his entry-level contract, but if he keeps up the pace he reached when Martin St. Louis was hired, he could push to become Montreal's highest-paid skater pretty easily.
Other notable players: Roope Hintz, Trevor Zegras, Tim Stutzle, Alexis Lafreniere, Timo Meier
The Rangers are poised to ice a mostly inexperienced crop of blue-liners next season, but Miller has the tools of a burgeoning star. He averaged nearly 25 minutes per night during New York's run to the Eastern Conference Final, and a big year in 2022-23 could lead to a big payday.
Edmonton has $20.6 million committed to its blue line in 2023-24, and that number could rise dramatically if Bouchard continues his ascent. The 22-year-old broke out with 43 points - 35 at even strength - and quickly rose up the Oilers' depth chart. With a projected $16.4 million in space and only 12 players signed beyond next season, the club may have to get creative to accommodate Bouchard's next deal.
Other notable players: Vince Dunn, Ethan Bear, Jamie Drysdale
Samsonov has plenty to prove after two down years in Washington. If he can be the goalie that was once one of the league's top prospects, he should be able to parlay a bounce back into a multi-year contract. He's unlikely to break the bank on his next deal, given he signed with the perennially cap-strapped Maple Leafs, but his options were limited.
Swayman showed plenty of promise for extended periods with the Bruins last season, but Linus Ullmark is under contract for three more seasons. A bridge deal here could be the best course of action.
Playing behind a two-time Vezina winner with a $10-million cap hit is about as unenviable as it gets for a young netminder looking to cut his teeth in the NHL. That said, despite a solid 19-9-3 record last season, Knight needs to show more promise than a .908 save percentage and 0.5 goals saved above average to usurp Sergei Bobrovsky in the Panthers' crease.