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5 NHL free-agent signings we'd like to see

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It's no secret that this summer's crop of unrestricted free agents leaves something to be desired. However, there are several combinations of player and destination that would still be compelling for one reason or another.

Some of the biggest names on the market, like Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Jonathan Toews, appear destined to either remain with the only NHL teams they've ever played for or retire. But that doesn't mean there aren't any other intriguing potential scenarios.

Here's a handful of UFA signings we'd welcome, even if they may not be the most likely moves.

Avalanche scoop up Orlov

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Dmitry Orlov won't come cheap, especially after he improved his stock with a strong stretch run for the Boston Bruins. But the talented blue-liner would surely entertain the possibility of joining the 2021-22 Stanley Cup champions and the likes of Cale Makar and Devon Toews on the back end.

Orlov is a left-shot defenseman. While Toews fills that role on Colorado's top pairing alongside Makar, the Russian could conceivably slot into the team's second pairing. Jack Johnson is the current lefty in that duo, but he's a 36-year-old pending UFA who's been one of the NHL's worst rearguards in recent years. Bowen Byram also shoots from the left side, but he played on the right when paired with Johnson in the top four.

The Avalanche will have $19.575 million in cap space when they put Gabriel Landeskog on long-term injured reserve for next season. Colorado has quite a few pending UFAs to consider re-signing, including forwards J.T. Compher, Evan Rodrigues, and defenseman Erik Johnson. But adding Orlov to the mix would make the Avalanche's must-watch group of defensemen even better and could be a move to get Colorado back to the championship round.

Oilers reel in Tarasenko

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As fun as it was at times to watch Vladimir Tarasenko play with the various talented New York Rangers forwards, it would be even better to see him line up alongside one of the absolute best players in the league in Edmonton Oilers superstar Leon Draisaitl. The Oilers made it to the conference final two seasons ago and got bounced by the eventual champion Vegas Golden Knights in the second round this spring. They should continue to bolster Connor McDavid's supporting cast.

Specifically, the Oilers would be wise to upgrade at the RW2 slot currently occupied by Kailer Yamamoto, and it appears Edmonton is leaning toward moving the 24-year-old. That's where the Russian affectionately known as the "Tarasenk Show" comes in. The ex-St. Louis Blues playmaker will be 32 in December, and he didn't fill the net last season like he has in the past. But inserting him onto a line with Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would be beneficial for all three players and enjoyable for fans to watch.

Edmonton will need to re-up young defenseman Evan Bouchard and consider bringing back several others. The club could also get back into the Erik Karlsson trade talks. However, Tarasenko to Edmonton is an appealing match if they can make the money work.

Pacioretty comes home to Canadiens

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Max Pacioretty's future with the Carolina Hurricanes is uncertain, to say the least. The team has 15 pending free agents of various varieties to consider signing and only around $16 million available once Andrei Svechnikov's $7.75-million cap hit goes back on the books.

To be fair, Pacioretty's future in the NHL is uncertain as a whole, given that he's still recovering after tearing his Achilles tendon for the second time in five months in January. Still, how great would it be to see the former Canadiens captain return to Montreal on a one-year deal that could be the last contract of his career?

Pacioretty scored three goals in five games with the Canes before sustaining his second tear and was productive in his four seasons with the Golden Knights prior to that. No one expects him to regain his old form or even be healthy for the start of next season. But even if Pacioretty doesn't suit up until December or January, it would be fun to see the 34-year-old winger back in Canadiens colors while mentoring Cole Caufield and Juraj Slafkovsky.

Sabres snag Dumba

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Dumba is still a relatively solid and experienced top-four defenseman despite injuries limiting him in recent years. The Sabres will be looking for more stability on the back end to allow Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power to freely quarterback the offense. Dumba could slot in with Power on the second pairing. His offensive game fell off last season, but he still averaged 21:16 of ice time. Only Orlov logged more among pending UFA blue-liners.

Dumba's expected goals for and scoring chances for percentages at five-on-five sat below 50% in 2022-23. However, his 4.92 individual expected goals in those situations ranked 39th in the NHL among rearguards - just behind the likes of Kris Letang, Rasmus Andersson, and Morgan Rielly. More reliable defensive defensemen like Scott Mayfield and Brian Dumoulin will likely be available in free agency. But those guys are older than Dumba and on the wrong side of 30.

The Wild defenseman certainly isn't perfect, but he's still only 28 years old. Locking him into a lengthy contract would be ill-advised, and there will likely be available rearguards with higher offensive upside than Dumba, like Orlov, Erik Gustafsson, and Shayne Gostisbehere. But again, they're all older than Dumba, who would better fit Buffalo's long-term vision as a team that's on the rise but not yet a Cup contender.

Kraken grab a Golden Knights goalie

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The triumphant Golden Knights have a slew of decisions to make ahead of free agency, three of which involve goaltenders. Vegas has three pending UFA netminders in Adin Hill, Laurent Brossoit, and Jonathan Quick, and the Seattle Kraken have a rather glaring need at the position.

Philipp Graubauer's locked in with the Kraken through 2026-27 thanks to his regrettable contract. But Seattle should move on from pending UFA Martin Jones, who was one of the NHL's worst netminders in goals saved above expected and goals saved above average at five-on-five this past season.

Hill's agent recently said that he'd prioritize trying to get his client re-upped in Vegas. Still, the Kraken should make a play for the 27-year-old whose strong play this spring helped the Golden Knights win the Cup. If Seattle can't get Hill, Brossoit would be a decent consolation prize. There are undoubtedly better goalies on the market, but seeing Seattle land a netminder from Vegas would enhance the recent expansion teams' burgeoning divisional rivalry.

(Salary source: CapFriendly)

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