Last week I covered some of the bigger fish in the free agent pond, and the next day Ben Bishop signed a six-year deal with Dallas. If the Stars can play at a 2016 level instead of the 2017 disaster, the Bishop-fueled team may get back into the playoffs.
There are a few more Unrestricted Free-Agents I wanted to mention, and some of the more intriguing Restricted Free-Agents as well. And, I’m not even going to speculate on wheter these players are retained or cut loose in the upcoming Expansion Draft: we can try to make sense of that after the pieces land
Patrick Marleau (Center, Unrestricted Free Agent): "Will this lifelong Shark be back come July 1st?" is the question. With a previous cap hit of $6.6 million per year, the Sharks may be able to keep the band together with close to $15 million in current cap space with Marleau and Joe Thornton UFAs. I don't see the Sharks paying two 37-year old players much more than four or five million tops, unless it’s a one-year deal at maybe $6 million for one more push at the Cup. I'll be keeping all ears to the pavement, waiting to hear what the Sharks are thinking.
Karl Alzner (Defenseman, UFA): Washington has to change something after being bounced in the second round for a third straight year. Do the Caps shoot their load on Kevin Shattenkirk, since this is his best chance at winning a Cup? Alzner’s previous cap hit was only $2.8 million, and he won’t be commanding the Shattenkirk numbers come contract time. As the fifth overall selection in the 2007 draft, Alzner is now just into his defensive prime. As I mentioned last week, the Caps have T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams and Alzner as UFA’s, and Evgeny Kuznetsov is Restricted and will get a hefty pay raise. I see the Caps offering Karl a decent contract, but nothing more than $4 million a year, but as a lock defenseman many other teams will be looking to add that ability to propel their Cup aspirations.
Thomas Vanek (LW/RW, UFA): Vanek put together a very nice season after being bought out in Minnesota the year prior. And, his stock as a secondary scoring threat has put him on the map of relevance again. Many teams will be vying for Vanek's services come July 1st, though the Left Wing has said he would like to remain in Detroi. As a Detroit fan, I see Vanek drawing plenty of interest, so I hope he returns. If not, Buffalo is a good fit.
Kris Russell (Defenseman, UFA): Russell signed late when Edmonton took a chance and the defenseman played very well in Alberta as a lock-down, second-pair defenseman. I think Russell will take a team friendly contract to remain in Edmonton after the great playoff run the Oilers poured on this year, and wanting to be a part of something special will be the reason he stays on. With only a $3.1 million dollar cap hit on his one year deal, I expect a marginal raise for Russell, but it will be enough to keep him in Alberta. Like I said, there is something special happening in Edmonton with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Who would leave that chance of many playoff runs? The answer is "nobody," and I would expect the Oilers to make a run at Shattenkirk as well.
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