Each year free agency comes and goes with highly touted players being offered massive long term deals by teams looking to better their roster. Sometimes there is a unanimous free agent every team will attempt to sign, but 2017 has a number of big names on the table that has the potential to give franchises the extra firepower they need to compete for the Stanley Cup. Despite franchise players such as Jamie Benn, Victor Hedman and Brad Marchand having been inked to maximum length deals with their respective teams, here are some of 2017’s most sought after free agents.
As most hockey fans have known for the entirety of the 2017 season, Kevin Shattenkirk is the undisputed sought after free agent defenseman this offseason. After being traded from the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline, Shattenkirk finished out the season with the Washington Capitals 14 points in 19 games and 6 points in 13 playoff games. Despite not being the piece the Capitals needed to win the Stanley Cup, Shattenkirk is coming off a modest $4.25 million a year salary and is due for a substantial raise.
The 28 year old had spent the majority of his NHL career with the St. Louis Blues after being traded from the Colorado Avalanche after his rookie season. He has consistently been one of the league’s best offensive defensemen accumulating 40 points 5 times including his new career high of 13 goals and 56 points in the 2016-17 season. Although Shattenkirk hasn’t denied wanting to stay in Washington it will be extremely difficult with the number of players the Capitals have to sign (Oshie, Williams, Orlov, Alzner, Burakovsky, Kuznetsov).
Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau:
With all of the media hype over Shattenkirk and TJ Oshie (who has been rumored to have already signed an extension with Washington) I had almost forgotten that two of the most important pieces of the San Jose Sharks could become unrestricted free agents this summer. Thornton and Marleau were both taken first and second overall in the 1997 NHL Draft and have been playing together in San Jose since Thornton was traded there in the 2005-06 season. Since then these two players have been cornerstones of the franchise and were a crucial part of getting the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2016. Despite being 37 years old the pair have consistently kept up their game with Patrick Marleau scoring 27 goals this season along with Thornton tallying 43 assists and 50 points. As with all hockey players time will eventually begin to creep on these two (unless you’re Jaromir Jagr) and the Sharks have to make a decision how long and for how much do they want to keep one or both of their franchise players. If San Jose does let them hit free agency it would shock me if they weren’t signed by the end of July 1st.
What a return to the NHL for Alex Radulov. After jumping between the Nashville Predators and the KHL early in his career, Radulov returned to the Montreal Canadiens last season after spending the past 4 seasons in the KHL playing for CSKA Moscow. Although many doubted his ability to produce consistently, Radulov proved to be one of the Canadiens’ best forwards. The 30 year old finished second on the team in points collecting 18 goals and 54 points in 76 games. The question that the Canadiens have to answer is whether or not they want to commit the term and cap that signing Radulov requires. After the successful season he had, Radulov will likely be looking for a contract longer than a year and higher than his $5.75 million cap hit in 2017. The Canadiens have big name players needing extensions soon including Alex Galchenyuk this year, Carey Price next year and Max Pacioretty in 2019. If the Canadiens can’t match Radulov’s asking price I could see him signing with a team like Vegas who has the money to shell out to sign a big name player.
Mr. Game 7. Justin Williams is another player, who despite his age, continues to produce offensively not only in the regular season, but in the playoffs when it matters the most. The 35 year old had spent the last two seasons with the Washington Capitals after winning two Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014. Unfortunately, Williams may face the same fate as Shattenkirk due to there being almost no available cap for the Capitals to sign their core players. However, Williams has already met with Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan and said he will meet with him again. Although not a guarantee as of right now, the Capitals would be wise to sign the winger again. If Williams feels that the Capitals won’t be able to win the Stanley Cup again, he would definitely be signed by another cup contender by the end of July 1st.
Other notable players potentially hitting free agency this summer include Jaromir Jagr, Patrick Eaves, Karl Alzner, Jarome Iginla, Radim Vrbata, Martin Hanzal, Ryan Miller, Brian Elliot, Kris Russell among others.