The free agent season kicked off on July 28th. Within days many of the best UFA’s came off the board. What remains are mostly veterans and reclamation projects that shrewd GMs may want to add at bargain prices.
You will notice several big name free agents not listed such as Casey Cizikas, Kyle Palmieri, and Zach Parise. They are all rumored to have deals in place with the NY Islanders that will be announced when Lou Lamoriello feels like it.
As we continue to get deeper into August, the players remaining become more likely to sign 1 year deals or become candidates for a PTO (professional tryout).
NHL Rumors: Top Remaining Free Agents
James Neal (F): The 33 year-old had just five goals and five assists (10 points) in 29 games during his season with the Oilers. Overall, he has 294 goals and 261 assists (555 points) in 13 NHL seasons. To date there’s been little interest from teams in adding him. He is a prime candidate for a PTO.
Sami Vatanen (D): I am always shocked that a solid right-handed defender like Vatanen continues to be available. He certainly doesn’t put up the offensive numbers as he used to, but he can still help a defense out. He’s only 30 years-old so he should at least get a PTO. The Oilers are rumored to possibly give him one.
Ryan Donato (F): Another rare 25 year-old UFA, the Sharks opted to not give him a qualifying offer. This was the same issue with both Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase in Boston. Donato scored 20 points in 50 games last season and should be picked up before the season starts.
Jason Demers (D): He’s a right-handed defenseman that can still play third pair minutes. In 41 games, the 33 year-old veteran picked up just 4 helpers for the Coyotes. He’s a prime candidate for an invite to a training camp on a PTO.
Nikita Kusev (F): At 29 years of age, Kusev is already a reclamation project. Highly touted coming out of the KHL, the disappointed Devils terminated his contract. The Panthers signed him mid season, where he finished with 10 points in 31 games split between the two clubs. He could be worth a cheap flyer or at least an invite to camp on a PTO.
Tyler Bozak (C): The 35 year-old scored 17 points in 31 games last season playing bottom six minutes. There’s no doubt he can still be a productive contributor. He has a one year deal from the Blues available to him, but is currently seeing what else is on the market.
Eric Staal (C): Last season, the 36 year-old pivot split time between the Sabres and Canadiens but only managed a career low 13 points in 53 games. To make matters worse, he set a career high with a -30 plus/minus rating. Of course, Staal could bring value to a team’s fourth line next season at a bargain price. His leadership and experience would be worth the money alone.
Travis Zajac (C): The Islanders acquired Zajac at the trade deadline along with Kyle Palmieri for additional center depth heading into the playoffs. At 36, he score 20 points in 46 games and added another 2 points in 14 playoff contests. There’s a rumor that he has also agreed to return to the Island.
Zdeno Chara (D): The 44 year-old defender isn’t even sure if he will play next season or retire. “I think it’s not always a decision I can make myself,” he said at season’s end. “I have to have a conversation with my wife and children and see where we want to be in the next few days or weeks. After those conversations, I’m going to probably let the emotions settle in and see where I’m at.” If he does play, he’d be a great value add to shore up a team’s bottom pair.
Artem Anisimov (C): The 33 year-old pivot recorded 9 points 19 games last season with the Ottawa Senators. He’s a solid third line center with some offensive upside. Anisimov was recently in Detroit skating with Dylan Larkin and Vlad Namestnikov. He could see an offer or a PTO from the Red Wings.