As the NHL season nears its conclusion, a number of exciting playmakers around the league will become free agents, and there are some particular teams that could acquire them in the near future.
After a drop in salary cap this past season, Dan Rosen from NHL.com wrote that commissioner Gary Bettman announced the salary cap would increase from $64.3 million to $71 million for the 2014-15 season. With that increase, a number of teams will have room to try and acquire a high-profile player.
Having said that, here are a few predictions for potential landing spots for some of the most exciting free agents this offseason.
Marian Gaborik, RW
An incredible postseason run from Marian Gaborik has helped push the Los Angeles Kings into the Stanley Cup Final, but it will also likely help him get an even bigger payday this offseason.
The 32-year-old has been on a tear this postseason after putting up 30 points during the regular season. In 24 playoff games, he's record 13 goals and eight assists for 21 points, with his best series coming against the Anaheim Ducks, where he had 10 points in six games, including two two-goal performances.
The entire Kings team has been impressed with Gaborik, who was acquired by the team on a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets back in March, and teammate Jeff Carter really likes the way he plays.
Carter spoke to Brian Cazeneuve from SI.com about Gaborik:
He's always been a gamebreaking kind of player. He breaks down defenses with his speed. And he's got that type of skill where if other teams are packing it in, trapping, whatever, he can score goals anyway. He can overcome that. He's a guy you look to score when you're team isn't scoring.
While his price tag may have gone up, it's unlikely that Gaborik leaves Los Angeles. According to Helene Elliott back in March, the Kings acquired Gaborik intending for him to be a long-term option.
Lombardi said Gaborik wanted to come to LA, ''coming with the purpose of staying here," as opposed to others intending to become UFAs on 7/1— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) March 5, 2014
The team is on the brink of winning its second Stanley Cup in three years, and Gaborik will likely stay and try to help them win another.
Prediction: Los Angeles Kings
Thomas Vanek, LW
Few players were as terrific as Thomas Vanek this season, but it's highly unlikely that he returns to the Montreal Canadiens, giving a number of teams the chance to sign him.
In 78 games with both the Canadiens and New York Islanders, Vanek scored 27 goals and had 41 assists, tying for 24th in the NHL with 68 points. He isn't a strong defender or special teams player, but he's an absolute offensive force.
It was an unfortunate ending for the Canadiens, and it looks like they're already done with Vanek after trading for him earlier in the year. According to Renaud Lavoie from TVA Sports, Montreal will not re-sign the 30-year-old left wing.
As usual Marc Bergevin refuse to talk about contracts. But sources told me that Thomas Vanek, Douglas Murray and George Parros won't return.— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) June 11, 2014
A few teams could be in play for Vanek, but after spending the majority of his career there, chances are good that he returns to the Buffalo Sabres.
Prediction: Buffalo Sabres
David Legwand, C
Teams in need of a consistent two-way center will be taking a long look at David Legwand. While he's never been a top-tier center, he's always been a positive contributor.
At 33 years old, Legwand has 577 career points, including 214 goals. This past season, he put up 51 points on 14 goals and 37 assists but had a minus-17 in the plus-minus category.
While he had a solid season with the Detroit Red Wings, general manager Ken Holland doesnt sound like he's interested in signing any older veterans. According to Ted Kulfan from The Detroit News, Legwand isn't likely to return.
"We like our kids -- we have good young players who'll play in the NHL for 10 to 15 years," Holland told Kulfan. "I don't want to get into trades where we're sending two or three of those kids for a 32-year-old player."
For a team that needs a second- or third-line center, Legwand would be a solid go-to choice. The Edmonton Oilers are a team with a need at the position, and with Legwand unlikely to return to Detroit, they could make a move to acquire the seasoned veteran they need.
Prediction: Edmonton Oilers