With the NHL free-agency period set to kick off July 1, teams are burning the midnight oil to try and curry favor with the biggest names available.
The negotiating period began last Wednesday, so front-office personnel have been able to speak with agents and players without committing tampering. Deals cannot officially be done during that period, but it at least lays the groundwork for what could be a future deal.
Plus, there's little to stop teams from talking money and/or years during that window.
The two players below are among the biggest on the market, and as such, they have been the subject of countless rumors over the last few days.
Even at 36 years old, Jarome Iginla remains a highly sought-after asset in the free-agent market. Last year illustrated that when he's surrounded by attacking talent, Iginla remains a consistent goal-scorer and creator. Thirty goals and 31 assists is nothing to scoff at.
As a result, plenty of teams are lining up to sign the veteran winger. CTV Vancouver's Kelcey Brade reported that the Vancouver Canucks could be interested:
While the Canucks have the finances to facilitate this move, Iginla may chose a destination where he's guaranteed more playoff success. Vancouver missed out on the postseason in 2014 altogether, and that was after years of disappointment.
The Boston Bruins are in a great position to re-sign their star, and Fluto Shinzawa of The Boston Globe reported that they'll make every attempt to bring him back:
“Jarome wants to stay. We’re trying to find a spot for him,” said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. “But we’re both big boys. If we can’t, we can’t. Certainly we’re both trying to work at it.”
On Thursday night, Chiarelli met with Don Meehan, Iginla’s agent. The result: Iginla will speak with other teams during the interview period, which closes on Monday, one day prior to the opening of free agency, which coincides with Iginla’s 37th birthday.
In order to re-sign Iginla, Boston would have to make some tough financial decisions in other areas, but that likely wouldn't serve as a roadblock. It's instead merely a speed bump in what will be an arduous process.
Boston can offer both the chance to win immediately and also a team loaded with gifted forwards and wingers. Iginla might have to take a little less money than he could get elsewhere, but it would be worth it in order to pursue a Stanley Cup.
As the best defenseman on the market, Matt Niskanen is in line for a fat payday. He could take a pay cut and stay with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Unlike Iginla, though, he hasn't amassed a career's worth of cushy salaries that might make him more amenable to taking less money.
At 27 years old, this is an opportunity for Niskanen to cash in on his prime years, and he's unlikely to let an opportunity like that go to waste.
The Penguins have seemingly thrown in the towel, with general manager Jim Rutherford saying that Niskanen will become a free agent; Pittsburgh cannot match his contract demands, per Ken Campbell of The Hockey News:
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford confirms Matt Niskanen will definitely go on the market July 1. Wants more than Penguins are willing to pay.— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) June 28, 2014
According to Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post, the Washington Capitals are at least throwing their names in the hat:
According to ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun, former Penguins defenseman and unrestricted free agent Matt Niskanen is expected to fetch somewhere around $5 million per season for a “term around five or six years for the puck-mover.” Michael Russo of the Star-Tribune wrote “it appears he could get a seven-year deal in some situations,” while mentioning Minnesota is looking to meet with the local this week. Though it’s unclear where the Capitals would stand on offering a contract of that length, or even whether the interest is reciprocal, league sources have indicated the Capitals have at least expressed interest.
Since Niskanen is the top prize among this year's free-agent defensemen, it's difficult trying to nail down where he'll end up in terms of money. Something close to $5 million a year is likely in line with his overall value, but you could see a team paying over the odds and offering something closer to $6 million or even $7 million.
Either way, Niskanen's time in Pittsburgh appears to have drawn to a close.