2022 NHL Free Agents: Latest Rumors and Predictions for Notable Names

Jake RillJune 24, 2022

2022 NHL Free Agents: Latest Rumors and Predictions for Notable Names

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    AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

    The 2021-22 NHL season could come to an end Friday night. The Colorado Avalanche have an opportunity to finish the Stanley Cup Final on their home ice as they have a 3-1 series lead heading into their Game 5 matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Even if the Avs are unsuccessful, the season will soon be over. Game 6 would take place on Sunday and a winner-take-all Game 7 would occur Tuesday, if either is necessary.

    So the offseason is getting close, and the 30 NHL teams that aren't playing in the Stanley Cup Final are preparing for it. Soon, the Avalanche and Lightning will be, too. And there will be some top players on the free-agent market for the league's 32 franchises to pursue.

    Here's some of the latest buzz surrounding the expected top free agents, along with predictions for where each will end up heading into the 2022-23 season.

Gaudreau Expected to Test the Market?

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    AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski

    Johnny Gaudreau couldn't be hitting free agency at a better time. The 28-year-old forward has played well throughout his nine-year NHL career, but he took his game to another level during the 2021-22 season.

    Gaudreau set career highs in points (115), goals (40) and assists (75) while playing all 82 games for the Calgary Flames and receiving his first All-Star nod. He also led the NHL with a plus-minus rating of plus-64. He never previously finished with a better rating than plus-18.

    David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period recently reported that the Flames have been discussing a new contract for Gaudreau, who would arguably be the top unrestricted free agent available if he hits the market. And according to Pagnotta, there's at least a decent chance that will happen.

    "They anticipate, a lot of people do, that Johnny Gaudreau is going to test the market and at the very least see what the offers are out there," Pagnotta reported. "It doesn't mean he's going to leave Calgary, but there's some belief that he'll test the market."

    So there may be a bidding war for Gaudreau. Will the Flames be able to win that by convincing him to come back to the only NHL franchise he's played for? The guess here is that they may not. Don't be surprised if Gaudreau is with a new team in 2022-23, perhaps one such as the New Jersey Devils, who will have the cap space and could want him to join their growing core of young talent.

    Prediction: Gaudreau signs with the Devils

Forsberg, Predators 'Far Apart' on New Deal

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    AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

    It doesn't sound like things are going great in contract negotiations between Filip Forsberg and the Nashville Predators. Could the 27-year-old center soon be on the move after spending the first 10 years of his NHL career with the Preds?

    According to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff, Forsberg and Nashville "have made little progress" on a new deal and the two sides "remain far apart on both dollars and the type of contract structure he’d prefer to stay a Pred." So Forsberg may soon become a UFA, while Nashville may have to move in a different direction.

    "Sources indicate the Predators are cognizant of that reality and are beginning to examine alternative options in an attempt to replace Forsberg—whether it’s through the trade market or in free agency," Seravalli wrote.

    Forsberg is coming off a big 2021-22 season in which he set career highs in points (84), goals (42) and assists (42). So if he hits free agency, there will likely be plenty of suitors.

    But things change during negotiations, and it's not a guarantee that Forsberg will be playing somewhere new in 2022-23. Don't be surprised if he and the Predators move closer to terms and eventually work out a new deal this summer.

    Prediction: Forsberg re-signs with Predators

Will Kadri Be Back in Colorado?

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    AP Photo/David Zalubowski

    Avalanche center Nazem Kadri made $4 million this season in the final year of his current contract. With the role he's played in Colorado's continued success, the 31-year-old is poised for a pay raise next season, wherever he ends up.

    It's possible that Kadri won't return to the Avs, who may not have the cap space for his likely increased salary. If that's the case, there should be numerous teams interested in Kadri, especially after he's tallied seven goals and eight assists in 14 games this postseason.

    During a recent appearance on Donnie and Dhali – The Team, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported that he's heard Kadri's name "connected to" the Washington Capitals. With Nicklas Backstrom recently undergoing left hip surgery, the Caps could be looking to add a top offensive player to help fill that potential void in their lineup.

    Washington, which has been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round each of the past four years, could benefit from bringing in a veteran such as Kadri, who is now experiencing a ton of playoff success. It could make sense for Kadri to go to the Capitals, too, where he'd have an opportunity to build off his impressive 2021-22 campaign and play alongside some other talented offensive players.

    Prediction: Kadri signs with Capitals

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