NHL Free Agents 2022: Top Players on Market Following Stanley Cup Final
Two of the top NHL free agents might be in for homecomings this offseason.
Johnny Gaudreau is the name atop the free-agent list, and he could make the move from the Calgary Flames back home to the east coast. Gaudreau grew up in New Jersey and might have two interested parties in the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers.
Claude Giroux left the Flyers at the NHL trade deadline as he sought a Stanley Cup. Giroux's move to the Florida Panthers did not result in a championship, and now he is on the market for a new team.
A return to Florida may be out of the cards since the Panthers do not have a ton of cap space. The Ottawa Senators might try to bring Giroux back home to Canada if the numbers work out.
Filip Forsberg is not in line for a homecoming of any sort, but he will be as coveted as Gaudreau and Giroux on the free-agent market.
Forsberg is coming off the best offensive season of his career, and he should attract multiple offers when the free-agent period opens up on July 13.
Johnny Gaudreau set himself up for a massive payday by producing the first 100-point season of his career.
Gaudreau scored 40 goals and handed out 75 assists, and he helped the Calgary Flames reach the second round of the postseason.
The one-time All-Star could be poised for a move away from Alberta and back east if a return home is enticing to him.
Gaudreau grew up in southern New Jersey, and he could attract attention from the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers. Both teams need a star on their respective rosters to bolster their chances of making the playoffs.
New Jersey comes into the offseason with more salary cap space than Philadelphia, per Spotrac, and the Devils may be in a better position to qualify for the postseason next year with their young core and decent amount of salary cap space available to improve.
Gaudreau will have more than two suitors for his signature. Any team with a large chunk of cap space should inquire about his talents. The homecoming narrative is strong because both New Jersey and Philadelphia could use a superstar of his caliber, but there is no guarantee he moves back home.
Anaheim, Buffalo and Detroit come into the offseason with the most salary-cap space in the NHL. Postseason contenders, like Pittsburgh, Nashville, Columbus and Carolina all have $19 million to work with at the moment.
Pittsburgh is an intriguing fit because Sidney Crosby is aging and three core players, Bryan Rust, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, are scheduled to become free agents.
The Penguins could see the offseason as a chance to get younger at their star positions and still compete for a Stanley Cup. Gaudreau would be the ideal signing for that situation.
Gaudreau's decision could affect the rest of the free-agent market in terms of prices for other top-tier players and for what needs must be filled if teams miss out on him.
Just like Gaudreau, Filip Forsberg produced a career-best season in his free-agent year.
Forsberg tallied 42 goals and 42 assists in what was likely his final season with the Nashville Predators, the only franchise he has ever played for.
Forsberg is in line for a massive payday, and there are plenty of suitors that could use him to either accelerate their rebuild or reinforce their playoff squads in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.
Pittsburgh should be mentioned in the conversation for Forsberg and any other top-tier free agent because of the transitional phase the franchise is about to go through.
The Penguins could say goodbye to Bryan Rust, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang and usher in a new era with younger stars, like Forsberg, to help Sidney Crosby make a run at one more Stanley Cup.
New Jersey may take a look at Forsberg because of how much cap space it has and how quickly a major free-agent signing could move it into playoff contention.
Carolina, Dallas and Columbus all have significant cap space and could go in on Forsberg to strengthen their rosters for the postseason push next season.
The Los Angeles Kings might be an option as well. The Kings signed former Nashville player Viktor Arvidsson to a free-agent contract last season, and Forsberg may be intrigued by playing with his former teammate again.
Nashville could make a push to re-sign Forsberg as well, but the winger took what appeared to be a farewell lap after the team's first-round exit that could have signaled the end of his time there.
Claude Giroux's attempt to win a Stanley Cup failed with the Florida Panthers.
The long-time Philadelphia Flyers center chose a trade to the Panthers in an attempt to chase a championship at 34.
Giroux produced 65 points with the Flyers and Panthers last season, a total that was higher than his previous two seasons.
The 34-year-old still has plenty to give on the ice, but he will likely need a new home. Florida ranks 29th in the NHL in salary cap space, and it may be willing to move on from the veteran center to accommodate deals for younger free agents.
The homecoming narrative with Giroux makes sense from Ottawa's perspective because the Senators have just under $20 million in cap space to work with. Ottawa has just a handful of players over 30, and it could use Giroux's experience to help along its young core, led by Brady Tkachuk.
Detroit could apply the same logic to a potential pursuit of Giroux. The Red Wings have the fourth-most cap space, and they have one player 30 or older signed for next season.
Giroux may not be willing to land with an up-and-coming team with only a few years left to chase a Stanley Cup.
Colorado has the seventh-most cap space and could make a run at Giroux, especially if it misses out on the Nazem Kadri sweepstakes. Pittsburgh may be out of the question because it was the rival of the team Giroux played a long time for, but nothing is out of the question if the price is right.