NHL Free Agents 2017: Rumors, Predictions for Jaromir Jagr, Thomas Vanek, More

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 18, 2017

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 14: Jaromir Jagr #68 of the Florida Panthers prepares for a face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the BB&T Center on March 14, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Maple Leafs 7-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Nearly three weeks of action has left the 2017 NHL free-agent market, which was lackluster from the start, with a limited number of useful assets to help fill out rosters. The remaining group is headlined by ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr, who's made 10 All-Star Game appearances.

The top players available now fall into the same category as Jagr—secondary offensive or defensive contributors who can help plug holes in the lineup. There aren't any game-changing assets on the market who are going to dramatically change a team's 2017-18 outlook.

That said, let's check out some of the latest buzz from around the league and predict where some of the coveted players will land when their extended stay in free agency finally ends.


Montreal Canadiens Keeping Tabs on Jagr

While Jagr has done a lot of things throughout his eventual Hall of Fame career, playing for a Canadian team isn't one of them. He's played in markets of all sizes in the United States, but taking his talents north of the border would be a new endeavor.

The fit is there, too. Several of the Canadian franchises, including the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames, could benefit from adding more scoring punch. That's exactly what the 45-year-old winger, who tallied 46 points in 82 games last season, can provide.

Jimmy Murphy of Bruins Beat reported Montreal has "definitely" considered Jagr as an option, though it's unclear if there are ongoing discussions.

The Canadiens must replace the production of Alexander Radulov, who left the organization to sign with the Dallas Stars. He finished second on the team in scoring behind Max Pacioretty during the regular season and added seven points in six playoff contests to lead the Habs.

One other team to keep in mind is the New Jersey Devils. Jagr spent a season-and-a-half there starting in 2013-14 and put up 96 points in 139 games. A return makes a lot of sense with the team's need of additional offense and the cap space to give him a solid one-year offer.

Prediction: Devils


Thomas Vanek Interested in Detroit Red Wings Reunion

Vanek gave Detroit plenty of bang for the buck after signing a one-year deal with Detroit last year. Not only did he score 38 points in 48 games, including 11 power-play points, but the Wings were able to flip him to the Florida Panthers before the trade deadline for other assets.

It would make sense for the Red Wings to take a similar path this year. They are among a myriad fringe playoff teams in the Eastern Conference if everything falls correctly. Adding the 33-year-old forward could bolster those hopes, and he can be dealt at the deadline again if they're out of the mix.

Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reported Detroit has stayed in contact with Vanek, who'd like to return to the organization, but the team's limited cap space has prevented a deal so far. A "few" other front offices have reached out to him since the market opened.

Vanek doesn't feature top-end speed, a key trait in today's game, but he's a reliable second-line winger who's willing to do the dirty work in front of the net to score consistently. That's going to make him a bargain wherever he lands for the second consecutive year.

Prediction: Red Wings


Cody Franson May Join Chicago Blackhawks

The Hawks have been able to sustain their place among the league's elite in part because older players are willing to accept less money in order to contend for a title. It's a necessity for a team with so much cap space locked into stars like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith.

Franson may become the next player to follow the trend. Jay Zawaski of 670 The Score reported the defenseman is a target for an invite to Chicago's training camp on a tryout basis if he's not able to land a guaranteed contract before that point.

The 29-year-old blueliner finished last season with 19 points in 68 games for the Buffalo Sabres. A lack of time on the power play, especially with the first unit, prevented him from producing more. Joining a more well-rounded Blackhawks squad would likely lead to a jump in his scoring total.

Like Vanek and Jagr, his lack of foot speed has likely had a direct impact on him failing to sign during the early stages of free agency. Joining the Hawks for camp and then signing a one-year contract once their cap situation clears up would be an ideal end game if a more lucrative offer doesn't arrive.

Prediction: Blackhawks