John Tavares has earned the right to seek out as many options as he wants before deciding who to sign with come July 1. His meetings in California have the NHL at a bit of a standstill, however, with nearly a third of the league awaiting his decision before moving on to Plan Bs and Cs.
Once that domino falls, though, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet believes that the NHL's "trade floodgates will soon open."
Tavares will fill one giant need for one lucky team, and everyone who gets left out in the cold will be sent scrambling to the free agent market and trade talks to fill in their respective rosters. It seems that Erik Karlsson is the biggest trade chip that could be in play in the coming days, but there are still some quality players who could be available for the right price.
Ottawa Senators Could Try to Trade Craig Anderson
This year's free agent class is weak at every position, but that's particularly true for goaltenders. Carter Hutton will generate interest after stealing starts with the St. Louis Blues, while Robin Lehner could be an intriguing option due to the perception that he has untapped potential.
These are backups who are looking for an opportunity to be a legit No. 1, though, not proven starters.
Put another way: these free agents are gambles.
Teams that are looking for goalies with proven track records will need to turn to trades, where the Ottawa Senators are still in wheel-and-deal mode. Mike Hoffman is gone, Karlsson could still be moved any day now and it sounds like Craig Anderson could also be made available; with the Senators perhaps retaining some of his salary, no less.
He's 37, so it's not like Anderson is going to be a long-term solution in goal, but for a team that thinks it is close, he could work. The netminder wasn't great last year, but it'd be safe to pin those shortcomings on the defense in front of him.
From 2014 through 2017, when the Senators weren't actively trying to get to the cap floor, Anderson carried a perfectly acceptable .921 save percentage in all situations. Squads looking for a league-average goalie who can get white-hot from time to time needn't look any further.
Don't Expect the New York Rangers to Trade for Artemi Panarin
Within hours of the news breaking that Artemi Panarin wasn't interested in re-signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets "at this time," numerous team-centric NHL websites had a column investigating the idea of bringing the high-end forward to town.
The New York Rangers, in particular, presented an intriguing possible destination for Panarin. The Blueshirts are admittedly rebuilding on the fly, and adding one of the league's top forwards while he's just 26 would be a big stride towards contending again.
New York has plenty of cap space to work with—nearly $30 million, according to CapFriendly.com—so re-signing Panarin before next summer wouldn't be an issue, either. It's that financial flexibility that had so many analysts connecting the wing to Broadway, but, according to Larry Brooks, the team has no desire to part with the assets it would take to acquire Panarin from the Blue Jackets.
A potential free agency chase isn't as immediately gratifying as a trade, but we could still be talking about Panarin-to-Rangers at this time next year.
Jeff Skinner Deal Could Happen at Any Time Now
The housecleaning has already started for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm were shipped to the Calgary Flames during the draft, and it doesn't sound like general manager Don Waddell is done making changes to his team just yet.
Jeff Skinner has been involved in trade rumors on and off for the last season or so, and rumblings indicate that the center could soon be on the way out of Raleigh.
Organizations are almost always looking for help at center, so it's tough to guess which two or three teams have made it this far in the Skinner sweepstakes, but we know that the Hurricanes are looking to get a bit bigger and tougher to play against.
That's why they swapped Hanifin out for Dougie Hamilton while also adding Michael Ferland in their trade with the Flames. Could a team like the Anaheim Ducks have the assets needed to acquire Skinner? It seems likely that Tavares will need to sign before Skinner goes anywhere, but it wouldn't be surprising to see the pivot lacing up his skates for a different team come October.