NHL Rumors: Latest Buzz on Zach Hyman, Dougie Hamilton and More Top Free Agents

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJuly 26, 2021

NHL Rumors: Latest Buzz on Zach Hyman, Dougie Hamilton and More Top Free Agents

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    NHL teams have already upgraded their rosters through the draft and trades, but squads are now turning their eyes toward free agency.

    Free agents can begin signing with teams Wednesday, and the decisions of a few players could change the landscape of the league for the next few years.

    Future Hall of Famer Alex Ovechkin would get plenty of attention on the open market, although it's hard to imagine the Washington Capitals letting him leave. Teams looking for an impact player will still have plenty of options in the coming days.

    Here are a few big names who could be snapped up soon after free agency opens noon ET Wednesday.

Zach Hyman, C

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    After six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Zach Hyman is not returning for a seventh.

    "It was our intention going in to retain Zach's services," Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said Thursday. "We have certain limits we can go to, and we have tried to extend ourselves the best we can."

    The two sides did have weeks of negotiations, but in the end, a source told James Mirtle of The Athletic that "it wasn't even close."

    Hyman is expected to sign with the Edmonton Oilers on a deal that will pay him at least $5 million per season.

    The teams could have worked out a sign-and-trade that would have added an eighth year to the new contract, but Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reported Dubas didn't think it was worth it for Toronto.

    Edmonton will add a quality two-way forward who had 33 points in just 43 games last season. The 29-year-old is a valuable glue player for contending teams, although Toronto didn't win one of its five playoff series during Hyman's six seasons with the team.

    The Oilers will hope he can find more success in his new location.

Ryan Suter, D

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    Craig Lassig/Associated Press

    Despite an abrupt ending to his career with the Minnesota Wild, Ryan Suter is a wanted man in free agency.

    The defenseman is coming off a disappointing season in which he had just three goals and 16 assists in 56 games, while his 22:11 average time on ice was his lowest since 2007-08. However, he is a proven player, with 1,198 career regular-season games in the NHL and 607 points.

    According to Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic, the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders are "among the parties most interested" in Suter.

    Saad Yousuf of The Athletic added the Dallas Stars are also in pursuit of the blueliner and that "there is interest on both sides."

    One concern for teams could be the length of a deal, with Andy Strickland of Bally Sports Midwest projecting a four-year deal for the 36-year-old. Per Strickland, this was enough to put the St. Louis Blues out of the running.

    The demand around the league could be enough to ensure Suter gets the contract he desires.

Dougie Hamilton, D

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    Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    A breakout season came at the right time for Dougie Hamilton.

    While the 28-year-old has been a quality player for the Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes over his NHL career, he took his game to another level in 2020-21.

    Hamilton appeared in 55 of Carolina's 56 regular-season games, tallying 10 goals and 32 assists for one of the best per-game offensive outputs of his career. He also finished fourth in voting for the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL.

    The overall production helped Hamilton finish 11th in the league in point shares, per Hockey Reference, second among defenseman behind only Darnell Nurse. 

    This could lead to a deal worth up to $9 million per year, according to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic.

    The New Jersey Devils could be a contender for his services, with Larry Brooks of the New York Post reporting there is "mutual interest."

    Brooks projected a $63 million deal could be what is necessary to land Hamilton, who would be a key building block for the Devils as they look to bounce back from three straight losing seasons.