NHL Free Agents 2021: Updated Predictions for Tuukka Rask, Ryan Murray and More
NHL free agency opened at noon ET on Wednesday, and the signings came in quickly. Standouts like Dougie Hamilton, Gabriel Landeskog and Zach Hyman were scooped up almost immediately.
According to Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic, NHL teams spent a combined $766 million during the first day of free agency.
Most of the big names are already off the board, which isn't a surprise given the rate at which teams were willing to spend on Wednesday. However, players like goaltender Tuukka Rask, defenseman Ryan Murray and winger Tomas Tatar are awaiting deals.
Rask, Tatar and Murray are quality veterans—ranked seventh and 13th and 15th, respectively, on Luszczyszyn's free-agent top-50 list—who should land somewhere in the not-too-distant future. We'll dive deeper into their situations here.
Rask is an intriguing free agent. He's still a starting-caliber goaltender, but he's also recovering from hip surgery and may not be ready for the start of the season.
Rask is also 34 years old and a risk to fall off the proverbial cliff at any time. The Boston Bruins signed goalie Linus Ullmark early in free agency, likely as either a replacement or an insurance policy for Rask.
According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, a reunion between Rask and the Bruins could come down the line.
"Recovery time is five to six months. When healthy, Rask may be interested in returning to BOS, and door may still be open for that," McKenzie tweeted.
Rask could have other suitors as well, though teams may wait until Rask is closer to 100 percent before making any firm offers. And there's no guarantee that Rask would consider playing outside of Boston.
According to Luszczyszyn, Rask has "made it clear it's Boston or nothing next season."
Prediction: Rask remains unsigned through his recovery
Teams looking to add defensive help should be in on Murray, who is arguably the top defenseman still available.
"Plenty of worse defenseman signed immediately. Murray wasn’t great in New Jersey last season but had value at the end of his time with Columbus. If he stays healthy, he’s a decent option," Sean Gentille of The Athletic wrote.
The Minnesota Wild could be among the interested parties, according to Michael Russo of The Athletic.
"Murray may be the D the [Minnesota Wild] are now pursuing," Russo tweeted.
While there's only speculation about Minnesota's interest in Murray at this point, the pairing would make sense. Minnesota parted with Ryan Suter and Zach Parise and had Carson Soucy taken by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft.
If general manager Bill Guerin is looking to reload on defense, Murray is a logical choice.
Prediction: Murray signs with Wild
Tatar is arguably the top wing still available, though his strained relationship with the Montreal Canadiens will likely have him looking for a new home.
"Despite being one-third of one of the best lines in hockey, Tatar was a healthy scratch for the majority of the playoffs and that slight is likely still fresh in many people’s minds," Luszczyszyn wrote.
Teams that missed out on Brandon Saad—who signed with the St. Louis Blues Thursday afternoon—could have interest in Tatar. This is a notion that David Padnotta of The Fourth Period recently brought up.
"Devils, Leafs & Canes were among the teams in on Saad. Do they shift to Tatar, or Tarasenko?" Pagnotta tweeted.
Vladimir Tarasenko is on the trading block, though the Blues have been unable to move him to this point. Teams may prefer singing Tatar rather than surrendering trade capital for Tarasenko.
The New Jersey Devils could be an enticing option for Tatar following the signing of Dougie Hamilton. He was the clear-cut top option in free agency and a player Tatar may enjoy pairing with.
Prediction: Tatar signs with the Devils