NHL Free Agency 2021: Rumors and Predictions Based on Offseason Buzz

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIAugust 18, 2021

NHL Free Agency 2021: Rumors and Predictions Based on Offseason Buzz

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    By this time next month, NHL teams will be preparing for training camp. Preseason games will begin Sept. 25, then regular-season action gets underway Oct. 12. So while it's still the offseason for now, the 2021-22 season is quickly approaching.

    Before then, some teams are still looking to add to their rosters. And although many of the top players who were on the market when free agency began last month have long been signed, there are still some noteworthy names on the available list.

    Where will these remaining free agents end up for the upcoming season? For some of them, we may find out soon enough.

    Here's a look at several players who are still free agents, along with some of the latest buzz and predictions for where they'll sign.

Kyle Palmieri, RW

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Kyle Palmieri is an 11-year NHL veteran, but he played only 17 regular-season games and 19 playoff games for the New York Islanders, who acquired him in a trade with the New Jersey Devils in April.

    Now, the 30-year-old forward is an unrestricted free agent, so he has the option to make his time with the Isles short-lived.

    Don't expect that to happen, though. Palmieri's time in New York may have been brief, but it's also not over.

    According to Luke Fox of Sportsnet, there's a belief that "a long-term deal has already been agreed to" between Palmieri and the Islanders. However, New York may be keeping things quiet regarding the potential agreements it has in place with some of its players who are now free agents.

    Fox also noted that centers Casey Cizikas and Travis Zajac are likely in the same type of situation.

    As for Palmieri, don't expect anything to fall through in the meantime. After his strong showing in the postseason (seven goals and two assists in 19 games), he'll be back trying to help the Islanders have more success next season.

    Prediction: Palmieri re-signs with Islanders

Nikita Gusev, LW

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    Mary Holt/Associated Press

    As a 27-year-old NHL rookie during the 2019-20 season, Nikita Gusev had a strong debut showing for the New Jersey Devils, tallying 13 goals and 31 assists in 66 games.

    The Russian didn't make as much of an impact last season. In 31 games between the Devils and Florida Panthers, he had four goals and six assists.

    Gusev is now a free agent, and he may be deciding between whether he wants to stay in the NHL or potentially go back to Russia to play in the KHL. If he chooses the former, Fox reported that he has "garnered some interest on the market."

    It isn't clear what teams may have interest in the 29-year-old, but he could provide valuable offensive depth to a team that needs it. And if he can get back to playing the way he did two seasons ago, he might bring even more than that.

    One potential fit could be the Toronto Maple Leafs. Plus, Gusev shouldn't be opposed to playing for one of the top teams in the NHL if the Leafs were interested.

    So, the guess here is that he will stay in the league by inking a deal with Toronto this offseason.

    Prediction: Gusev signs with Maple Leafs

Evgeny Svechnikov, LW

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    After playing 41 games over four seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, Evgeny Svechnikov is a free agent. And it's possible he could be looking to join a team where he'll have an opportunity to get more NHL ice time moving forward after spending substantial time in the AHL in recent years.

    It seems the 24-year-old could soon be nearing a deal with a new team. Sportsnet's Ken Wiebe reported that there's "mutual interest" between the player and the Winnipeg Jets, so that could be where he heads for the next chapter of his career.

    Svechnikov was selected by Detroit with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft, but he has yet to live up to his potential. He has five goals and seven assists, and he never played in more than 21 games in a season for the Red Wings.

    But there's still plenty of time for the Russian to develop into a solid player. Expect him to get an opportunity to do that in Winnipeg soon enough.

    Prediction: Svechnikov signs with Jets