Here’s a look at what the NHL’s seven Canadian teams need as free agency begins at noon on July 1, with salary-cap estimates courtesy of CapGeek:
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Cap space: $23.6 million
Unrestricted free agents: C Dave Bolland, LW/RW Nikolai Kulemin, LW Mason Raymond, C Jay McClement, D Paul Ranger, RW Troy Bodie, C Leo Komarov, C Trevor Smith, G Drew MacIntyre
Restricted free agents: G James Reimer, D Jake Gardiner, D Cody Franson, RW Carter Ashton, LW Jerry D’Amigo
Biggest needs: Centre, bottom-six forwards, backup goaltender, right-handed-shooting defencemen
Outlook: President Brendan Shanahan and general manager Dave Nonis should be busy as a healthy amount of roster turnover is expected. Four of the top-six forward spots are filled by core players (Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak) and Nazem Kadri is signed for one more season, but after that there isn’t much up front. Bolland is someone the Leafs like, but not at the salary he’d like to attract as one of those much-desired hard-working pieces of a winning team. If he gets a payday elsewhere, Toronto will be forced to debate external versus internal replacements. Shanahan and Nonis wanting the Leafs to play a different way under same coach Randy Carlyle is a wild card, so it’ll be fascinating to see the off-season unfold.
Cap space: $17.4 million
Unrestricted free agents: LW Thomas Vanek, RW Brian Gionta, LW George Parros, D Francis Boullion, D Douglas Murray, D Mike Weaver, F Ryan White
Restricted free agents: D P.K. Subban, C Lars Eller
Biggest needs: Top-six winger, size, depth defencemen
Outlook: The Habs are taking a no Vanek, no panic approach to July 1, bidding adieu to the inconsistent yet talented scoring winger who will likely either get a long-term, big money deal or sign with the Minnesota Wild. A deadline acquisition for just a second-round pick and prospect Sebastien Collberg, Vanek helped Montreal to the Eastern Conference final but found himself on the fourth line late in the run. If Gionta departs, the Habs will need a new captain from its current roster, but P.A. Parenteau—acquired Monday from the Avalanche for Daniel Briere—could fill his spot. Josh Gorges’ trade situation will make for even more turnover on defence, which could be very young next season with kids like Greg Pateryn, Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi filling spots. Getting face-of-the-franchise Subban locked up to a long-term deal, though, remains GM Marc Bergevin’s biggest task of the summer.
Cap space: $17.7 million
Unrestricted free agents: F Mike Santorelli, D Andrew Alberts, F Jordan Schroeder, F Zac Dalpe
Restricted free agents: C Linden Vey (acquired from Kings at draft), LW/RW Zach Kassian, D Chris Tanev, D Yannick Weber
Biggest needs: Starting goaltender, defencemen, youth
Outlook: With the makeover well underway in Vancouver, the Canucks are in a weird spot wanting to build back up around young players but not ready to call it a “rebuild.” GM Jim Benning has already gotten rid of centre Ryan Kesler, fetching Nick Bonino, defenceman Luca Sbisa and a first-round pick from the Anaheim Ducks, but it’s unclear how many more veterans want out. The climate of change is exciting for young players who crave opportunity, but will it be attractive to prospective free agents? Goaltender Ryan Miller has a previous relationship with Benning from Buffalo, and his destinations might be so limited by a lack of open jobs that Vancouver makes the most sense for the 33-year-old.
Cap space: $16.5 million
Unrestricted free agents: RW Ales Hemsky, LW Milan Michalek, F Matt Kassian, D Joe Corvo
Restricted free agents: G Robin Lehner, F Stephane Da Costa
Biggest needs: Top-six wingers, depth forwards, Jason Spezza trade
Outlook: There won’t be any shockers to the level of Daniel Alfredsson leaving this summer for the Senators, but his stated concern about this team not being on the cusp of winning a Cup is more true now than it was then. A rough season has led to more questions than answers for a team with a Jack Adams Award-winning coach in Paul MacLean and some legitimate offensive talent in Bobby Ryan and Erik Karlsson. Filling the holes around it will be GM Bryan Murray’s job as he also seeks to find a taker for Spezza, his captain who has asked out of Ottawa and has a year left on his contract. Clearing Spezza’s $7-million salary would open the Senators up todo some shopping, whether that means re-signing Michalek or bringing in capable replacements for him and Hemsky.
Cap space: $20.1 million
Unrestricted free agents: D Anton Belov, F Ryan Jones, F Ben Eager, F Steve MacIntyre, D Mark Fraser
Restricted free agents: D Justin Schultz, D Jeff Petry, F Luke Gadzic
Biggest needs: Top-nine forwards, puck-moving defencemen, size
Outlook: Sunday night’s trade of Sam Gagner to the Tampa Bay Lightning for winger Teddy Purcell got proceedings going for the Oilers, who could have a different mix around the core of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle as they seek to end a seven-year playoff drought. GM Craig MacTavish has gone on record as saying he’d like to add a puck-moving defenceman—who wouldn’t? He also wants top-nine players who can fill roles and allow Matt Hendricks and Boyd Gordon to slide down to the fourth line, where they’re strong fits. Drafting Leon Draisaitl fills two major needs—a second-line centre and more size—but Edmonton might have to hedge in case the 18-year-old German isn’t ready. On the trade market, MacTavish thinks the Oilers can use their salary-cap space to pick up some more expensive players but without giving up too much in return.
Cap space: $29.7 million
Unrestricted free agents: C Mike Cammalleri, D Chris Butler, G Joey MacDonald, D Chris Breen, F Kevin Westgarth, F Blair Jones, F T.J. Galiardi, F Paul Byron
Restricted free agents: C Joe Colborne, F Lance Bouma, G Joni Ortio
Biggest needs: Goaltender, big, young forwards, depth defencemen
Outlook: Still in the early stages of a rebuilding effort, the Flames can start to take the form wanted by president of hockey operations Brian Burke and GM Brad Treliving. That means bigger players up and down the lineup to build around Monahan. After trading Reto Berra to Colorado at the deadline, the Flames are either in the market for a backup to Karri Ramo or someone who might fit in a 1A/1B situation. If Treliving and his staff remain committed to a long-term building project, July 1 might not be too active as other teams shell out big-money contracts.
Cap space: $18.3 million
Unrestricted free agents: C Olli Jokinen, RW Devin Setoguchi, G Al Montoya, F Chris Thorburn, F Matt Halischuk, D Keaton Ellerby
Restricted free agents: RW Michael Frolik, C James Wright, G Michael Hutchinson
Biggest needs: Centre, right-wingers, goaltender
Outlook: July 1 is another barometer of how the Jets will lean, between fans’ impatience over three years without playoffs since moving to Winnipeg and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s calm approach. Not one to swing for the fences, Cheveldayoff said he’d look for opportunities to strike in free agency, but it’d be surprising to set the Jets make a big splash. If Jokinen and Setoguchi don’t return, Winnipeg will need to fill significant holes up front. Hutchinson is considered a strong bet to be Ondrej Pavelec’s backup goalie and potential future starter. If the organization feels he needs more time, trading for James Reimer or signing another goaltender would make sense.
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