Jiri Hudler is the most notable unrestricted free agent still available, and once Jimmy Vesey signs, could could attract interest from clubs seeking scoring depth.
The great guessing game over where unrestricted free agent prospect Jimmy Vesey will go is the prime topic in the NHL off-season rumor mill. However, there’s still some speculation kicking around over several current veteran free agents.
The remaining pool of UFAs grew shallower this week. Center Antoine Vermette signed a two-year, $3.5-million deal with the Anaheim Ducks, while right winger Radim Vrbata returned to the Arizona Coyotes on a one-year, bonus-laden contract.
2015 Lady Byng Trophy winner Jiri Hudler is the most notable player still available. The 32-year-old right winger spent last season split between the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers, netting 46 points. Once the Vesey sweepstakes is over, Hudler could attract interest from clubs seeking scoring depth.
TSN’s Darren Dreger reports defenseman Kris Russell is still waiting for a few teams to free up some salary-cap space. The 28-year-old shot-blocking specialist was considered among this summer’s top UFAs.
Bill West of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports Matt Cullen’s agent claims the veteran center has four teams (including the Penguins) interested in his services. It’s expected he’ll reach a decision within the next two weeks. The Minnesota Wild are also thought to be among the suitors.
A late-July report out of Sweden claimed former Los Angeles Kings backup Jhonas Enroth was close to signing a one-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Since then, however, there’s no indication from the Leafs or the Enroth camp that this deal will be finalized.
Last week, James Wisniewski agreed to a professional tryout contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Other UFAs could follow his lead if they’re no closer to landing deals before training camp opens next month.
It doesn’t appear as though Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal will get a new contract before the upcoming season begins. Hanzal, 29, is entering the final season of his five-year, $15.5-million contract. His annual salary-cap hit is $3.1 million, though in actual salary he’ll make $3.5 million.
Arizona Sports’ Craig Morgan reports Coyotes GM John Chayka had preliminary discussions with the Hanzal camp earlier this summer, but those talks got pushed to the back burner. While Chayka isn’t ruling out re-signing Hanzal in the coming weeks, he told Morgan they could wait and see how the season unfolds.
The 6-foot-6, 226-pound Hanzal is coming off a career-best 41-point campaign. However, he also has a lengthy injury history, which probably explains the Coyotes reluctance to re-sign him right now.
Given their lack of experienced depth at center, Morgan doubts they’ll put Hanzal on the trade block. However, he doesn’t rule out that possibility later in the season.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.