Updates on This Summer’s Top NHL Unrestricted Free Agents

Updates on This Summer’s Top NHL Unrestricted Free Agents

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Updates on This Summer's Top NHL unrestricted free agentss
© Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL’s free-agent market opens on Monday at noon ET. Here’s a look at the last speculation involving the top unrestricted free agents.

Artemi Panarin

Panarin recently completed visits to the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers. The New York Post‘s Larry Brooks reports the Rangers will pursue the 27-year-old left winger when the market opens on July 1 but won’t get into a bidding war. He cited a source saying the highest they could go is a seven-year deal worth between $11 – $11.25 million annually.

TSN’s Darren Dreger believes the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders could also be in on Panarin. Earlier this week, Panarin’s agent also met with the Colorado Avalanche. Their acquisition of left-winger Andre Burakovsky on Friday, however, suggests they’re looking at more affordable options.

Joe Pavelski

The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz has “an overwhelming sense” Pavelski won’t be returning to the Sharks. His colleague Craig Custance reports the number of teams interested in the 34-year-old forward has reached “double-digits”.

Pavelski met this week with the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes the Chicago Blackhawks could be a suitor. Custance’s colleague Michael Russo thinks the Minnesota Wild could be another.

Friedman also said Pavelski declined visits to a couple of clubs he felt weren’t close enough to becoming winners. One of them could be the Arizona Coyotes, who met with his agent earlier in the week.

Robin Lehner

Lehner recently indicated he wanted to re-sign with the Islanders. The 27-year-old goaltender also said he had no plans to meet with other clubs during the UFA interview period.  However, a recent report by The Athletic’s Arthur Staple suggests Lehner could hit the open market on July 1.

Staple said the two sides remain far apart in contract talks, with a league source speculating Lehner will “almost certainly play elsewhere next season”. The sticking point is the Isles insistence on a short-term deal worth under $5-million annually.

Anders Lee

The Islanders are also playing hardball with their captain. Like Lehner, Lee stated his desire to stay on Long Island. The 28-year-old left wing reportedly seeks a seven-year contract but the Isles don’t want to go over five years.

TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, and Colorado Avalanche are among the clubs linked to Lee. Seravalli also believes the value for Lee has increased more than the Isles anticipated. He feels the left winger’s new contract could cost at least $7.5 million per season.

Matt Duchene

Duchene visited this week with the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators. While his interest in the Canadiens excited some Montreal fans, Sportsnet’s Eric Engels doubts the 28-year-old center joins the Habs. Signing Duchene would eat up the salary-cap room needed to re-sign their promising youngsters within the next couple of years.

The Predators seem a more likely landing spot. They’re closer to being a Cup contender than the Habs and taxes are much lower in Tennessee than Quebec.

Sergei Bobrovsky

Bobrovsky joined Panarin in meeting with the Panthers and the Islanders earlier this week. His visit with the Isles raised some eyebrows. The recent news about Lehner’s status provides the rationale behind that meeting.

It’ll cost the Islanders considerably more to sign Bobrovsky than Lehner. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner could command as much as $10 million per season. The Panthers’ interest could spark a bidding war between the two clubs.