The NHL's annual free-agent market opens this year on Wednesday, July 28 at noon ET. Most of the top free agents won't be available for long. Many are usually signed before the end of the first day.
A handful of notable free agents are already off the market, the most recent being Taylor Hall re-signing with the Boston Bruins. On June 30, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins inked an eight-year, $41 million deal to remain with the Edmonton Oilers, who also intend to sign Toronto Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman on Wednesday.
Several others could also re-sign with their current clubs before July 28. Most, however, could hit the open market on Wednesday.
Where could free-agent stars such as Washington Capitals left winger Alex Ovechkin and Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton end up? Here are our final predictions on where they could go, factoring in player performance, previous contracts and team roster requirements. We've excluded Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask as he is expected to be sidelined until January or February 2022 recovering from hip surgery.
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter Reunite on Long Island
The Minnesota Wild surprised the hockey world by buying out the burdensome contracts of left wing Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter on July 13. It's possible the duo will reunite with the New York Islanders.
On July 16, The Athletic's Arthur Staple reported Parise was believed to have spoken with Islanders president of hockey operations and general manager Lou Lamoriello. Staple also noted Suter began his NHL career playing for Isles coach Barry Trotz during their days with the Nashville Predators. It wasn't known if Lamoriello had reached out to the 36-year-old blueliner.
Six days later, the New York Post's Larry Brooks reported Lamoriello was looking at bringing both players to Long Island.
Why would the Islanders want two castoffs from the Wild? Because they're both still effective players. Parise turns 37 on July 28 and isn't a top-six winger anymore, but he could be a solid addition on the Isles' third line. Suter, meanwhile, can still log big minutes and could fill the left-side second-pairing spot formerly held by Nick Leddy before his recent trade to the Detroit Red Wings.
Another reason is their potential affordability because of their contract buyouts. Already receiving two-thirds of their remaining salaries from their previous contracts, they won't need expensive new deals.
That could work for the Islanders' cap payroll. While they have $17.7 million in projected salary-cap space, a big chunk will go toward signing restricted free agents Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech and Ilya Sorokin and perhaps UFA Casey Cizikas.
Parise could get a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a base salary of $1.25 million. Suter's effectiveness as a second-pairing defenseman could net him a two-year deal at $2.5 million.
Tyson Barrie to the Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes will need a replacement for defenseman Dougie Hamilton if they lose him to another club in the upcoming free-agent market. Veteran blueliner Tyson Barrie could fit the bill.
At 5'11" and 197 pounds, the 30-year-old Barrie is two years older than Hamilton and lacks the latter's 6'6", 229-pound frame. Like Hamilton, however, he's an excellent offensive rearguard. He led all NHL defensemen in points in 2020-21 with 48.
Barrie's defensive play doesn't measure up as well as his offensive game. That could be offset by having him skate alongside the defensively responsible Jaccob Slavin on the top pairing.
With 23 of his 48 points this season coming with the man advantage, he would be an excellent addition to the Hurricanes' power play.
A difficult season in 2019-20 with the Toronto Maple Leafs forced Barrie to accept a one-year, $3.75 million contract this past October. On May 21, TSN's Darren Dreger speculated Barrie could seek stability in the form of a five- or six-year contract via free agency. Last week, he reported the Oilers re-engaged Barrie in contract talks but seemed skeptical the blueliner would get a five-year deal from them.
The Hurricanes, however, might be willing to go that far, especially if Barrie's seeking a reasonable dollar amount. If Hamilton is signed away by another club to a seven-year deal worth between $8 million and $9 million, Barrie at five years and $5 million per season will seem like a bargain.
Barrie signs a five-year, $25 million contract with the Hurricanes. They'll need some offensive punch from the blue line if they hope to be a serious Stanley Cup contender.