No sooner had the Stanley Cup Final ended than the NHL's silly season began. Teams wasted no time in making moves to strengthen their rosters, create salary-cap space and shake up their personnel.
The Ottawa Senators kicked things off when they hired former NBC Sports analyst Pierre McGuire as their senior vice president of player development. It was a controversial move given McGuire's reluctance to fully embrace advanced analytics at a time when most teams in the NHL are leaning into data tracking and numbers more than ever.
The Minnesota Wild then announced their stunning decision to buy out the contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, who both signed identical 13-year, $98 million deals on July 4, 2012. The duo had been the faces of the franchise ever since, and it was a strange move considering it created more dead money than cap space.
The New Jersey Devils traded for Ryan Graves on Thursday night. General manager Tom Fitzgerald gave up a lot for the 26-year-old defenseman, sending emerging forward Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round pick in the 2021 draft to the Colorado Avalanche, but it filled a big need for a club that is desperately trying to take the next step in its extended rebuilding phase. As for the Avs, they got a return for a player they could have lost for nothing in Wednesday's expansion draft.
Who is staying, and who else is going? Here is a look at eight players and where they may land next.
Zach Parise: New York Islanders
This felt like a foregone conclusion from the minute the Wild announced the forward's buyout. Zach Parise left the New Jersey Devils in 2012 to return to his home state of Minnesota and be closer to his late father, J.P. Parise. Former Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, the current GM of the New York Islanders, tried hard to re-sign a player he drafted in 2003, but the hometown draw was too strong.
However, the ties to Long Island are strong with Lamoriello there—and even stronger when you consider J.P. played for the Islanders. Zach's production declined this season to the point that he received fourth-line minutes, was taken off the power play and was a healthy scratch to start the postseason. The Islanders have a need for some cost-conscious forward depth. The 36-year-old won't be expensive.
Lamoriello already tried to trade for Parise in 2020. Over the past year-and-a-half, he's traded for three former Devils (veteran defenseman Andy Greene, center Travis Zajac and winger Kyle Palmieri) and signed one after a buyout (goalie Cory Schneider). There are just too many ties to ignore, and it's a positional fit.
Ryan Suter: Winnipeg Jets
The Parise buyout wasn't a shock based on his declining performance, but buying out Ryan Suter at the same time was a huge surprise. Suter was still playing a top-four role for the Wild. It sounds like he wasn't expecting this move, either, considering he hung up on Wild general manager Bill Guerin, per Michael Russo of The Athletic.
On his 31 Thoughts podcast, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman said Suter could be headed to the Washington Capitals. But the Caps already have a lot of defensemen, and if they re-sign impending free agent Alexander Ovechkin, they won't have much cap space. The Boston Bruins have also been mentioned as a potential landing spot.
But the team that plays just north of the Minnesota-Canada border might be the best fit. The Winnipeg Jets badly need help on the blue line. While the priority might be a top-pairing defenseman, one of that caliber isn't exactly easy to acquire through a trade—at least not without giving up significant assets—and teams would have to overpay in free agency.
Suter still chews minutes and can play in all situations. He's not a No. 1 anymore, but he's a solid option if the Jets don't make a play for a free agent like Adam Larsson.
Keith Yandle: Boston Bruins
The Florida Panthers bought out the remaining two years on Keith Yandle's contract Thursday, and after years of rumors tying the Milton, Massachusetts, native to the Bruins, it feels like the time is finally right.
The veteran defenseman is a good puck-mover with some offensive upside, even at 34, and he has a history of producing on the power play. At this stage of his career, he needs favorable matchups and sheltered minutes, but the Bruins can put him on the back end and give him exactly what he needs to contribute offensively. Boston's lack of depth was exposed in the postseason, and Yandle would help remedy that.
Blake Coleman: Dallas Stars
Blake Coleman was a hot commodity at the 2020 trade deadline, and after winning back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he'll be a popular player once free agency begins July 28.
Coleman is a versatile depth forward who played on Tampa Bay's shutdown third line, but on any other team, he's probably a top-six winger. He's an excellent penalty-killer, brings a ton of energy and physicality and does a lot of little things right to win puck battles and set up plays. He should also probably be playing on the power play, but he's only seen limited time on the man advantage because of the Devils' desire to develop him and the Lightning's tremendous depth.
Tampa Bay is already over the salary cap and will likely lose Coleman and his linemate, Barclay Goodrow. Coleman's hometown Dallas Stars could use a winger of this mold and will have about $15 million to work with. The 29-year-old has established himself as a 20-goal scorer, so a realistic price might be in the $4 million-per-year range, which is within reach for the Stars.
Coleman and his wife, Jordan, also a Dallas-area native, are building a house in the area for their family. He's a walking advertisement for Dallas youth hockey. This could be a chance for Coleman to live out his childhood dream of helping bring a Stanley Cup home to Texas.