With more and more teams prioritizing locking up their stars to long-term contract extensions before they can hit free agency, the market this year simply doesn’t possess the depth or star power we’ve seen in prior years.
Still, the rumors are flying fast and furious, and teams will still have nice options to pursue as they look to bolster their rosters. Let’s break down a few of the more popular targets.
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The Los Angeles Kings have a few pending free agents it seemed they wouldn’t be able to retain, though that might have changed on Monday.
According to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN, “The Kings still have interest in re-signing UFA blueliner Andrej Sekera and perhaps with the Mike Richards contract termination they can find enough cap space to do so. But if not, it’s believed 10 teams have shown interest.”
Well, if nothing else, Sekera knows there will be a vibrant market awaiting him if he doesn’t return to Los Angeles. But Bob McKenzie of TSN thinks the team will either push to retain his services or use the Richards money to go after another key member of the team:
In the meantime, I’d expect LA to take a run at re-signing either Andrej Sekera or Justin Williams.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 29, 2015
Either way, terminating Richards’ contract has opened up some funds for the Kings, which they will likely use to retain a key player or two. The front-runner at this point appears to be Sekera.
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For some players, the chance to stay with a team that they won two Stanley Cup titles with would be worth its weight in gold. Defenseman Johnny Oduya would rather see what gold might await him elsewhere before deciding to stick it out with the Chicago Blackhawks, however.
Per Scott Powers of ESPN.com, “Oduya does not plan to wait to see whether the Chicago Blackhawks can afford to re-sign him and will explore free agency, according to a source,” and has “already been contacted by ‘several’ teams prior to free agency.”
That seems to jibe with the comments made by Chicago general manager Stan Bowman on the matter at the NHL draft.
“Sort of the same thing as [Brad] Richards in the sense of we’re not really at a point yet where we know what we would be offering or what we’d be capable of offering,” Bowman told Powers. “And the other side is you don’t know what they’re looking for. We’ll just keep working at it and we’ll see.”
In 219 regular-season games with the Blackhawks, Oduya had nine goals and 34 assists and became a mainstay for the team’s defense. At the age of 33, however, Oduya may be deemed expendable by Chicago as it looks to keep as many players from its 2015 Stanley Cup roster as possible.
And Oduya may simply be able to earn a lot more money on the market than Chicago would be willing to offer. After being a stabilizing presence during his tenure in Chicago, teams around the league should be interested, and one team may make him an offer he simply can’t refuse.
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The fact that Matt Beleskey is one of the hottest targets in this free-agent market probably says all you need to know about the weak crop of available options this year. But make no mistake about it, Beleskey is a hot target, per LeBrun:
UFA Matt Beleskey has solicited interest from a dozen clubs. Agent Murray Kuntz says Beleskey will visit a few Eastern Conf clubs this week
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) June 29, 2015
Beleskey notched just 32 points this season, though his 22 goals were a career high, and he was excellent in the postseason, scoring eight goals and an assist in 16 games. Still, in a weak market, Beleskey looks primed to be overpaid, though any interested teams will be banking on the 27-year-old being a late bloomer.