There are just over five weeks until the opening of the NHL free agency and you will feel like things are about to escalate on a number of fronts.
Not quite yet, though.
It might last a little longer before player agents and front desks put their faces into the game. There is still plenty of time.
Let’s take Johnny Gaudreau and Filip Forsberg, for example – the top of the UFA crop hanging out as far as their star attack power.
Contract talks have begun again between the Predator and the Forsberg camp – led by veteran agent JP Barry of CAA Sports – but my sense is that there is still a gap in where each side wants to go at the moment. But it’s early June, and the free agency opens on July 13th. There is still plenty of time before each side presents its final and final position.
And this is where knowing both the agent and the player is important if you are the Predator. No doubt Forsberg would prefer not to leave Nashville, but I’d be careful not to take advantage of that too much if I was the Predator. Barry has negotiated some big positions over the years, including sticking to his guns with Carolina owner Tom Dundon a year ago and bringing UFA D Dougie Hamilton in a brutal deal to New Jersey.
There is not much deception in the game Barry. GMs all over the league know this. But at the end of the day, agents receive orders from their clients. What we don’t really know is how prepared Forsberg is to leave Nashville. Is this simply about Barry pushing the predators as far as possible and then Forsberg taking that deal for sure? Or is there a dealer-set limit a player is willing to stick to and sends to market if the team doesn’t move enough?
Prediction: Forsberg is re-signing with predators, but it will take more grinding to get there.
Less predictable in my mind is where Gaudreau’s situation is headed. After a massive 115-point season, the UFA winger signaled a true love of playing for Calgary. I think this is real. So, this is an important start. But on the flip side, last summer was not extended before talks were frozen once this season started. Why wasn’t that last summer?
Once again, we have a veteran player agent involved here at Louis Gross, who has been in this position multiple times.
Flames GM Brad Treliving has made it clear in the team media availability at the end of the season that he is not going to sit on this. He will try aggressively to re-sign Gaudreau. But I think if you read between the lines, there’s a much more important message hidden there: It’s not just about wanting Gaudreau re-signed but also wanting to have some sort of answer – either way – about the player’s true intentions sooner rather than later.
Which means I don’t think Flames will want to do this dance on July 11th or 12th before Free Agency. They will likely want to know where they stand within the next two weeks. Because if they realize they can’t sign it, they’ll need time to focus. Remember, they also have RFA Matthew Tkachuk to sign.
However, the question is whether Gross gives Calgary a firm and clear answer to this kind of schedule or uses the next five weeks to clear things up.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a scenario where Gaudreau and Gross didn’t want to shut the door in Calgary, but given how close they are to the UFA market, they might as well want to peak. This is a scenario that Flames can really live with. They need a stronger answer than that.
One thing to remember too: If for any reason Flames can’t re-sign Gaudreau, and decides to gauge the trade before July 13th to see if an eighth year on a max deal is worth enough for another team to jump to the start of the free agency, Gaudreau can’t trade Except for five teams without his consent. So the agent has a lot of control over that particular path.
For now, the only thing the Flames are focused on is figuring out if Gaudreau will re-sign and, if so, how they can achieve that before July 13.
The veteran position, 36, is emerging from a one-year $3.75 million deal with the Jets and while it will keep the door open for Winnipeg, it seems likely that the suspended UFA may also look at what’s in the market. Putting 45 points (21-24) in 71 games this past season, he remains a multi-talented striker who can play in various roles and has the first-team demeanor of a low-maintenance player. I could see some of the contenders in the cup calling out.
The priority at this point in his career is to have a chance to win.
“I’ve gotten too old in my career so I don’t have much time left. So really for us, I just want to win,” said Stastney. the athlete on Monday. “It’s finding a good opportunity where you know you can help the team and you are a good fit. Obviously, it’s always difficult to think that way because there are so many good teams that never know what’s going on throughout the year.
“But who coaches the team and the style they play, I’ve been around long enough and I understand the game now as much as the different coaches bring in and which ones do your best. And which ones can help the team too.”
So all of those training openings around the NHL, including at Winnipeg, will have an impact on his decision as the free agent.
For now, for a UFA veteran like Stastny who was here before, it’s all about being patient and seeing how things go.
“We know we’ll have to wait until July 13 when the agency is free but a lot of things are going to happen,” he said. “You’ll see where the coaches go, you’ll see the deals that are made, what players are signed, things like that, which changes the dynamics. It’s really hard to know what’s going to happen when there’s still more than a month left. But as it gets closer, I’m going to sit down with the advisors and we’ll find out. .
“But in situations like this, we usually wait for the last minute.”
There has been an ongoing dialogue between the Penguins and Camp Malkin since the season ended, but my sense is that negotiations are still waiting for the breakthrough moment.
Malkin camp has provided some concepts for managing pens, but so far nothing moves the needle enough.
I think this is finally done, but Pens GM Ron Hextall has a big puzzle to piece together with all his free agents hanging on and putting on the tight lid. I think Malkin will compromise a bit on term as long as the dollars are right.
There have been no talks so far between the stars and the camp regarding UFA commentator John Klingberg but expectations are that both sides will likely talk in a couple of weeks.
First things first: Sources indicate that Klingberg is interested in hearing what the stars have to offer and vice versa, the stars are interested in making this last attempt despite all that has happened.
This does not mean that both sides will finally be able to find a middle ground that escaped them in previous talks on an extension. There have been no meaningful negotiations since January.
Things had become so frustrating for Klingberg and his agent Peter Wallen during the negotiations several months ago that Klingberg requested a deal, which is well publicized. That trade never materialized.
The truth is that Kellenberg would like to stay in Dallas but under a contract that he feels matches his stature and talent.
And that’s where this thing keeps bumping into him on the road. What the stars feel is the right contract for the 29-year-old did not match what the agent had asked for. Can they find a compromise before July 13th?
I’m not convinced, but at least both sides suggest they’ll give it back.
If the stars Klingberg lost to free agency, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Montreal pick up the phone and measure the stars on Jeff Petrie, 34, who has three years left on his $6.25 million deal.
There have been talks going on between the penguins and Camp Litang since the season ended, sources say, which is encouraging on the one hand in terms of the idea that Litang might be able to stay in Pittsburgh. On the other hand, until an actual deal is in place, that agreement is actually hard to predict due to Pittsburgh’s cap and other factors in the air (including suspended UFA teammate Malkin).
Letang’s negotiations, going back a year, were largely about one thing: duration. Hextall wants to be careful about the 35-year-old’s number of years. On the flip side, if you’re a Letang, you’re an old player who just had another great season with 68 points (10-58) in 78 games, averaging 25:46 per game – the highest ice time of any pending time. UFA in the NHL.
This is one of those negotiations where you can easily defend every position. Again, it is certainly a positive that the two sides keep talking.
27-year-old UFA wing agent Dan Milstein informed me Monday that he plans to speak with Leafs management within two weeks.
Milstein says The Leafs are a “world-class organization” that have handled Mikheev very well, so they are open to having a conversation about the prospect of re-signing.
Of course, things are always tight under the Leafs’ roof, and after scoring 21 career goals in just 53 games this past season, it’s clear that Mikheev has earned a raise on the $1.645 million he earned this year. At least he’s probably looking at $3.5 million a year on the open market, and I don’t think Leafs can do that given their cap.
Let’s see what comes out of that conversation between the two sides, but I find it hard to imagine the Leafs being able to hammer out a successful contract.
Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman last week met new CAA representatives for Dylan Larkin, who has one year left on his deal and is eligible to sign an extension as early as July 13.
My sense is that the conversation has been very preliminary in nature given the recent player change in acting, but I also think both sides have expressed interest in exploring a one-year extension this summer.
(Top image of Johnny Godrow: Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)