Bargain Bin: Free Agency, PWHPA, NHL Offseason

Been a bit of a second since I’ve done a Bargain Bin. With the chaotic week of the NHL awards, two days of the NHL Draft in Nashville, and then Free Agency, it took a ton of my focus away. Otherwise, this Bargain Bin is jam-packed with news, rumors, opinions, and more. Let’s get into today’s edition of the Bargain Bin.

Free Agency

There are still a few notable free agents available to sign, I will list the top-five free agents that are still available.

Patrick Kane

Patrick Kane Stats

With 21 goals and 36 assists for 57 points in 73 games in the 2022-23 season, Patrick Kane was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the New York Rangers. Kane has yet to sign, and it is believed that he will sign with the Buffalo Sabres. The Buffalo, New York native has expressed interest in signing with the Sabres. However, with each team’s cap space slowly getting closer to zero, will Kane sign with the Sabres or a different team for a cheap one-year deal?

Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Tarasenko Stats

It has been recently reported that the Carolina Hurricanes are close to inking Vladimir Tarasenko to a one-year deal, the day after, it seems that talks are still fluid between Tarasenko’s camp and the Ottawa Senators. Tarasenko would provide even more offensive upside to an already talented Hurricanes forward core, and if he signs in Ottawa, Ottawa could use Tarasenko’s veteran presence to help the younger players find their playstyles.

Matt Dumba

Matt Dumba Stats

Matt Dumba was a player that I thought would’ve been off the board for free agents on day one. Dumba seems to want to take his time and sign a one-year deal with a contender for cheap, with cap space getting closer to zero, Dumba has to make up his mind soon before there’s nowhere to sign. I can see Dumba signing with the Edmonton Oilers.

Tomas Tatar

Tomas Tatar Stats

Tomas Tatar being unsigned at this point of free agency is a mix of shocking and slightly expected. Tatar is coming off a 48-point season (20 goals and 28 assists) in his 82-game run with the New Jersey Devils. The New Jersey Devils do have a bit of wiggle room to bring Tatar back, however, at 32 years old, Tatar may be inclined to sign a one-year deal and test free agency again next year when the cap goes up again.

Phil Kessel

Phil Kessel Stats

Either Phil Kessel is considering his future in the world of professional hockey, or he has multiple offers that he’s considering. The ironman of all ironmen in the NHL, Phil Kessel, has appeared in 1,064 consecutive NHL games, a streak that dates back to November 3rd, 2009. While the NHL only recognizes regular season games as part of the streak, Kessel would miss his first game on April 24th, 2023, in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Kessel’s the only player to play in 1,000 consecutive NHL games and can become the first to play in 1,100 consecutive NHL games if he’s signed by opening night. The three-time Stanley Cup champion can bring a wealth of experience to any team looking for a veteran presence to make a Stanley Cup Finals run. Maybe Kessel ends up back with Toronto? While it’s entirely unlikely, never say never.

PWHPA and PHF Merger

When the Canadian Women’s Hockey League folded in 2019, professional women players had two choices, the Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) or join the Professional Women’s Hockey Player’s Association PWHPA Dream Gap Tour.

The PHF had seven teams total, five in the USA and two in Canada, each team had around 22 players. Paid to play hockey in a setting that might not have provided salaries that weren’t desirable long-term, no benefits, no pension plan, the players were attempting to build something out of nothing. Some of the best female hockey players didn’t join the PHF and formed the PWHPA, four teams which played many different showcases per year across Canada and the USA. Since its formation, the PWHPA now has over 100 members, including most of the Canadian National Team and just over half of the American National Team.

On Thursday, June 29th, players in the PHF were informed that the league they played in was being bought out by and merged into the PWHPA. From a financial standpoint, the league will be supported by Mark and Kimbra Walter, alongside sports icon Billie Jean King, sports executive Ilana Kloss and Los Angeles Dodgers President Stan Kasten serving as board members.

The PHF was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy, so acquiring the teams and forming one league sucks in the short term but will be incredibly beneficial in the long term. The new professional women’s league, which has yet to be named, is likely to launch in January 2024.

The National Hockey League made it known they would only back one professional women’s league, as Gary Bettman has said that two competing entities were far from ideal. Bettman also said that the NHL will be more than supportive if they ever came together to form a single league.

While the talent pool of the best women’s hockey players can now compete in one league, there is a bit of an issue. The PWHPA had four teams, and the PHF had seven, the new league will have just six teams, three in the USA and three in Canada.

The Pros of the Merger:

  • The PWHPA is certified as a union and has a collective bargaining agreement.
  • One league means better earning potential and growth of the game.
  • The best talent will now face each other in one league.
  • One league means more eyes on the product instead of fighting for views.
  • The NHL has to put their money where their mouth is and step up on the support they claimed they would offer to one league.

The Cons of the Merger:

  • Four teams will be folded & jobs will be lost, players/staff might be outsiders looking in before expansion teams are formed.
  • Existing PHF player contracts have been voided, through an agreement, players will still be paid a portion of their salary through September.
  • The acquisition, which was kept mostly quiet from the PHF players, can leave a bitter taste in some players’/staff members’ mouths.

NHL Offseason:

There are too many teams to put into just one title, so I’ve titled this as just off-season-specific news.

William Nylander Seeking $10+ million on Contract Extension:

Nylander, 27, is coming off a career season in goals (40), assists (47), and points (87) in 82 games. What screwed up negotiations for Brad Treliving and William Nylander’s camp was the contract that Pierre-Luc Dubois received. Dubois, a 63-point player who can potentially become an 80 to 90-point player, pending further development of his game, received an eight-year contract worth $8.5 million.

William Nylander Stats

At the time that William Nylander received his six-year contract of just under $7 million annually, Nylander already had two 61-point seasons under his belt and showed steady improvement ever since. The Toronto Maple Leafs also have Auston Matthews to negotiate with this offseason and Mitch Marner next offseason. Teams don’t win when their top guys take significant portions of the salary cap, and while the flat cap was not forecasted, heading into the next contracts with Toronto’s big players, someone has to take a haircut on their next contract.

Mitch Marner, who is currently making just under $11 million, will want a bit of a pay raise, Nylander deservedly is asking for a pay raise. Matthews, making just under $11.7 million, might ask for a five-year deal that comes in just around $12.75 million.

Toronto Maple Leafs fans seem to be divided on Nylander’s contractual asks, if it’s eight years, give him what Matthew Tkachuk got, $9.5 million annually for eight years. We’ll see where negotiations go, but players will certainly leverage the cap going up soon in their favor of contractual asks.

Connor Hellebuyck Circles Back on Winnipeg:

Connor Hellebuyck has circled back on the Winnipeg Jets, while the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres certainly aren’t out of the mix, Hellebuyck’s asks for teams are apparently too far out of their comfort zone. The workhorse in net for the Winnipeg Jets has played 445 games in eight seasons, with four of those seasons being 60+ games. Hellebuyck almost played in 60 games in two separate seasons as well.

Hellebuyck’s ask of $9.5 million on his next contract leaves teams uneasy, and the Vezina trophy-winning goaltender and multiple finalists/runners-up for the Vezina has played his way to that contractual ask. Hellebuyck, 30, hasn’t completely written the Winnipeg Jets out of teams that he would sign a new contract with.

Hellebuyck won’t receive an eight-year extension, he’s more likely to receive a four or five-year deal coming in just under $9 million for whichever team he is traded to or if he re-signs with the Winnipeg Jets.

Erik Karlsson Trade Rumours:

Erik Karlsson is again involved in trade rumors, this time, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, and Detroit Red Wings are all teams looking to add the 2023 Norris Trophy winner to their blueline. What’s the issue holding this entire process up? Karlsson’s $11.5 million annual contract, which 31 other teams either refuse or can’t take 100% of.

San Jose Sharks general manager Mike Grier has stated that he will not retain salary on a Karlsson trade, meanwhile, no team can afford to take that entire contract. Grier has handcuffed himself into a position where teams will walk away from a deal if the Sharks don’t retain more than 20% of Karlsson’s salary.

There are three teams seriously poking around acquiring Karlsson from the Sharks, the Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings, and the Pittsburgh Penguins have all kicked tires on Karlsson. The ask is too high and must come down, the current ask should only be if San Jose has to retain salary. The equivalent of an NHL-ready player, grade-A prospect, and a first and second-round pick is far more than what should be asked.

Yes, it’s true that Karlsson had a bounce-back season, however, his play is severely limited compared to what it used to be. Karlsson is not the player that he once was, and this season could be just a one-off. We’ll see how this develops.

Tarasenko Hires New Agent Searching for NHL Contract:

Vladimir Tarasenko is one of the best names still available in this year’s free agency period. Per Elliotte Friedman, Tarasenko will now be represented by JP Barry & Pat Brisson of CAA. This means that earlier reports of Tarasenko signing a one-year deal are now obsolete. Many teams are tight on cap space already, Tarasenko might’ve waited too long for the long-term contract that he’s looking for.

While it is known that Tarasenko doesn’t want to sign a one-year deal, he might not have too many options as of right now. A new representation and the player feeling that he’s worth a pay raise in a salary cap that is incredibly tight will make it difficult for Tarasenko to cash in on this contract.

Golden Knights Engrave Names on Stanley Cup before Summer Parties:

Vegas Golden Knights fans might have to wait a bit longer to go see the Stanley Cup wherever the cup travels. Vegas, who won the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history in just their sixth NHL season, opted to get the names engraved on the cup before having the day with the cup.

While the members of the Stanley Cup-winning franchise get their day with the Stanley Cup before it’s engraved, having the names of everyone involved that get their name on the cup will make for more memorable moments and photos. Players, staff, owners and everyone who gets their name and a day with the cup gets to show that to friends and family.

Phil Pritchard, the Keeper of the Stanley Cup, has noted that he would love it if this is the start of a new tradition. The Stanley Cup is currently being engraved and is scheduled to be completed by Saturday, July 8th. After the engraving has been completed, the Stanley Cup Summer 2023 Tour will officially begin.

While it’s not clear when and where the cup goes first, head coach Bruce Cassidy is scheduled to take it to an elementary school in Milton, Massachusetts soon. Hopefully, the map of the Stanley Cup is kept with travel in mind, Canada will get a ton of time with the cup, especially Manitoba.

Conrad Jack

Conrad Jack is a lifelong hockey fan who is now actively writing for Inside The Rink covering primarily the Winnipeg Jets and the entire NHL second. He also covers the latest NHL News & Rumors, the NHL Entry Draft, and so much more for Inside The Rink.

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