Blackhawks' Division Rivals Also Have Big Free Agent Questions Ahead

Social Navigation


Blackhawks’ Division Rivals Also Have Big Free Agent Questions Ahead

Chicago Blackhawks

We’ve spoken a lot about the decisions general manager Kyle Davidson will have to make about the Blackhawks’ UFAs and RFAs on his payroll this summer. There are some players who are equally intriguing and important moving forward for the franchise, and how Davidson deals with their free agencies will be an indication of how he views their role in the rebuild.

Chicago isn’t the only city in the NHL that has free agent issues coming up this summer. So let’s take a quick lap around the Central Division and look at who’s asking for new paper this summer. (Note: we’re using CapFriendly for the numbers.)

Colorado Avalanche

Signed NHL Players for 2022-23: 15
Projected 2022-23 Cap Space: approx. $25 million

UFAs

Forward: André Burakovsky, Nazem Kadri, Valeri Nichushkin, Darren Helm, Andrew Cogliano, Nico Sturm
Defense: Josh Manson, Ryan Murray, Jack Johnson
Goalie: Darcy Kuemper

RFAs

Forward: Artturi Lehkonen, Nicolas Aubé-Kubel

AHL Notes: The Avs have eight minor league UFAs and six minor league RFAs to consider this summer. One of the more intriguing names on their minor league list is center Shane Bowers, the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft (one spot before the Hawks took Henri Jokiharju). He was part of the package of players Ottawa sent to Colorado for Matt Duchene and played with former Blackhawks prospect Chad Krys and Hawks draft pick Jake Wise at Boston University.

Spend How Much: Yes, the Avs have $25 million in cap space even after the Cale Makar deal is hitting the books next year. But they have some big decisions to make with players like Kadri and Burakovsky upfront and, especially, Kuemper in net.

Minnesota Wild

Signed NHL Players for 2022-23: 18
Projected 2022-23 Cap Space: approx. $7.4 million

UFAs

Forward: Nicolas Deslauriers, Nick Bjugstad
Defense: Jordie Benn
Goalie: Marc-André Fleury

RFAs

Forward: Kevin Fiala, Connor Dewar
Defense: Jacob Middleton

AHL Notes: The Wild have seven minor league UFAs and four minor league RFAs to consider this summer. Three of the top-five goal scorers for the Iowa Wild (Minnesota’s AHL affiliate) are headed to free agency this summer; forwards Kyle Rau, Mitchell Chaffee, and Nick Swaney scored 64 combined goals for Iowa this season.

Buyout Pain: Next year, the Wild will carry dead cap hits of $6,371,794 each for Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. That number goes up to $7,371,794 for the 2023-24 and 2014-25 seasons before coming back down to $833,333 for two more years.

St. Louis Blues

Signed NHL Players for 2022-23: 18
Projected 2022-23 Cap Space: approx. $9 million

UFAs

Forward: David Perron, Tyler Bozak, James Neal
Defense: Nick Leddy, Calle Rosén
Goalie: Ville Husso

RFAs

Defense: Scott Perunovich, Niko Mikkola

AHL Notes: the Blues have five minor league UFAs and five minor league RFAs this summer.

When the Music Stops: St. Louis has nine current NHL roster players hitting free agency in 2023, including UFA forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Vlad Tarasenko and RFA forwards Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. Those will be strong considerations when the Blues consider any deals for their current free agents, especially 33-year-old Perron.

Dallas Stars

Signed NHL Players for 2022-23: 15
Projected 2022-23 Cap Space: approx. $15.6 million

UFAs

Forward: Alexander Radulov, Michael Raffl, Vladislav Namestnikov, Blake Comeau
Defense: John Klingberg, Andrej Sekera
Goalie: Braden Holtby, Scott Wedgewood

RFAs

Forward: Jason Robertson, Denis Gurianov, Marian Studenic
Goalie: Jake Oettinger

AHL Notes: Dallas has three minor league UFAs and eight minor league RFAs coming this summer. One intriguing name on this list is Joel L’Esperance, a 25-year-old center who appeared in only 12 NHL games last season but has scored 30, 25, and 24 goals in his previous three AHL seasons. He’s a UFA this summer.

Gone But Not (Totally) Forgotten: Goaltender Ben Bishop announced earlier this season that he would not play in the NHL again. He’ll carry a cap hit of $4,916,667 to LTIR next year for the Stars.

Big-Time Extensions Coming: So… if you watched the Stars in the playoffs, you know Oettinger has emerged as a bonafide stud in net. He and the team’s leading scorer, Robertson, are RFAs this summer, and those will both be expensive propositions for Dallas’ front office. Indeed, their current $15.6 million in cap space could be almost entirely consumed by those two players. Oh, and it looks like they will lose Klingberg this summer; they haven’t been able to agree on anything long-term in over a year.

Nashville Predators

Signed NHL Players for 2022-23: 15
Projected 2022-23 Cap Space: approx. $25.9 million

UFAs

Forward: Filip Forsberg, Nick Cousins, Rocco Grimaldi
Defense: Matthew Benning, Ben Harpur
Goalie: David Rittich

RFAs

Forward: Luke Kunin, Matt Luff, Yakov Trenin
Defense: Jeremy Lauzon

AHL Notes: Nashville has four minor league UFAs and six minor league RFAs this summer. The top seven goal scorers for the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville’s AHL affiliate) are either on AHL contracts or heading to free agency this summer. That includes former Blackhawks’ draft pick Graham Knott, who scored 13 goals in 61 games for Milwaukee this year.

Dead Money: The Preds will have a $2 million cap hit from buying out Kyle Turris for five more years.

Should Have Flipped Filip: It appears the Preds may lose Forsberg for nothing this summer after opting to keep him through the trade deadline. They aren’t likely to spend to the cap, so the $25.9 million in space they have is likely more than their internal spending ceiling this summer.

Winnipeg Jets

Signed NHL Players for 2022-23: 13
Projected 2022-23 Cap Space: approx. $18 million

UFAs

Forward: Paul Stastny, Zachary Sanford, Adam Brooks
Goalie: Eric Comrie

RFAs

Forward: Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mason Appleton, Evgeny Svechnikov, Jansen Harkins

AHL Notes: Winnipeg has three minor league UFAs and seven minor league RFAs this summer. One intriguing name is forward Kristian Vesalainen, the 24th overall selection in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft. He appeared in 53 games for the Jets this past season with two goals and one assist. Vesalainen turns 23 on June 1.

What To Do: Winnipeg doesn’t have a UFA on the blue line at the NHL level for two more years. And they have their top forwards locked-up long term as well. So there aren’t many spots open for new bodies. Cole Perfetti, the tenth overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, finished this season in LTIR.

Arizona Coyotes

Signed NHL Players for 2022-23: 17
Projected 2022-23 Cap Space: approx. $33.2 million

UFAs

Forward: Phil Kessel, Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle, Alex Galchenyuk, Dmitrij Jaskin, Bokondji Imama
Defense: Anton Strålman
Goalie: Harri Säteri

RFAs

Forward: Lawson Crouse, Christian Fischer, Barrett Hayton
Defense: Kyle Capobianco, Cam Dineen

AHL Notes: Arizona has two minor league UFAs and three minor league RFAs this summer. If anyone wants to make the jump to the NHL from the AHL, feel free; half of the NHL roster is available next season. Arizona has only five current NHL players signed beyond the 2023-24 season.

Dead Money: The Yotes will carry a $990,000 cap hit from the retained salary of Oliver Ekman-Larsson for the next five years.

Let’s Get Busy: The Coyotes have three picks in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft. They then have four more in the second round. They have a ton of cap space and a boatload of picks, so that they could be an attractive trade partner for a dozen reasons. Unfortunately, they’re still the Coyotes and have been operating as a rudderless ship for a decade.



Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab