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AP Photo / Tony Gutierrez
It’s that time again.
The NHL’s postseason is down to its final four teams, and the league’s other 28 are looking forward to getting another crack at things come October.
Among their agenda items in the meantime are perusing the roster of impending free agents to see which ones might provide the best competitive fits.
Some will stay with their current teams. Some will move to new addresses. And between now and the start of the free-agency signing period on July 13, rumors will fly.
The B / R hockey team stepped in to weed through the rumors and determine which are worthy of “Buy” labels and which others should best have the word “Sell” attached.
Scroll through to see what we came up with, and drop us a thought or two of your own in the comments section.
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AP Photo / Gene J. Puskar
It’s too hard an image to comprehend.
After 16 seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Evgeni Malkin is set to be an unrestricted free agent next month and could walk away in search of greener pastures.
He just completed the final year of a contract signed in 2013 that’s paid him $ 76 million.
In that timeframe, he’s won two of his three Stanley Cups and overall, he’s also won two scoring titles, an MVP award, a Conn Smythe Trophy and a Ted Lindsay Award as the league’s most outstanding player.
Rob Rossi of The Athletic reported that the organization has offered deals of either three or four years with an annual average value of around $ 5 million. Rossi also claimed that sources close to Malkin are suggesting the numbers indicate the team does not want him.
The Penguins have just more than $ 23 million in cap space for 2022-23 and nine other free agents (seven unrestricted, two restricted) to decide upon, so it’s possible they can keep the 35-year-old Russian center if there’s a financial number on which they can compromise.
So while it’s possible he could start next season in something other than black and gold, the belief here is that the sides will find something they can agree on.
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AP Photo / Frank Franklin II
Everything that can be said about Malkin could be repeated about Kris Letang.
The Montreal native is also 35 years old and has spent all 16 seasons with the Penguins. He captured three championships while reaching double-digits in goals eight times from the blue line and posting a career-high 68 points in 2021-22.
He’s also coming to the end of an eight-year deal worth $ 58 million and could command something comparable or better than the $ 7.25 million he made last season.
But whether the Penguins can keep him, with Malkin and the other eight free agents, is another question entirely.
Mike DeFabo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted Letang as saying his “main goal“was to stay in Pittsburgh. However, Letang’s elite production and the recent $ 9 million deals scored by defensemen Seth Jones, Darnell Nurse and Dougie Hamilton make it hard to imagine the right-side rearguard will take a significant hometown discount to make it possible.
So while sentiment might play a role with Malkin, it probably won’t happen twice.
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AP Photo / Chris Szagola
You can not blame Philadelphia Flyers fans.
The team has not won a Stanley Cup in nearly 50 years, has not seen the playoffs in the last two and just endured one of the most trying seasons in the organization’s history — including a pair of 10-game winless streaks for the first time in the NHL since 2010-11.
So the prospect of the league’s second-leading scorer coming back home to play for the franchise he rooted for as a kid is understandably worth fantasizing about.
The Inquirer‘s Giana Han recently fed into the frenzy with a story that quoted Johnny Gaudreau’s father, one of his youth coaches, and Keith Jones, an ex-Flyers player who’s now an analyst with NBC Sports. It ran under a headline suggesting the “Flyers need to try to sign (Gaudreau).”
“It’s kind of an unusual circumstance,” Jones said, “but the fact that he is friends with a number of the players that are here in the organization now, and obviously has family here as well, should give the Flyers a bit of an advantage if and when they pursued him. “
But while the narrative is compelling, the balance sheet is troubling.
The Flyers currently have just more than $ 5 million in cap space for the 2022-23 season and four unrestricted free agents to decide upon, but Gaudreau made $ 6.75 million in the final year of a six-year contract last season and will get a nice raise after 40 goals and 115 points.
It’ll take a Herculean amount of creative accounting for general manager Chuck Fletcher to get Gaudreau into orange and black by the fall, so there’ll have to be another source of glee for Philadelphia fans.
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AP Photo / Lynne Sladky
Claude Giroux was certainly a hot commodity in March.
The veteran winger was atop nearly every pre-deadline trade-rumor list through his final days with the Philadelphia Flyers and he ultimately made those rumors into reality by accepting a trade to the Florida Panthers.
The 34-year-old headed to metropolitan Miami to chase the Stanley Cup he’d never gotten up North, but the would-be deep playoff run was cut short in the second round by the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
He produced 23 points in 18 regular-season games and another eight points in 10 postseason games with the Panthers, and both he and the team have suggested that maintaining the relationship into next season is something they’d be good with.
Giroux just finished the final season of an eight-year extension worth $ 66.2 million that he signed with the Flyers in the summer of 2013.
Maintaining his $ 8.3 million cap hit won’t be easy for Florida, which has two players (Sergei Bobrovsky and Aleksander Barkov) already making $ 10 million per year, 10 other free agents (eight unrestricted, two restricted) to consider, and only about $ 3.9 million in cap space.
The Flyers could re-enter the Giroux sweepstakes in the summer and he’s not written off the prospect of a return, and there figures to be no shortage of others interested, too.
Put it all together and his stay in the Sunshine State figures to be over already.
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AP Photo / Jeffrey T. Barnes
It’s a good time to be a Buffalo Sabers fan.
The Sabers were one of the league’s top teams across the final two months of the 2021-22 regular season, producing points at a pace that would equate to 102 over a full schedule.
So it’s no stretch to suggest Buffalo will continue the upward trend next season, particularly if they make prudent moves with more than $ 39 million in available cap space to supplement a quality core of young players.
A high priority in that process is shoring up goaltending, where 41-year-old Craig Anderson was respectable across 31 games — going 17-12-2 with a 3.12 goals-against average and .897 save percentage — but is an unrestricted free agent and unsure about his career plans.
Perhaps the highest-profile player available at that position is Marc-Andre Fleury, who, one year removed from a Vezina Trophy win, started 56 games in 2021-22, racked up four shutouts and surpassed the 500-win mark across an 18- year career.
A three-time Stanley Cup champion, Fleury is finishing a three-year contract extension signed in 2018 that paid him around $ 7 million per season.
He’s indicated he wants to continue playing, and the buzz around Buffalo is he’d be an ideal bridge to 23-year-old Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who’s made 13 starts across two NHL seasons.