Five potentially cheap free agents who could be savvy pickups

Jared Clinton
Tomas Fleischmann (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Matt Carle had the worst season of his career in 2015-16. Even he didn’t have high praise of his play with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who bought out the final two seasons of his six-year, $33-million contract.

“I’ve never had a year like that,” Carle told The Tennesean’s Adam Vingan. “If I could describe it in one word, it’d more or less be just ‘inconsistent.’ My play was probably inconsistent. My ice time was probably inconsistent. I was in and out of the lineup, and it’s tough to get into a flow and get comfortable.”

But Carle, who signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Predators Wednesday, has a chance to become a cheap, effective player for Nashville. It’s a smart signing for Carle, too, because he’s likely to get bottom-pairing minutes on a blueline that is seriously talented, and that could work wonders for his game come next off-season. If Carle can recapture the top-four form that saw him average 21-plus minutes for most of his career and notch a consistent 20 points for the better part of his career, then the signing will look absolutely brilliant on Nashville GM David Poile’s part, too.

Carle’s not the only player who could be a smart, effective and cheap free agent signing. Here are five more currently on the market: Read more

Rumor Roundup: The latest on the remaining notable UFAs

Lyle Richardson
Kris Russell. (Getty Images)

The number of NHL unrestricted free agent signings slowed to a trickle since the opening-day frenzy on July 1. Over the weekend, defenseman Luke Schenn became the most recent notable player to ink a new contract, reaching an agreement with the Arizona Coyotes on a a two-year, $2.5-million deal.

Several notable players remain available in the UFA market. Among those yet to land new contracts are defensemen Kris Russell, James Wisniewski and Kyle Quincey and forwards Jiri Hudler, Radim Vrbata, Sam Gagner, Brandon Pirri and Matt Cullen.

Sportnet’s Luke Fox recently reviewed the status of the top remaining UFAs. He noted Russell, 29, was linked earlier this month to the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks. However, it’s since been reported the Leafs made no offer to Russell and had no interest in him.

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Lightning have tough choices to make after Killorn inks seven-year, $31.15-million deal

Jared Clinton
Alex Killorn (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Lightning had two salary arbitrations to worry about this off-season, but the biggest of the two is off their plate as Tampa Bay signed restricted free agent Alex Killorn to a seven-year deal Sunday.

Killorn’s new deal will reportedly pay the 26-year-old $4.45 million per season, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, which makes it a sizeable $31.15-million contract over the span of the next seven seasons. If that seems like a lot of money for Killorn, that would be because it’s quite the payday for the winger and a nearly $2 million raise over what he was making this past season.

The two-way element to Killorn’s game makes his signing most attractive, and he’s a consistent 15-goal, 40-point player. Killorn’s post-season performances no doubt also played a part in him earning such a hefty raise. In the past two playoffs, Killorn has notched 14 goals and 31 points in 43 games.

“We’re very comfortable doing a long-term contract at the right cap number with Alex,” Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said, via the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith. “He’s been with us his entire career. He’s a high-character young man, tremendously fit and part of the core of our team. We’re trying to keep the core together as much as we can.”

However, even if it has become increasingly difficult to question Yzerman over the past year — what with his handling of the Jonathan Drouin situation and his ability to keep Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay on a reasonable eight-year deal — it’s hard not to feel like the Killorn deal could be one that creates some issues for the Lightning going forward, and possibly as soon as this upcoming campaign. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Bruins need to look to free agents for blueline help

Kris Russell (Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins efforts to bolster their defense via the trade market hasn’t panned out so far. The asking prices for available blueliners such as St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk, Minnesota’s Matt Dumba and Anaheim’s Cam Fowler are rumored to be expensive.

It could be time for Bruins GM Don Sweeney to consider his options via free agency. CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty lists Kris Russell, James Wisniewski and Luke Schenn as possible blueline targets.

Russell, 29, is a top-four defenseman and shotblocking specialist. The 33-year-old Wisniewski missed all but one game last season to a knee injury. When healthy, he’s a good puckmoving blueliner. Schenn, 26, has a booming shot and plays a physical style.

This trio won’t address the Bruins long-term defensive needs. However, one of them could be a decent, affordable short-term option while Sweeney awaits for the trade market to improve.

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The top five free agents still without deals for the upcoming season

Jared Clinton
Jiri Hudler. (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

Two weeks of free agency are officially in the books, and there are still a number of interesting names available.

The top-tier names have already found homes, but teams looking to bolster their depth can still do so by looking to the crop of free agents. There’s everything from young, project players to veteran scorers looking for one more shot at Stanley Cup glory. There’s a very real chance that some of the players still available could have breakout years — think Lee Stempniak this past season as a New Jersey Devil — if put in the right situation.

Among the misfit toys, there are five players who stand out. These are the five best free agents still looking for work next season: Read more

Five salary arbitrations to keep an eye on as NHLPA announces hearing dates

Petr Mrazek (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

Free agency is well under way but the opportunity to negotiate a new deal has led a number of restricted free agents to salary arbitration.

The NHLPA announced the dates for the 24 arbitration hearings that are slated to take place between July 20 and Aug. 4, though some players have already reached agreements with their respective clubs ahead, helping both sides avoid arbitration.

The most productive player to avoid arbitration thus far is Kyle Palmieri, who posted 30 goals and 57 points in 82 games with the New Jersey Devils in 2015-16. Palmieri had filed to take the Devils to arbitration to hammer out a new deal on July 5, but New Jersey and Palmieri landed on a five-year, $23.25-million deal just two days later. Others who have filed but since settled include Detroit Red Wings minor-league goaltender Jared Coreau and Philadelphia Flyers winger Jordan Weal, both of whom signed deals worth over $600,000.

There are some big names still without contracts for the upcoming campaign, however. Here are five key arbitration hearings that could impact some important players: Read more

Mike Richards hoping to know his future in ‘next couple of weeks’

Jared Clinton
Mike Richards (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Mike Richards is an unrestricted free agent for the second consecutive off-season, though this time he’s hoping to get a full campaign in and know where he’ll be playing before the season even begins.

Richards, 31, didn’t sign a contract this past season until early January. Dealing with off-ice issues, Richards signed a one-year, $1-million contract with the Washington Capitals and appeared in 39 games, scoring two goals and five points with an average ice time of 12:10. In the post-season, Richards logged more than 11 minutes of ice time per contest but failed to find the score sheet.

“Obviously, a disappointing end to the season, but that happens, only one team can win,” Richards told KenoraOnline’s Ryan Young of his experience with the Capitals. “It was a little bit of an up-and-down season. I probably expected it to go a little more offensively, but it’s not easy to just jump in mid-season. Live and learn and hopefully I can get a full season under my belt this year.” Read more

Report: Panthers kicking tires on free agent defenseman Kris Russell

Jared Clinton
Kris Russell (Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

Free agency opened 11 days ago, but defenseman Kris Russell, who was a hot commodity at the trade deadline, has yet to find himself a place to play in the upcoming campaign. However, there may be a new suitor throwing their hat in the ring for the free agent blueliner.

The Florida Sun Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov reported Sunday that the Florida Panthers are “showing interest” in Russell, 29, who spent the past season with the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars.

As one of the top free agent defensemen remaining, Russell has likely positioned himself to land a deal with what could be a significant raise on the $2.6 million he earned during the 2015-16 campaign. That could make the chance Russell lands in Florida slim, though, even if the Cats are at the very least testing the waters on signing the rearguard. Read more