The Calgary Flames and John Klingberg certainly hope that isn’t the case.
Just as the 2022 class is decided by Johnny Gaudreau’s high-scoring Flame (now formerly), Jonathan Huberdeau will likely be one of the best free agents on the market next year – now in Calgary after the massive deal that sent Matthew Tkachuk to Florida – exit From the hot season in southern Alberta.
Of course, Calgary also acquired defender Mackenzie and he is jealous of that deal. If he does not sign an extension between now and next July, he will join Klingberg as one of the top defenders in what is a decidedly poor crop of UFA blue streaks.
Of course, Klingberg likely never expected to go through this process again so quickly after making his services available to the highest bidder this year. After changing agents, he signed a one-year contract – unlike the six or seven-year contract we’d all been expecting – to rebuild Anaheim and can now come back in 12 months and crack another long-term agreement.
Who knows, maybe Klingberg will find Southern California to his liking and sign an extension to stay in the sun. We can definitely count on Flames GM Brad Treliving trying to lock down one or both of Weegar and Huberdeau – Sportsnet’s Elliot Friedman mentioned Treliving recently broke bread in Montreal with the latter – into big commitments with the hope that next year will be a quieter year in Calgary than it has been this tumultuous season.
Even if we get some extensions in the coming weeks, next summer’s numbers will be a wild market in the UFA thanks to the sheer volume of premium strikers currently entering the final year of their deals. We’re talking about specific players for the franchise here, so take the above three players out of the equation and we still have no problem identifying dozens of interesting potential UFAs with 12 months left until the next silly season.
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Kane’s future will become the biggest subplot of the 2022-23 campaign about eight seconds after Colorado raises its flag. Chicago is already in the process of rebuilding and both sides are engaged in this almost ridiculous dance of not wanting to be the next one.
Kane playing for another team is inevitable at this point, so it would be great if we all cut to the chase. He will likely be dealt before next winter’s trading deadline, but that doesn’t stop him from topping next summer’s UFA. The only wingers to have scored better than Kane in the past five years are Nikita Kucherov, Brad Marchand and Kane’s former teammate Artemi Banarin. Even at 34 next summer, he’d be driving a huge deal.
Nathan McKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
It seems like every Colorado transaction over the past two years has been mentioned in the context of knowing that the beloved McKinnon deal will skyrocket in 2023. His $6.3 million success won’t double since his fourth year in the league, but he’ll get pretty close. However, the organization – remember, Chris MacFarland is now general manager of hockey under Joe Sakic – has had its eye on the ball all the way here and it seems implausible that the champions would defend and that the best offensive player wouldn’t spot it in the long run.
David Pasternak, Boston Bruins
This situation is very exciting for Bruins fans. There’s a long way to go, but with so much still up in the air in Boston — will Patrice Bergeron return immediately and Pasternak’s friend and compatriot, David Kreigse, return to Massachusetts after a year abroad as well — Pasternak hasn’t exactly sent “Bruin for life” vibes. Only five players have scored more goals than Pastrnak in the past three years and the 27-year-old isn’t until May.
GT Miller, Vancouver Canucks
A month ago, I felt that if Miller was to get an extension this summer, it might only come after a deal with a new team. That sentiment seems to have shifted a bit as he’s clearly still a part of the Canucks with several big dates in the NHL’s off-season calendar having already passed.
Miller found new equipment in Vancouver and seems really open to the idea of staying. The caveat is that it will be hard to spot the dollars and cents, especially with Canucks captain Bo Horvat also eligible to join the UFA next July.
Matt Domba, Minnesota Wild
As mentioned, there’s not a whole lot to get excited about in terms of defensive guys to attract next summer. Even if Klingberg and Weegar make it to the market, Dumba can expect some love. (One interesting note to make, though; the right-handed defender tends to be in high demand and all three from Klingberg, Weegar and Dumba are healthy.)
It seems we’ve been talking about dumba as a potential commercial bait for years. Now, with Minnesota suffering a severe crisis thanks to the purchases of Zach Barris and Ryan Sutter, we may finally be entering the final days of Domba—who turned 28—in Zee Wild.
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
If the NHL had the ‘Comeback Player of the Year’ award, Tarasenko might have. After playing just 34 games in 2019-20 and 20-21 together – and making an unfulfilled commercial request along the way – the Russian tank had a career season with 82 points in 75 games this past season.
Even with Tarasenko – who turns 31 in December – and the Blues back in a much better place, this could be the right wing’s final run in Missouri. (Spoiler: This wouldn’t be the last important St. Louis name you’d see on this list.) Tarasenko will have no trouble finding a new home, however, if his playing this next season is similar to what we saw last year.
Tristan Gary, Pittsburgh Penguins
On the one hand, staying with the team he drafted and developed – and he has Sidney Crosby – seems to be something Gary doesn’t think about. On the other hand, if Gary has another good season, he can enter the market as very clearly the best option for a team looking to upgrade their bend.
Fredrik Andersen – even Semyon Varlamov or Jake Allen – could have something to say about it. But Gary, who will turn 27 next April, is at least five years younger than all of these guys, making him more likely to be on the receiving end of the show than he has been on for half a decade.
Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues
Look, if you had to bet Nickel on whether the Blues would keep either O’Reilly or Tarasenko, you would without hesitation put it on O’Reilly. The two-way position has been so integral to the Blues’ identity – including winning the Playoff Player of the Year during the 2019 tournament – that you almost forget that it has only been around for four years.
O’Reilly will turn 32 in February, and while St. Louis has been throwing the keys to the likes of Robert Thomas and Jordan Kerro, O’Reilly is such a dependable player that it’s hard to imagine him and St. Louis parting ways during the squad. Still in the competition window. Can they work on a contract that reflects the fact that he may take on a less offensive role in the coming years while still being highly relied upon to match the top lines of other teams? You know he’s the kind of battle-tested player that another team can look at and think, “This is the guy we need to beat the hump of a match.”
Damon Severson, New Jersey Devils
Not much happened right in New Jersey last season, but Severson—another right-hander—quietly put on a career year with 46 points and production over the past four campaigns working primarily with a 40-point defensive man. He’s 28 on Sunday, which means he’s still within that age group where guys sometimes take the last leap.
With Doji Hamilton already firmly established on the right side and both Luke Hughes and second 2022 Simon Nemec picking their way to Devils Blue Lane, the writing may be on the wall for Severson. Defense men who produce such a man do not grow on trees.
Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames
A relatively short time ago, the thought of Monahan’s arrival on the open market could have left Flames’ supporters in cold sweats. Despite this, the past three years have seen his production plummet, so it will be interesting to see if he can do anything next year to repair his reputation in the wake of his hip surgery last spring.
It sure looks like there’s a good chance he’ll come out of the Flames books. When you consider that the same also applies to Milan Lucic in 2023, you will see how the club was able to amass big deals to keep Huberdeau and Weegar.
Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings
Will the boy and captain of the Michigan rise up just as things are starting to turn? At some point, a man who grew up cheering for Detroit’s cup-winning clubs will need some clincher action on his own beyond the five-game bait he got when he was 19 in 2016.
Larkin, who turned 26 on July 30, will get all sorts of attention in the open market for what he achieved by playing with sub-par teams in Detroit. However, it’s hard to imagine that he didn’t re-sign to Banking in the next chapter to be much more entertaining than the first seven years of his career.
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
A number of veterans, from Max Pasuritti to Father Joe Pavelsky, are a figure of more interest than Toews next summer, but it’s fun to have his name floated here though. Having missed the entire 2021 season thanks to chronic immune response syndrome, Toews needed 26 games to score his first goal last year.
Once he got started, though, the Blackhawks captain played at a 50-point pace in the 2022 portion of the NHL calendar. He was toiling on a bleak team, whose base numbers were perfectly acceptable. With another season under his belt, the Toews – who turns 35 next April – could still look very attractive for a rival club who could put one of the game’s most accomplished players on a friendly deal if it means he’s secured Another crack or two in the fourth ring.