We’re just two days away from the start of NHL free agency and the rumors are flying at a fast and furious pace.
There’s no need for further preamble, here’s what you need to know from the latest news cycle:
Jake Allen’s market is beginning to heat up
Goalies are far and away the most difficult position to evaluate and are certainly the most essential component to a deep playoff run, which must be music to Jake Allen and his agent’s ears. The 31-year-old is generating interest from the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals among other clubs, according to Sportsnet betting analyst Nick Alberga.
Hearing Washington, Toronto & Edmonton, among others, have checked in on #GoHabsGo G Jake Allen.
Montreal likes him a lot, so unsurprisingly, the price tag is high.
— Nick Alberga (@thegoldenmuzzy) July 10, 2022
Allen is coming off a self-described season from hell, ended prematurely by a groin injury. He posted a 3.30 goals-against average with a .905 save percentage to go along with a 9-20-4 record in 35 appearances last season, as the Canadiens plummeted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings one year removed from an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final.
A veteran of 353 NHL games with a Stanley Cup ring in tow, Allen provides the necessary experience that would give several teams some comfort — at least on paper — in goal. However, Allen is coming off a season where he struggled as Montreal’s de facto starter, and teams have to be sure his groin injury won’t flare up again. This isn’t meant to be an indictment of Allen, but teams badly need NHL-caliber goaltenders, and it appears he will have his choice of suitors.
John Gibson wants to return to Ducks, no interest in Maple Leafs
Allen isn’t the only goaltender drawing interest. John Gibson, considered by some to be one of the most sought-after netminders on the trade market, has every intention of returning to the Anaheim Ducks. The Maple Leafs are transparently in need of a starting-caliber goalie next year and feature a roster in contention for a Stanley Cup, but Gibson wants no part of joining the Buds, his agent told Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos.
Agent Kurt Overhardt on his client John Gibson trade speculation.
“John Gibson has absolutely no interest in playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, he is committed to the Anaheim Ducks” @MapleLeafs @AnaheimDucks @FAN590 @Sportsnet #RealKyperandBourne
— Nick Kypreos (@RealKyper) July 10, 2022
Gibson has faced a truly alarming volume of shots throughout his career and his workload may be catching up to him, as the 28-year-old has posted three consecutive seasons with a sub-.905 save percentage. The three-time All-Star is still on the books through 2026-27 for $6.4 million each season, with a 10-team modified no-trade clause, thereby invalidating any potential interest from the Maple Leafs.
The argument is Gibson would be better supported on a team that would protect him from the barrage of shots he faced with the Ducks. Perhaps the comfort of playing for one team throughout your career trumps all.
Puljujarvi isn’t drawing interest, much to Oilers’ chagrin
In theory, Jesse Puljujarvi is the type of player many teams would covet: he’s 24 years old, he’s a former top-five draft pick who is finally rounding into form as a productive NHL player and could be used in top-nine scenarios. Puljujarvi was extended a qualifying offer from the Oilers on Sunday worth $1.175M but it appears both parties want to move on.
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Oilers are growing frustrated that Puljujarvi isn’t generating interest from other teams in trade talks.
“I know Edmonton is frustrated by how little interest there is in Jesse Puljujarvi," Dreger said. "You know, they’ve got three or four teams that I would describe as ‘nibbling’. And I think that Edmonton is a bit worried that they’re potentially going to take it between the eyes, that this trade is going to go down and they’re going to sell low, and the market isn’t going to be happy."
It’s definitely worth a laugh if you’re a neutral observer, at least at the notion that the Oilers are paranoid about Puljujarvi developing into a star, while having little interest in retaining him long-term. Pulujarvi posted 14 goals and 38 points last season, with three points in 16 playoff games.
Jesse Puljujärvi has been very good at even strength over the past 2 seasons (minimal PP time, average penalty differential). Not really sure why the Oilers wouldn’t want to keep him. We project a 6yr x $5M contract if he signs in free agency with a new team. pic.twitter.com/4aFuZBSRpH
— EvolvingWild (@EvolvingWild) June 30, 2022
Oilers general manager Ken Holland openly fuelled speculation about Puljujarvi’s future with the club during his year-end press conference.
"The second half of the year, it was a real struggle. ... I think (Puljujarvi) lost his confidence," Holland said on June 8. "Then when he lost his confidence, he obviously was in the top six, and then he worked his way down to the bottom six. ... I've gotta sort out Jesse."
Evander Kane granted permission to speak to other clubs.
Evander Kane’s free agency has effectively begun.
Kane, who faced several domestic violence allegations levied by his ex-wife, Anna, was signed by the Oilers in January to a one-year deal. Edmonton believed his on-ice play outweighed the severity of the allegations levied, and that has to be disclosed first and foremost in any story surrounding the 30-year-old forward.
“We were granted permission to speak with other clubs. While we are still hopeful to have a deal in place with Edmonton, we are starting the interview process with other clubs,” Kane’s agent, Dan Milstein, told TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.
Kane was a productive forward for the Oilers during their playoff run, but that is perhaps immaterial to why he hasn’t been signed, as he’s been known to be a destructive teammate as well. He can provide an immediate boost to a top-six forward corps, but there’s good reason as to why teams aren’t rushing to sign him.
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