After Darren Dreger mentioned on TSN 1050 Tuesday that unrestricted free agent Kris Russell could still possibly be a fit for the Maple Leafs this season, he took to Twitter to clarify his stance, and the news he has about Russell as the season approaches. Dreger reports that the defenseman is in serious discussions with eight teams, and is expected to sign before camp starts.
While Dreger gives no hints on who these teams are, one can guess at least the Maple Leafs are still among them if he would go out of his way to theorize about them. We originally ranked Russell 12th among our top-50 free agents, assuming that his analytical detractors weren’t so widespread among league front offices by this point. That doesn’t seem to be the case however, as he’s languished deep into the summer without a deal and will likely have to sign one much lower than our expectation.
We predicted he’d land with the Bruins, though that now seems a fantasy after the team brought back John-Michael Liles and Joe Morrow on one-year deals. An interesting possibility is the Arizona Coyotes, who while at the forefront of hockey analytics, may still see his reduced market as a net-win, like they did with Luke Schenn earlier in the summer.
Either way, Russell will likely sign a shorter term deal to try and rebuild his value, something many teams could be interested in as injuries start piling up in training camp. Russell still is a capable NHL defenseman, though probably best suited to a third pairing at this point in his career.