It may be a little while yet before unrestricted free agent defenseman Kris Russell lands with a new home. Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News reports that it may take a couple more weeks to get done as he has plenty of options to consider with regards to term, teams, and money. Training camps are still three weeks away so there is still plenty of time to get a deal done.
Russell is the highest rated remaining UFA on our top-50 list, slotting in at 12th overall. He has been one of the top shot blocking defenders in the league in recent seasons, however, not all teams interpret that as a positive as a high blocked shot total often correlates to being on the ice for a lot of shots against which is an indictment of a players’ defensive ability.
Last year, Russell played in 62 games between Calgary and Dallas, recording four goals and 15 assists to go along with 210 blocked shots, the second highest total in the league.
Earlier this offseason, he was believed to be seeking a long-term deal around $5MM per season (we had originally projected four years with a $4.5MM AAV). While it’s unlikely he’ll be able to get the big contract he desired, it would appear the 29 year old should still be able to land a solid deal, though perhaps at a shorter term than he originally hoped.
In other UFA news:
- Long-time Buffalo agitating winger Patrick Kaleta remains without a home for next season. In an interview with Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald, he noted that he has bulked up in advance of the season and is fully healthy for the first time in three years. He also recently switched player agencies, signing with Newport Sports. Unlike last season, Kaleta doesn’t appear to be interested in signing an AHL deal (he played in 26 games in 2015-16 with Buffalo’s AHL affiliate in Rochester) at this time though, telling Hoppe: “If the NHL opportunity comes approaching, I’ll be ready. If it doesn’t, I’ll be prepared for that, too.” Kaleta has played in 348 career NHL games, all with the Sabres, recording 27 goals, 27 assists, and 542 penalty minutes over that span.
- The Edmonton Oilers have offered a tryout deal to a UFA center, writes Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal although GM Peter Chiarelli declined to say who the player was. Chiarelli also didn’t rule out offering more PTO’s to centers as the team not only looks to improve their depth but also to cover for Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Leon Draisaitl, who all will be suiting up at the World Cup. Chiarelli also acknowledged that the team has offered a tryout to defenseman Eric Gryba.
- Also from Matheson’s piece, free agent center Paul Gaustad is expected to announce his retirement in a couple of weeks. The 34 year old played in 63 games with Nashville last year, collecting only six points but won over 55% of his faceoffs.
- Still from Matheson, three teams have inquired about free agent center Mike Richards, according to his agent Pat Morris. Richards joined Washington partway through last season and while his offensive numbers are nothing to write home about (five points in 39 games), he led all Capitals forwards in shorthanded ice time per game, a unit that had the second best penalty kill percentage in the league. He’s a prime candidate to land a PTO.