Let’s state the facts: the 2017 unrestricted free agent class is really weak. Even before the season started it wasn’t full of household names, but with Brent Burns, Patrik Berglund, and, most recently, Ben Bishop agreeing to extensions already, the list has shrunk even further. The 2017 class has few impact players available, so much so that the New York Islanders easily have single-handedly deprived the rest of the league of three of the top fifty free agents simply by re-signing the likes of Thomas Greiss, Dennis Seidenberg, and Cal Clutterbuck.
Unfortunately, the trend of teams retaining their own talent and further forecasting a dull summer may not be done. The Washington Capitals have four of the best free agent names out there in T.J. Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner, and Justin Williams and even given their tight cap space, it is reasonable to assume that at least one or two of that group will re-up with the President’s Trophy winners. Initially, many felt that the San Jose Sharks would not bring back both of their aging stars, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, and possibly even neither. However, after a strong season from career-Shark Marleau, the team will likely look to retain him, and with Thornton turning 38 soon and facing significant injury questions, he simply might take a hometown discount to stay in San Jose as well. In Montreal, revelation Alexander Radulov and key veteran Andrei Markov are impending free agents, but many assume in name only as handshake agreements seem to have been made on new deals following the Expansion Draft. Anaheim Ducks trade deadline acquisition Patrick Eaves has been a great fit and has expressed an interest in extending his stay. Same goes for Drew Stafford and the Boston Bruins. Even veterans like Radim Vrbata, Mike Fisher, and Jaromir Jagr seem likely to stay put in their current homes.
This does seem to be an awful lot of deals to be made in less than two months before free agency opens on July 1st, but don’t rule it out. Many teams are wary of the Expansion Draft ramifications of re-signing their impending free agents too early and may instead act swiftly in the waning days of June. Most, if not all, of these names could be off the table by the time free agency opens. Could we be looking at a free agent class highlighted by the likes of Sam Gagner, Martin Hanzal, and Michael Del Zotto? Let’s hope not.