Ryan Dzingel is arguably the top remaining unrestricted free agent, ranked No. 12 overall by PHR and the leading scorer this past season among all available names. Yet, there’s been surprisingly little noise surrounding Dzingel, a 27-year-old coming off of a career high’s across the board. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks writes that some teams are skeptical about Dzingel’s potential for production, not based on his year overall but rather his late-season stint with the Columbus Blue Jackets. After being moved at the NHL Trade Deadline by the Ottawa Senators, Dzingel recorded just 12 points in 21 games with Columbus and eventually lost the trust of the coaching staff in the postseason, with one point in nine games earning him a healthy scratch. Brooks remarks that the Blue Jackets’ lack of interest in retaining Dzingel, a former star at nearby Ohio State University, is one of several “red flags” for the young winger this off-season.
It’s likely that price is playing a role in Dzingel’s market as well. After a 56-point campaign, Dzingel’s camp was though to be seeking a $5MM AAV over a long-term contract. In a vacuum, that would seem to be a fair offer, but in a market where many teams are closer to the salary cap limit than expected, a player who is coming off a disappointing final few months of the season may need to lower his expectations. That rings especially true if he wants to land with one of his reported top destinations and a team known to have interest, the Chicago Blackhawks. Dzingel is an Illinois native and his skill set would seem to fit in perfectly with his hometown Blackhawks, who could still use another top-six winger. However, The Chicago Sun-Times’ Ben Pope writes that the team would have to move out a player, likely Artem Anisimov or Connor Murphy, to accommodate Dzingel’s salary demands. Until that happens, Pope cites GM Stan Bowman, who recently said his roster is “pretty full” and currently only in need of “housekeeping”. That doesn’t mean that Chicago, whose off-season moves have pointed toward a deep desire to return to contender status, will not continue to pursue Dzingel, but it may prove too difficult at his current asking price. If the scoring winger wants to ensure he has a long-term fit in a place that he’d like to be, Dzingel could consider taking a lesser deal to join the Blackhawks.
- Another team looking to return to the playoffs are the New Jersey Devils and GM Ray Shero and company have certainly done their part in that pursuit this summer, drafting Jack Hughes, trading for P.K. Subban, and signing Wayne Simmonds. While the ultimate goal is to become a contender as soon as possible, the more pressing need – also with that goal in mind – is to convince superstar forward Taylor Hall that New Jersey is a team worth staying with to win a Stanley Cup. Hall is an impending free agent next summer and could be in line for a record-breaking contract, whether he tests the open market or not. The Devils have the cap space to meet his salary demands, but needed to focus this off-season on improving the talent around him after a season in which the team finished well outside the playoff picture. On paper, New Jersey should return to relevance next season and early indications are that Hall is happy with the transformation. In an interview with TSN, the 2018 Hart Trophy winner said that seeing the summer used to improve the talent level of the team and inject new blood after a disappointing campaign is exactly what you want to see. He added that Shero asked his opinion of the Subban trade before it was made and that he was totally on board and excited to play with his fellow star. All signs point to Hall being in favor of these off-season changes and eager to get started with the new season. If the Devils perform to the level they should on paper, Hall will have much more reason to consider a long-term extension to stay in New Jersey.
- New Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri could have gone elsewhere if he wanted. The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons reports that Kadri flexed his No-Trade Clause to block a trade to the Calgary Flames. Even after taking calls from Flames GM Brad Treliving and head coach Bill Peters, Kadri nixed a deal that would have seen he and Connor Brown, now an Ottawa Senator, go to Calgary in exchange for T.J. Brodie and Mark Jankowski. Simmons did not explain why Kadri was anti-Calgary, but did note that the fit in Colorado is better. As for the end result for the Leafs, Tyson Barrie and Alexander Kerfoot are a better package, but cost the the team young defenseman Calle Rosen, who Simmons states they did not wish to move, as well as a third-round pick. Also, Brodie would have been a more affordable defenseman to re-sign compare to Barrie, who could very well price himself out of Toronto after one year. It’s a toss up on which deal would have been better had Kadri not put his foot down.