Mikael Granlund is one of the most high-profile free agents still unsigned and his continued availability remains a major surprise. However, while he may not have a deal done, there continues to be interest from around the league. Fox Sports’ Andy Strickland writes that the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes are among the teams that remain interested in employing Granlund for next season.
In PHR’s Free Agent Profile of Granlund, we noted that the Blue Jackets made sense as a landing spot. In fact, they seemed like the best potential fit for the talented forward. Columbus had hoped to add multiple game-changing forwards this off-season and cleared the cap space to do so. Yet, thus far they have only added one impact forward in Max Domi and it cost them Josh Anderson. The Blue Jackets still have more than $9MM in cap space to spend this off-season. Re-signing RFA Pierre-Luc Dubois could eat up a considerable amount of that depending on the term that the two sides settle on, but Columbus could still find some flexibility to bring in Granlund as their second major addition up front.
Granlund would be a good fit in Carolina as well, but the calculus is far more difficult. The Hurricanes have under $1MM in cap space and that is only considering the salary committed to 22 players as it is. Without any LTIR candidates or obvious options to bury in the AHL, the Hurricanes would likely need to make a trade to offload some salary if they want to bring in Granlund. The team may be hesitant to make such a move seeing as their forward corps is already in pretty good shape heading into next season.
Strickland also mentions that the Nashville Predators are keeping tabs on Granlund, but cautions that a return to the team may not be the priority for the Preds as it likely wouldn’t be for Granlund either. Nashville has considerable cap space and the need at forward, but Granlund did not play very well with the club after coming over from the Minnesota Wild in 2018-19. This likely factors in to Strickland’s belief that the Predators are also interested in top remaining UFA Mike Hoffman and are more likely to sign him than Granlund. Granlund also seems more likely to opt for a fresh start outside of Nashville.
One team believed to be a good fit for Granlund but not specifically mentioned by Strickland are the Boston Bruins. Given their existing need for secondary scoring, the injury questions surrounding David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, and some familiarity for Granlund in ex-teamates Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith, the Bruins seem like a strong fit. However, they don’t appear to be at the top of Granlund’s list of suitors right now. Among the “other teams” that Strickland mentions but does not name could include the Florida Panthers and San Jose Sharks and cap-comfortable rebuilding teams like the New Jersey Devils, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Blackhawks. At this point, any team who lands Granlund has a good chance of landing an elite player at a bargain rate.