While teams will be busy on July 1st trying to add free agents, some will also be trying to lock up their own players to early extensions. In the latest 32 Thoughts podcast (audio link), Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggests that the Panthers will be one trying to do the latter when it comes to defensemen Brandon Montour and Gustav Forsling, believing they’ll take a run at trying to lock both of them up early. Montour had a breakout campaign this past season, picking up 73 points in 80 games. His previous career-best in points came in 2021-22 when he had 37. As for Forsling, he also set new benchmarks offensively across the board, picking up 41 points in 82 games while logging over 23 minutes a night. The two players will make just under $6.2MM combined next season; it might cost more than twice that much to keep them around after that.
Elsewhere around the NHL:
- Colorado winger Valeri Nichushkin will return to the team next season, a team spokesman confirmed to Kyle Frederickson of The Denver Gazette. The 28-year-old left the Avalanche during their first-round series against Colorado for what the team called personal reasons following an incident where a severely intoxicated woman was found in his hotel room. He did not return during the rest of the series. Nichushkin is not under police investigation for the incident. After the season, GM Chris MacFarland indicated that he hoped that Nichushkin would be “a very important part of our team in the future” and with seven years remaining on his contract, they’ll be expecting him to be a core piece moving forward after picking up 99 points in 115 games over the last two seasons.
- Following their buyout of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Thomas Drance of The Athletic suggests (subscription link) that the move could impact Vancouver’s upcoming first-round pick. In order for the Canucks to get through the tough years of the buyout (2025-26 and 2026-27), they’re going to need some value contracts on the books. Vancouver has the 11th-overall pick in the draft later this month and if they’re able to get someone that projects to be NHL-ready within two seasons, that would help ease the burden of the higher buyout cost. It also might make them disinclined to consider trading down or out for win-now help that won’t be around (or as affordable) two years from now.