The Vancouver Canucks are closing in on an agreement with one of their top free agent targets. After Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman revealed that the Canucks were talking to two-way winger Antoine Roussel, colleague Rick Dhaliwal did some digging and discovered that the two sides were close on a long-term deal. Dhaliwal expects Roussel to sign a four-year deal worth more than $3MM per year with Vancouver. The former Dallas Stars brings grit and energy to the Canucks and has previously teased 30+ point potential. If the 28-year-old Frenchman can reach those levels of production while maintaining his notorious physical game, this could be a great signing by GM Jim Benning. However, it is well above what many would have expected Roussel to sign in both term and salary and could just as well be a disaster for Vancouver. Roussel is ranked 38th on PHR’s Top 50 Free Agents list with an estimated contract of two years and just over $2MM AAV.
- Friedman has also linked the Colorado Avalanche and forward Matt Calvert. TSN’s Darren Dreger is among a few sources who have also heard about that pairing. Calvert, 28, has played his entire career for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Dreger seems convinced that he is definitely on the move. The versatile, two-way winger would be a nice fit as a bottom-six regular who can fill gaps in the top-six, much like the role that Blake Comeau played for the team.
- Dreger also reports that interest is high in defenseman Thomas Hickey. A shallow defense market is likely boosting the value of the serviceable defenseman, who is a tough defensive match-up and a dangerous off-the-puck play-maker, but prone to mistake when moving play. Many speculated that the Islanders would turn their attention to re-signing Hickey once the John Tavares situation had sorted itself out, but with Tavares dragging his feet and Hickey in talks with numerous teams, New York may not get that chance. We predicted that Hickey would land with the Montreal Canadiens on a multi-year deal in PHR’s Top 50 Free Agents list.
- Another player getting a lot of attention is winger Tobias Rieder and the status of his suitors is changing quickly as the price rises. Just earlier today, the Vancouver Canucks were the first team confirmed to be in on Rieder and by now that list has increased dramatically. TSN’s Ryan Rishaug reports that the Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, and Ottawa Senators are also in the running and that the price has gotten so high as to drive the Edmonton Oilers out of the bidding. The Athletic’s Craig Custance confirms the interest from the Canucks, Flames, and Habs and adds the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers to the list of interested parties. All this for a player that the Los Angeles Kings deemed unworthy of a qualifying offer.
- As expected, David Perron is also one of the hottest names on the free agent market and his former team, the Vegas Golden Knights, are seemingly out of the running. Friedman calls it “very unlikely” that Perron returns to Las Vegas, where he set a career high with 66 points this season. For an idea on the price for Perron, he landed at #5 on the PHR Top 50 Free Agents list with a projected six-year, $32MM contract, which could be a conservative guess.
- One team that is somewhat surprisingly in talks with Perron is Arizona. Craig Morgan of Arizona Sports details the off-season so far from the Coyotes and lists Perron, James van Riemsdyk, and Michael Grabner as Arizona’s top targets. Morgan also says that the team has not ruled out bringing back veteran forward Brad Richardson as well.
- The Boston Bruins are moving on from Anton Khudobin and reportedly working fast to find his replacement. Beat writer Matt Kalman and The Boston Globe’s Kevin-Paul Dupont both hear that the team is very interested in Kari Lehtonen as the new backup to Tuukka Rask. With many talented goalies on the market, Lehtonen has flown under the radar somewhat despite incredibly comparable numbers to Khudobin in more starts and superior numbers to the likes of Jonathan Bernier, Cam Ward, Robin Lehner and others. Lehtonen also had the highest Quality Start rate of any of that group in 2017-18. Even here at PHR we may have underestimated Lehtonen, making him our sixth-best goalie among the Top 50 free agents.
- Unsurprisingly, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun notes that the Washington Capitals have checked in with defenseman Brooks Orpik. A veteran leader and key contributor to their Stanley Cup run, the Capitals faced little choice but to trade Orpik away earlier this off-season in order to clear cap space to maintain their championship roster. Now that he has subsequently been bought out by the Colorado Avalanche, Orpik is fair game and could return to D.C. at a much more affordable rate. However, LeBrun warns that other teams are also in the running and Orpik may not take a discount rate in Washington over more legitimate offers.