Dom Lunardo Aug 10th, 2019
Ahh, that sweet smell of summer. For many around the hockey world, the summer months of June, July and August bring with it a sense of enjoyment, additional time spent with family, and for some NHL players, a new home. July 1st has come and gone in a whirlwind of acquisitions which many hockey networks across both Canada and the United States refer to as: “Free Agent Frenzy”. With the start of NHL training camps set to begin in about 4 weeks time, many NHL players are still in need of new contracts and that sense of stability that undoubtedly comes with being an unrestricted free agent at seasons end. Let’s take a look at the top-5 remaining unrestricted free-agents, who are still up for grabs in mid-August.
1.) Jake Gardiner:
Jake Gardiner tops the list as the most sought-after remaining UFA. The 28-year-old defenseman, drafted in 2008 by the Anaheim Ducks, has made a name for himself (some would argue for better or for worse) with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the past eight seasons. For years, those “in the know” around the hockey world have marveled at his skating and puck-moving abilities. However, with Gardiner, there comes the tendency for the all-too-frequent defensive blunder. The 2018/19 season saw Gardiner nurse a back injury for the better part of the season and into the playoffs which no doubt hindered his ability to be at his best. In Gardiner’s case, you have to think that the good outweighs the bad. He’s a talented player who would be a great addition to any team around the league. We’ll see how his situation unfolds as we move closer to the season.
2.) Joe Thornton:
“Joey-T”, comes in as runner-up, and how could he not? The long-standing San Jose Sharks centerman spent the better part of 22 seasons in the NHL with both the Boston Bruins and his beloved Sharks. His enjoyment and underlying passion for the game of hockey remains as strong and fierce as ever, and he would love nothing more than to return for the 23rd season. The question is where will he play and for how much? Thornton’s salary was $5M in 2018/19 and it’s highly unlikely he’ll make anything close to that this upcoming season. For the good of the NHL and it’s fans, another season of Joe Thornton will be highly anticipated regardless of where he ends up playing.
3.) Justin Williams:
Justin Williams slots in at number three. “Mr. Game 7” himself, with 3-Stanley Cups under his belt, is searching for a new deal for next season. An integral part of the resurgence of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2018/19, Williams would be a welcome addition to plenty of teams around the league. His wealth of experience, ability to perform in big moments, and his leadership on and off the ice, thoroughly compliment his on-ice play. Former Los Angeles Kings Head Coach, Darryl Sutter, once stated that Justin Williams “Never has a bad game”. Telling words from future Hall-of-Famer. Another one of the “good guys” in the NHL.
4.) Pat Maroon:
Coming in at number four is recent Stanley Cup winner, Pat Maroon. At this time last year, Maroon rolled the dice and signed a one-year deal with the St. Louis Blues and look how that turned out for him. Almost one year to the date, Maroon finds himself as a UFA once again. Given the recent cap-crunch that the St. Louis Blues find themselves in, it appears highly unlikely that a return to the Midwest is in the cards for Maroon. As we move towards the start of a new campaign, you can be sure that a team (for the right price and term) will see the bottom-6 value and big-body presence that Pat Maroon has to offer.
5.) Patrick Marleau:
A true gentleman in today’s game and future Hall of Fame player and father appears in the form of Patrick Marleau. The last 2-3 months have not been easy for soon-to-be, 40-year-old, which saw him traded from Toronto to the Carolina Hurricanes prior to entering the final year of his 3-year deal. Once the deal had been finalized, the Hurricanes quickly bought out Marleau’s contract, thus rendering him an unrestricted free agent. Marleau has been vocal about his aspirations to return to the west coast, where he spent the vast majority of his career. Could an unorthodox reunion be in the cards for Thornton and Marleau in San Jose? Time will tell.
Notable mentions: Jason Pominville, Brian Boyle, Magnus Paajarvi, Ryan Spooner, Niklas Kronwall, Riley Sheahan, Dion Phaneuf, Ben Hutton, Marc Methot
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