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The Calm Before the Free Agency Frenzy: A Summary of What’s to Come

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Tomorrow is the biggest day of the NHL Offseason. Free agency officially begins at noon on July 1. Ahead of this day, this post summarizes what is to come, what has already been agreed to, and what little rumors involve the New Jersey Devils.

New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders
John Tavares’ day may be tomorrow - maybe.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Tomorrow at noon, all unrestricted free agents and players up for extensions can officially sign a new contract. This is known as Free Agency Frenzy. Expect a lot to happen shortly after the clock strikes twelve. Plenty of deals have already been agreed upon; it just needs to be made official. Since the NHL could not really enforce tampering rules that would prevent such discussions, the NHL has allowed teams and players to discuss deals ahead of July 1. As a result, there’s been a lot of activity running up until tomorrow. Let’s summarize it before the activity ramps up tomorrow.

Not Much Involving New Jersey...Publicly

Unfortunately, a lot of these discussions and rumors have not involved the New Jersey Devils. So far, their only player-related move was to re-sign Eddie Lack. The only words on the street is that the Devils have expressed interested in James van Reimsdyk, who Mike wrote about on Friday; and Patrick Maroon, who Pierre LeBrun tweeted on Friday that the Devils and five other teams have been interested. That is pretty much it from a rumor and speculation perspective.

This does not mean that general manager Ray Shero is doing nothing. There are plenty of things for the Devils to do. Just look at the team’s roster at CapFriendly. With Lack re-signed, the Devils really do need a goaltender. If John Moore does go elsewhere, the team will need another left-shooting defenseman for their blueline. Acquiring some forwards, even if only to replace veterans like Drew Stafford and Jimmy Hayes. Binghamton will need some additional players as well with their UFAs about to be free as well. With Ken Appleby and Mario Lucia were not qualified and Christoph Bertschy is off to Swtizerland, there are additional spots there. All that and there are several restricted free agents to sign to new deals. There are even some assistant coach roles to fill since Geoff Ward and Ryane Clowe have moved on. Shero has a lot to do and I anticipate that he has set some groundwork already to make some things happen.

Extensions & Re-Signings from Elsewhere

Of course, those who want to see an Andy Greene replacement are not likely going to get it tomorrow. The free agent market for this and next year has taken a hit with some several notable extensions that will kick in on July 1 and some re-signed players that were set to become free agents in 2019. This is not an exhaustive list, but these are the bigger names involved:

So What to Watch For

The biggest name for this year’s group of free agents is still John Tavares. He only talked with six teams and none of them were the Devils. Tonight will be a telling night for the superstar. If he re-signs with the Islanders, then he could earn an eighth year on his contract. If he does not by 12:01 AM, then he cannot as his maximum term will only be seven years. Sign-and-trades are not that common in the NHL. As much as an eighth year may seem attractive, I do not know what team will want to move assets to Isles plus pay him a ton of money. That said, Tavares is a star and stars do not hit the market often so maybe I am wrong and a team would. Either way, we will find out what happens with him.

Once Tavares makes up his mind (which does not technically have to be tomorrow), other signings may follow. Paul Stastny and James van Reimsdyk are the among the best forwards available and what offers they get may depend on who does or does not get Tavares. This assumes Stastny will even hit the market. Winnipeg cleared up some cap space earlier today by dealing Joel Armia and Carter Hutton Steve Mason, a 2019 seventh round pick, and a 2020 fourth round pick for prospect defenseman Simon Bourque. Hutton Mason may not be in Montreal for long and the Jets now have more cap space. If the man wants to get paid, the Jets may be able to pay him.

With more defensemen off the market for tomorrow and next July, look for there to be even more activity with respect to deals with defensemen. If you can’t sign them, you have to get them some how. The big name is Erik Karlsson. He was rumored to be available at the trade deadline but no deal happened. After a slew of issues in Ottawa, he is supposedly back in trade talks. Since a number of high-profile defensemen have signed extensions, the price for acquiring Karlsson’s services has rose. We’ll see if anyone takes it.

Lastly, expect some stupid money to be thrown around. Scarcity and the desire to show the fans that a team is doing something can lead to some rough decisions. For example, according to Russian Machine Never Breaks, there is a bidding war over Jay Beagle. Yes, the bottom-six mainstay energy forward of the Capitals. There is not just demand to give the 32-year old a bunch of money, there is demand from multiple teams that will only drive up the price. Seriously all this for Jay Beagle. Imagine what David Perron or James Neal could get.

Plenty will still happen tomorrow. We will have our annual open post tomorrow morning for the day’s activities. The calm will become a storm of hockey news after 12 PM tomorrow. Be prepared.