NHL Free Agency Primer: Picking Landing Spots for Top UFAs

  • NHL Free Agency begins this Wednesday, July 28 at noon ET
  • Dougie Hamilton and Gabriel Landeskog are the top unrestricted free agents left on the board
  • All indications point to Alex Ovechkin re-signing with the Washington Capitals this week

After a busy week for NHL general managers that included both the Expansion Draft and the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, the real fun begins this Wednesday, July 28 with the opening of free agency.

We’ll recap the latest rumors and pick landing spots for the league’s top unrestricted free agents (UFA). You can also check out our NHL betting tips page for advice on how to wager on hockey.

Where’s Dougie’s next destination?

In early July, we highly recommended betting on defenseman Dougie Hamilton (+135) to secure the biggest bag in free agency. We hope you listened.

After missed the playoffs in eight of the past nine years, the Devils are expected to hand the 28-year-old blueliner a seven-year deal worth an average of $9 million per season. With the Blackhawks and Flyers having already dealt for Seth Jones and Ryan Ellis, respectively, Hamilton’s move to New Jersey seems guaranteed.

Some signings that have already been announced are Taylor Hall to the Bruins on a four-year $24-million contract and Zach Hyman to Edmonton on seven-year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $5.5 million.

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan also told reporters he anticipates getting a deal done with Alex Ovechkin before the start of free agency on Wednesday.

Landeskog moving on?

After inking young defenseman Cale Makar to a six-year, $9 million AAV contract on Saturday, Avalanche GM Joe Sakic said he was “hopeful” that Colorado could re-sign both captain Gabriel Landeskog and goaltender Philipp Grubauer with their remaining $15.4 million in cap space, but odds are one of these players will be on the move.

Last week, Landeskog said he was “disappointed” in contract talks and he should have no shortage of suitors with the Blues, Kraken and Bruins all reportedly interested. If their captain finds greener pastures, Colorado will have the funds to lock up Grubauer, who was a Vezina candidate in 2020-21 after posting a 1.95 goals-against-average and a .922 save-percentage with seven shutouts.

Best of the rest

With an abundance of cap space and a huge need for a left defenseman, Boston will probably land either 36-year-old Ryan Suter or 34-year-old Alec Martinez. However, questions still remain whether they’ll re-sign longtime center David Krejci and netminder Tuukka Rask.

After winning Cups in consecutive seasons, Texas-born Blake Coleman is likely headed to the Dallas, where he and his wife are currently building a house. And, finally, expect gritty right winger Kyle Palmieri to re-up with the Islanders after a strong postseason run.

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Steve Dominey

Steve has almost 15 years of experience in marketing, PR and sports television. After acquiring a Journalism degree from Carleton University, he assembled highlight packs for Canada's most-watched sports network (TSN) before transitioning to a career in communications. He describes himself as a good father, great dog owner, and mediocre gambler and husband.