Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News makes 10 predictions for NHL free agency.
1. Kevin Shattenkirk will get a long-term, big-money contract: And several months from now, there will be a lot of stories about how the team that signs him (New York Rangers, Montreal, Tampa) will be regretting it because of Shattenkirk’s defensive deficiencies. Who will that team be? All signs point to the Rangers.
2. The Red Wings will sign one veteran defensemen — maybe two: The names are likely to be underwhelming, probably past their prime, and fans will react with a sizable yawn or disbelief. They’ve set their sights on Trevor Daley, and appear in line to sign the mobile veteran. They might look at Brian Campbell or Ron Hainsey for a one-year deal. They’re interested in Dan Girardi, but Girardi is close to Ryan Callahan in Tampa — the families are close too — so the Lightning might be a better fit.
3. Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton will return to San Jose: The two veterans are too established and comfortable to leave the Sharks this late in their careers. If they do leave, the teams they sign with better sign them for one year. There might not be much offensive production left.
4. Ryan Miller will stay on the West Coast: The East Lansing native (and former Michigan State star) likes it there, his wife is an actress, so re-signing with Vancouver, or going to Anaheim as a veteran backup, seem like the best options.
5. The New York Rangers will be active: They have roughly $16 million to spend, even after re-signing defenseman Brendan Smith, and have holes at defense, center and backup goaltender. The trick will be not tying themselves into bad, long-term contracts.
6. Thomas Vanek will sign with Nashville: Vanek was impressive with the Red Wings — and to a lesser degree in Florida after getting dealt at the trade deadline. Nashville needs a goal-scoring winger, and Vanek could produce in that lineup.
7. The Chicago Blackhawks will sign a defenseman: They definitely need a veteran defenseman, and they’re likely to find one willing to sign a one-year contract. The Blackhawks are up against the salary cap, though.
8. Montreal GM Marc Bergevin will surprise everyone with an acquisition: Bergevin hasn’t been shy about making big, bold moves this time of year, and he’s already made one recently, acquiring forward Jonathan Drouin in a big trade. Montreal still needs a center (Martin Hanzal?) or defenseman (Karl Alzner?). Bergevin is likely to get his man.
9. Steve Mason will stabilize the goalie position for his new team: It’s still a bit mystifying the Philadelphia Flyers parted ways with Mason, who has done a nice job there. Rumors suggest Mason might wind up in Winnipeg, where Mason could help take that team into the playoffs in a tandem with Connor Hellebuyck (Commerce Township).
10. Nick Bonino will regret it if he leaves Pittsburgh: The Penguins center has been a key contributor to the team’s last two Stanley Cup wins. He’s slotted nicely in their lineup, there’s not a ton of pressure. If Bonino leaves for a big-money deal elsewhere, he’ll disappoint as a No. 2 center not matching his offensive output with the salary he’ll get.