Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Strome part of a star studded 2022 NHL Free Agent Class
This past summer, a handful of large money deals were signed by unrestricted free agents, The biggest was defenseman Dougie Hamilton with the NJ Devils for $9M per season.
The next highest contract came from the Seattle Kraken when they gave goalie Philipp Grubauer $5.9M a season. Several other players hit an AAV of $5M or more in Zach Hyman ($5.5M), Philip Danault ($5.5M), Jaden Schwartz ($5.5M), Mikael Granlund ($5M), and Linus Ullmark ($5M).
The 2022 UFA class is a lot more star studded and will rake in more money than the 2021 group. How many of them will make it to market is an entirely different question, but two key Rangers are on the list.
Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Strome part of 2022 UFA Class
Since joining the Rangers, Ryan Strome’s game has improved. This past season he notched 49 points in 56 games and 59 points in 70 contest the prior season. The 28 year-old is still in his prime and his numbers should continue to climb and get closer to a point a game status.
The Blueshirts are open to trading Strome because his next contract is expected to be in the $6 to $7 million range. Strome’s deal currently pays him $4.5 million and he’s earned his payday.
It’s possible Chris Drury would give him the salary he wants but not the term. Like most free agents, Strome will try and go for a 7 year deal. If he would take 3 or 4 years, the Rangers may be open to keeping him around.
Zibanejad, 28, has one year left at an AAV of $5.35M. In the last two seasons he has scored 65 goals and 125 points in 113 games. That’s worth big time money, and if he hits the open market next summer he should get 7 years at $10 million per season. That’s regardless of the current flat cap situation expected to stay around $81.5 million for the next few seasons.
There’s little question that Chris Drury would like to retain Zibanejad. “Mika is a huge part of our team. I’m not going to discuss his contract or anyone else’s publicly,” Drury said recently. “I have a ton of respect for him as a person and a player.”
Mika Zibanejad has openly said he loves playing for the Rangers. There’s mutual interest as has been reported from multiple outlets. If Drury can get Zibanejad to sign a contract for 8 years at around $8 million per season, it would be a huge win for the team’s future.
Zibanejad’s next contract will have major implications on the longterm success of the Blueshirts.
Aleksander Barkov and Morgan Reilly lead the rest of the 2022 UFAs
Aleksander Barkov, 25, is going into the last season of a deal that pays $5.9M annually. The eight-year veteran posted a team-high 26 goals along with 32 assists for 58 points, second on the Panthers, in 50 games this season. This marked his sixth straight season scoring 20 or more goals. He led the Panthers in scoring in 2018-19, his best season, with 96 points (35 goals, 61 assists).
While he is expected to re-sign with the Panthers, there are other big names available. Forwards Evgeni Malkin, Patrice Bergeron, Claude Giroux, Phil Kessel, Johnny Gaudreau, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Strome, and Tomas Hertl would all fetch hefty deals on the open market.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are going to have to find a way to keep Morgan Rielly. At 27 years of age he’s a top pair defenseman who scored 35 points in 55 games last year. For his career, Rielly has registered 305 points in 572 contests. Toronto has enjoyed him at a great price coming in at $5M against the cap, expect that number to be $8M or more on his next deal.
Another defenseman that could command a similar salary is John Klingberg in Dallas. The 29 year-old scored 36 points in 53 games for the Stars and will make a lot more than his current $4.25M AAV. Anaheim’s Josh Manson is another that teams will pay a premium for. The 29 year-old doesn’t put up great offensive numbers but he’s big and plays the game hard.
Other well known names on the market will be PK Subban, Mattias Ekholm, Kris Letang, and Colton Parayko.
Marc-Andre Fleury is the goalie to get in 2022
The 36 year-old Fleury won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender in 2020-21. He is due to earn $7 million in 2021-22 and will be a UFA at season’s end. He went 26-10-0 with six shutouts to go along with a 1.98 goals-against average and a career-high .928 save percentage in 36 games this past season. It’s no wonder the Blackhawks wanted him.
Beyond Fleury, the goalie market is scarce and will likely only get scarcer once the Blue Jackets sign Elvis Merzlikins and trade Joonas Korpisalo. Both are scheduled to be UFA’s in 2022.
Anyone who misses out on MAF will turn their attention to Braden Holtby who signed a one year deal in Dallas. After that Martin Jones could get a look should he bounce back in Philadelphia this season.
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