All posts by Cory Wilkins

Flames sign Lazar to 2-year extension

The Calgary Flames have signed forward Curtis Lazar to a two-year extension worth $950,000 per season, the team announced Friday.

The Flames acquired Lazar from the Ottawa Senators at last year's trade deadline, parting with defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka and a second-round pick in this summer's draft.

Lazar was a first-round pick by the Senators in 2013, but struggled to gain footing with the organization. He appeared in 33 games with Ottawa last season, tallying a single point. Following his trade to the Flames, Lazar notched a goal and two assists in four games.

Lazar won the Memorial Cup with the Edmonton Oil Kings in 2014, and a year later, was a part of Team Canada's gold-medal squad at the world juniors.

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Report: Jets sign Kulikov to 3-year deal

Dmitry Kulikov is flying to Winnipeg.

The free-agent blue-liner has signed a three-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets that carries a $4.33-million cap hit, reports TSN's Darren Dreger.

Kulikov comes to the Jets after spending one season with the Buffalo Sabres. He was dealt to Buffalo last June, but a series of injuries limited him to just 47 games on the campaign, in which he finished with two goals and three assists.

Prior to joining the Sabres, Kulikov spent seven seasons with the Florida Panthers.

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Canadiens sign Holland to 2-year deal

The Montreal Canadiens signed center Peter Holland to a two-year deal, the team announced Saturday.

The 26-year-old split last season between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Arizona Coyotes, wrapping the 2016-17 campaign with 12 points in 48 games.

Holland was a first-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2009.

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Flyers sign Elliott to 2-year deal

Veteran netminder Brian Elliott agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Flyers on a two-year contract, the team announced Saturday.

The deal carries a $2.75-million annual cap hit, reports Stephen Whyno of The Associated Press.

Elliott arrives in Philadelphia after spending one season with the Calgary Flames, in which he posted a 26-18-3 record with a .910 save percentage.

The 32-year-old made his NHL debut with the Ottawa Senators in 2007.

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3 teams entering free agency in tough financial situations

Free agency is just around the corner and general managers have their wallets at the ready. A handful of top players headline this summer's crop, but cap concerns from past deals could keep at least three teams out of the bidding:

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks needing to shed salary has become an annual event. It's the price you pay when you rack up three Stanley Cups in six years, and then fork out big-money deals to keep the band together.

But not only have rich contracts hurt the Blackhawks, so too have deals where cheap, young talent was exported to give Chicago some necessary cap relief.

Like last June, when Teuvo Teravainen, then 21, was shipped to the Carolina Hurricanes so the Blackhawks could do away with Bryan Bickell. Or two years ago, when Chicago couldn't afford to keep Brandon Saad and sent him to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Interestingly enough, the Blackhawks re-acquired Saad last week, sending Artemi Panarin to the Blue Jackets. The two wingers have the same cap hit, but with Saad signed through 2021, the Blackhawks avoid the future financial challenges that would have come with extending Panarin, whose contract expires in two seasons.

This summer, Chicago is the lone team exceeding the $75-million salary cap, as the Blackhawks sit nearly $3 million above the cap ceiling. They'll have the offseason to become compliant, but it won't be easy.

Winger Marian Hossa, who will sit out next season due to a progressive skin disorder, can be placed on long-term injured reserve, relieving the team of his $5.275-million cap charge. But Chicago must first be under the cap before that move can occur.

That means someone else is on the outs, with the long-rumored candidate being center Marcus Kruger, whose cap hit is about $3.1 million. Removing his contract without money coming back would ease things for Chicago, but doing so would likely take another high draft pick or quality young player from an already depleted prospect cupboard.

While Chicago's lack of cap flexibility should keep the team from making much noise this offseason, the Blackhawks already have a full roster signed through next season, with no notable free agents in need of new contracts.

Minnesota Wild

The Wild have long been rumored to be shopping a piece from their impressive defensive collection, a seemingly necessary deal to right the team's salary cap structure.

While Minnesota won't trade top rearguard Ryan Suter, nor his defensive partner Jared Spurgeon, the team has drawn plenty of interest in Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, and Matt Dumba.

Dealing from the team's position of strength should also help the Wild bulk up elsewhere, with GM Chuck Fletcher interested in adding another center to his lineup.

As for the forward ranks, the Wild have just eight skaters under contract, meaning the team must sign at least four players before the season starts. That includes Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter, both restricted free agents who will command top dollar on new deals.

Granlund had a breakout season last year, posting a career-high 69 points to lead the Wild in scoring. He'll want to be paid accordingly. Same with Niederreiter, who achieved career bests in goals, assists, and points last season to finish fourth in team scoring behind Granlund, Eric Staal, and captain Mikko Koivu.

Both Granlund and Niederreiter are due significant raises, and combined could cost the Wild more than $10 million. That would leave Minnesota with little cash to spruce up the rest of the roster, with two more forwards and another blue-liner or two on the shopping list.

Limited cap funds will also take the Wild out of the sweepstakes for center Martin Hanzal, who was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes at last year's trade deadline. That deal cost the Wild a combination of draft picks, including a first-rounder at last week's entry draft.

Minnesota is not expected to bring back netminder Darcy Kuemper, a pending unrestricted free agent, leaving the Wild to explore free agency for a backup to compete alongside Alex Stalock for the No. 2 position.

Washington Capitals

T.J. Oshie can remain a key contributor in the coming seasons, but there is no denying his recently signed eight-year extension does no favors for the club in the long-term.

Oshie's signing brought the Capitals to more than $57 million against the salary cap, meaning Washington now has less than $18 million to fill out the remainder of its roster, with five forwards, three defensemen, and a backup netminder left to sign. No doubt it will be a busy offseason for GM Brian MacLellan.

Oshie was just the first big contract signing for the Capitals this summer, particularly up front, where Justin Williams and restricted free agents Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov are in need of new deals.

It's fair to assume Kuznetsov, who hasn't missed a game over the past two seasons and has averaged 0.83 points per game over that time, will see a big-ticket deal of his own, likely coming in around $6 million annually. Meanwhile, Burakovsky should cost about half of that figure, leaving little wiggle room for Washington to retain Williams. The veteran forward boasts an attractive playoff resume that is sure to draw several interested suitors in free agency.

The Capitals' defense doesn't offer a much clearer picture either. Power-play specialist Kevin Shattenkirk, who the Capitals brought in from the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline, is considered the top free agent available, but he isn't likely to stay in Washington.

Fellow defenseman Karl Alzner is also receiving plenty of calls in the lead-up to free agency. The veteran defender has drawn interest from a host of teams, including the Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, and Winnipeg Jets, so there is no guarantee he'll return for another term in D.C.

Losing both, in addition to Nate Schmidt, who the Vegas Golden Knights claimed in the expansion draft, decimates a Capitals blue line that has just four defensemen under contract next season. Cap concerns could force Washington to seek out more affordable options via free agency, or to promote from within. Candidates like Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey played key roles for Hershey in the AHL last season and could see a move up to the big club.

Defenseman Dmitry Orlov, also a restricted free agent, is another top priority for the Capitals. But getting the Russian-born blue-liner to agree to a new deal could come with further challenges, as he could draw interest from the KHL. Backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer is also due a new contract.

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

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3 diamonds in the rough from the 2017 draft class

While we won't be able to read the outcome of the 2017 entry draft for at least three years, this year's draft class will realize great value in its later rounds. After all, 2015 Art Ross winner Jamie Benn didn't hear his name called until the fifth round, future Hall of Famer Pavel Datsyuk was still on the board in Round 6, and Pekka Rinne was chosen in a round that no longer exists.

For now, here are three late picks to keep an eye on from the 2017 NHL Draft:

Jason Robertson

Drafted: Round 2, 39th Overall, by the Dallas Stars

In the top third of the second round, the Stars added Kingston forward Jason Robertson, a scoring winger with a big frame who uses his size to generate offensive chances. It's this style of play that likens Robertson to Toronto Maple Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk, according to Last Word on Sports.

While skating deficiencies may be the reason for Robertson's draft-day slide, there is still a lot to like, and no doubt the Stars believe they can cash in on a player who tallied 81 points in 68 games last season to lead the Frontenacs in scoring.

Robertson placed 14th among North American skaters, as ranked by NHL Central Scouting, a significant climb from his 34th slot in the midterms. He will lace up for his third season with Kingston in 2017-18.

Ivan Lodnia

Drafted: Round 3, 85th Overall, by the Minnesota Wild

The Wild nabbed a modern winger in Ivan Lodnia of the Erie Otters. While undersized, Lodnia's playing style does not reflect his lesser stature, as scouts beam about the American-born winger's knack for maneuvering through the opposition.

A shifty playmaker, Lodnia boasts exceptional skating and high-end hockey sense, abilities that helped him notch 56 points in 66 games in his first OHL season with the Otters. Lodnia continued to impress at the Memorial Cup, adding three points in five games, and then three goals and an assist in four contests with Team USA at the under-18s.

Lodnia placed 36th among North Americans skaters in the final rankings by NHL Central Scouting, a slight uptick from his finish at the midterms. He is expected to return to the Otters next season.

Matthew Strome

Drafted: Round 4, 106th Overall, by the Philadelphia Flyers

Hockey bloodlines run deep with the Stromes, with brothers Ryan and Dylan both high picks by the New York Islanders and Arizona Coyotes, respectively, in recent years. Matthew is the latest Strome brother to come along.

But unlike his brothers, both selected inside the top five, the Flyers called on Matthew in the middle of the fourth round, a steep fall from a year ago when the early projections saw him as first rounder. Scouts point to a slow stride that could hold him back from making it to the next level, but that doesn't mean his game isn't without its strengths.

Already 6-foot-3, Strome is excellent down low, using his size to protect the puck. Coupled with high-end hockey IQ, it is this ability that helped Strome collect 62 points in 66 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs, where he will return next season for his third OHL campaign.

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Pacific Division Draft Grades: Vegas aces 1st test, Kings impress

The 2017 NHL Draft has come and gone, and all 31 teams are exiting Chicago with varying degrees of satisfaction in regards to their respective hauls.

While we likely won't know they all fared for a few years yet, we can take a quick look at the results and assess how the teams made out.

Here's our take on the teams in the Pacific Division:

Anaheim Ducks

Draft picks

2 50 Maxime Comtois
2 60 Antoine Morand
3 91 Jack Badini
4 122 Kyle Olsen
5 153 Olle Eriksson Ek

After dealing their first-rounder to acquire Patrick Eaves at last year's trade deadline, the Ducks played shorthanded this weekend, not announcing their first pick until the 50th selection.

Still, Anaheim made the most of it, drafting Victoriaville winger Maxime Comtois in the middle of the second round. Comtois has played two seasons in the QMJHL, where he finished this year with 51 points in 64 games. The French Canadian forward is noted for his versatility, as not only is he familiar with taking faceoffs, he's a left shooter who can play right wing.

With their final pick, the Ducks opted for Olle Eriksson Ek, the second-highest-ranked European netminder and brother of Joel Eriksson Ek, a first-round pick by the Minnesota Wild in 2015. With Farjestad Jr. this season, Eriksson Ek appeared in 30 games, posting a 2.16 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.

Grade: C

Arizona Coyotes

Draft picks

1 23 Pierre-Olivier Joseph
2 44 Filip Westerlund
3 69 Mackenzie Entwistle
3 75 Nate Schnarr
3 82 Cameron Crotty
4 108 Noel Hoefenmayer
5 126 Michael Karow
5 128 Tyler Steenbergen
7 190 Erik Walli Walterholm

The Coyotes were left with one pick in the opening round after dealing the seventh overall selection to the New York Rangers for Derek Stepan. He fills an immediate need in the desert, while the Coyotes hope Pierre-Olivier Joseph is an option down the road.

Selected with the pick Arizona obtained for Martin Hanzal, Joseph is a smooth-skating, puck-moving defenseman who likens his playing style to San Jose Sharks blue-liner Marc-Edouard Vlasic. With Charlottetown this season, Joseph tallied six goals and 33 assists in 62 games.

Outside of the opening round, the Coyotes made an interesting selection in Hamilton forward Mackenzie Entwistle, a budding power forward who plays an effective game by keeping things simple. In his second season in junior, Entwistle finished with 25 points in 54 games.

Grade: B

Calgary Flames

Draft picks

1 16 Juuso Valimaki
4 109 Adam Ruzicka
5 140 Zach Fischer
6 171 D'Artagnan Joly
7 202 Filip Sveningsson

Deadline deals to acquire Curtis Lazar and Michael Stone left the Flames with just five picks this weekend, but Calgary still came away with some key selections.

Juuso Valimaki, the No. 16 pick overall, is a dynamic, offensive defenseman who plays a new-age game. Valimaki is noted for his speed and mobility, not to mention strong skating that allows him to join the rush and generate offensive chances. In 60 games with Tri-City this season, Valimaki registered 19 goals and 42 assists, nearly double his 32 points in 2015-16.

With pick No. 109, the Flames added Adam Ruzicka, a Czech-born center whom NHL Central Scouting ranked 37th among North American skaters. At 6-foot-4 and 209 pounds, Ruzicka has no shortage of size. He finished his first season with the OHL's Sarnia Sting with 46 points in 61 games.

Grade: C

Edmonton Oilers

Draft picks

1 22 Kailer Yamamoto
3 78 Stuart Skinner
3 84 Dmitri Samorukov
4 115 Ostap Safin
5 146 Kirill Maksimov
6 177 Skyler Brind'Amour
7 208 Philip Kemp

Kailer Yamamoto promised Edmonton it'd be a mistake not to choose him, and the Oilers listened, grabbing the Spokane winger 22nd overall.

As the NHL landscape changes, there is more room for players like Yamamoto, a 5-foot-8 offensive dynamo who weighs in at about 150 pounds. But his lack of stature didn't stop Yamamoto from finding the scoresheet in the WHL, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with 99 points in 65 games, tops among his Chiefs' teammates. Yamamoto's playing style is built on speed and quickness, a model he compares to Patrick Kane and Mats Zuccarello.

In Round 6, the Oilers opted for a bloodlines pick, adding Skyler Brind'Amour, son of Rod who captained the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006. Skyler is a product of the U.S. National Development Program and is committed to Michigan State for 2019-20.

Grade: B

Los Angeles Kings

Draft picks

1 11 Gabriel Vilardi
2 41 Jaret Anderson-Dolan
3 72 Matt Villalta
4 103 Michael Anderson
5 118 Markus Phillips
5 134 Cole Hunts
5 138 Drake Rymsha

The Kings may have the steal of the draft with Windsor Spitfires center Gabriel Vilardi, a hulking pivot who plays a strong possession game and boasts exceptional hockey sense and puck-handling skills.

While other teams may have been scared off by Vilardi's slow stride, the Kings are confident they can cash in on a player who finished with 61 points in 49 games. Vilardi followed up that performance with seven points in four games en route to a Memorial Cup championship with the Spitfires.

Anderson-Dolan chalks in as another key pick by the Kings, a reliable center with Spokane who excels in the details of the game. He finished the 2016-17 campaign with 76 points in 72 games, trailing only Yamamoto for the team scoring lead.

Grade: A

San Jose Sharks

Draft picks

1 19 Joshua Norris
2 49 Mario Ferraro
4 102 Scott Reedy
6 159 Jacob McGrew
6 185 Alexander Chmelevski
7 212 Ivan Chekhovich

It was a relatively quiet draft weekend for the Sharks, who had just two picks before the draft boards hit triple digits.

In the opening rounds, the Sharks called the name of Joshua Norris, an American-born center who impressed at the scouting combine, where he took the top spot in five of the 14 fitness tests among the 104 participants. With the U.S. National Development Program Juniors this season, Norris tallied above a point-per-game pace. He then chipped in seven points in as many games with Team USA at the Under-18s. He is committed to the University of Michigan for 2017-18.

In the second round, the Sharks selected Mario Ferraro, a mobile, puck-moving defenseman. At 5-foot-11, Ferraro is a tad undersized to man the blue line, but his skill set is that of a modern rearguard. He tallied 41 points in 60 games this season with the USHL's Des Moines Buccaneers.

Grade: B

Vancouver Canucks

Draft picks

1 5 Elias Pettersson
2 33 Kole Lind
2 55 Jonah Gadjovich
3 64 Michael DiPietro
4 95 Jack Rathbone
5 135 Kristoffer Gunnarsson
6 181 Petrus Palmu
7 188 Matt Brassard

The Canucks came away with a good haul at the draft, but may have reached by taking Elias Pettersson with the fifth pick. Only time will tell, but Vancouver may have fared better in taking Cody Glass or Casey Mittelstadt, who went sixth and eighth overall, respectively.

Still, Pettersson is no slouch. The Swedish center was the second-best European skater as ranked by NHL Central Scouting. Pettersson boasts a skill set that will have Canucks fans excited, as the slick pivot is known for his quick stride and energetic style. With Timra this season, Pettersson scored 40 points in 43 games, finishing behind only Jonathan Dahlen, a Canucks prospect, for the team lead.

In Round 3, Vancouver added Windsor netminder Michael DiPietro, who put together a strong performance with the Spitfires to capture this year's Memorial Cup. He'll be part of the Canucks' future in the crease, joining the likes of Thatcher Demko, a second-round pick by the Canucks in 2014.

Grade: B

Vegas Golden Knights

Draft picks

1 6 Cody Glass
1 13 Nick Suzuki
1 15 Erik Brannstrom
2 34 Nicolas Hague
2 62 Jake Leschyshyn
3 65 Jonas Rondbjerg
4 96 Maksim Zhukov
5 127 Lucas Elvenes
5 142 Jonathan Dugan
6 158 Nick Campoli
6 161 Jiri Patera
7 189 Ben Jones

Vegas liked their odds with so many spins at the wheel, walking away from their first entry draft with 12 selections.

Key among them was Glass, a highly skilled center with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks. The Golden Knights recognize the value of strength up the middle and trust they have that piece in Glass, a strong playmaker who is a constant scoring threat. Glass led the Winterhawks in scoring this season, wrapping the 2016-17 campaign with 94 points in 69 contests. It was an impressive finish for Glass, to say the least, after he tallied 27 points in the previous season.

Aside from Glass, a handful of other selections highlighted the weekend for the Golden Knights, including Owen Sound center Nick Suzuki, a diminutive but skilled pivot who boasts elite vision and a high hockey IQ. Suzuki scored 96 points in 65 games with the Attack this season. Fellow OHLer Nicolas Hague, a defenseman with Mississauga, was another impressive pick by the Golden Knights.

Grade: A

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Oilers trade Eberle to Islanders for Strome

The Edmonton Oilers have traded forward Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders in exchange for forward Ryan Strome, the Oilers announced Thursday.

Eberle appeared in all 82 games with the Oilers last season, registering 20 goals and 31 assists. Through 13 playoff contests, the 27-year-old was limited to just two points.

Strome - selected fifth overall by the Islanders in 2011 - skated in 69 games last season, finishing with 13 goals and 17 assists.

The move is somewhat of salary cap deal for the Oilers. Eberle was slated to earn $6 million over the next two seasons, while Strome is signed through 2017-18 at $2.5 million.

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Report: NHL sets 2017-18 salary cap at $75M

The NHL salary cap will be set at $75 million next season, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

It's an increase of $2 million from last season's cap, which was set at $73 million. The cap floor next season has been set at $55.4 million.

The NHL introduced the salary cap in the 2005-06 season, when it was set at $39 million.

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Ranking the top 80 unrestricted free agents: 20-11

June is an incredibly busy month for the NHL, but that doesn't mean we can't look ahead to what's coming. Free agency begins at 12 p.m. ET on July 1, and we're ranking the top 80 unrestricted free agents in a seven-post series ahead of the madness.

As we count down the UFA market from 20th to 11th, this veteran group ranks near the best of what may be available this summer:

20. Mike Condon (G)

Age on Oct. 1: 27
2016-17 Cap Hit: $575K

With starter Craig Anderson away from the Ottawa Senators to be with his ill wife, the subsequent acquisition of Condon proved to be a season-saver for the Sens.

Stepping into the Ottawa crease, Condon carried the ball for the Senators, including a stretch which saw the netminder make 27 straight appearances. For Condon, it marked the second time he has been thrust into the starter's job after taking over for an injured Carey Price while with the Montreal Canadiens a year ago.

Now facing the possibility of unrestricted free agency, Condon could cash in on his performance, but there are certainly no assurances he'll get an extended stay with the Senators.

19. Brendan Smith (D)

Age on Oct. 1: 28
2016-17 Cap Hit: $2.75M

A market-value contract should keep Smith on the New York Rangers' blue line. That was the stance from his agent, who in May stated Smith likes the Rangers and his role on the team, but he'll need to be shown the money.

Acquired from the Detroit Red Wings in a trade deadline deal that saw the Rangers part with a pair of draft choices, Smith impressed during his short showing in Manhattan. In the postseason, he was regularly relied on by coach Alain Vigneault, seeing the third-most ice time among New York defenders.

Early reports indicate it will take north of $4 million annually to keep Smith in New York, a substantial raise from his current cap hit of $2.75 million.

18. Patrick Marleau (F)

Age on Oct. 1: 38
2016-17 Cap Hit: $6.667M

Marleau has been the face of the Sharks since he was selected second overall in 1997, but the team could very well move on from its one-time captain.

Finishing with 27 goals last season, only Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski found the back of the net more often than Marleau. While he's still a contributor, a potential contract extension could pose complications. At 37 years old, it would be favorable for the Sharks to see Marleau accept a one-year deal. Any longer and San Jose runs the risk of an early retirement and being left on the hook for Marleau's cap hit (i.e. the next Pavel Datsyuk).

But in averaging 24 goals over the past three seasons, and not missing a game since 2008-09, Marleau could command a multi-year deal and the dollars to go with it. Still, cap concerns could force Marleau to accept a pay cut if he wishes to remain in the Bay Area.

17. Radim Vrbata (F)

Age on Oct. 1: 36
2016-17 Cap Hit: $1M

Vrbata has made it known he likes life in the desert. After struggling through the 2015-16 season with the Vancouver Canucks, the veteran winger returned for his third tour of duty with the Arizona Coyotes.

Agreeing a bonus-laden contract with Arizona, Vrbata earned a $1-million base salary that later doubled upon reaching games-played and point plateaus. By season's end, Vrbata led the Coyotes with 55 points.

That performance demonstrated that Vrbata hasn't lost his scoring touch. And while he is happy in the desert and is likely to re-sign with the Coyotes, he's proven himself this time around, meaning he's sure to aim for a condition-free contract.

16. Jaromir Jagr (F)

Age on Oct. 1: 45
2016-17 Cap Hit: $4M

Jagr could return to the Florida Panthers next season, but there is no urgency for the future Hall of Famer to put pen to paper.

While the Panthers missed the postseason, it was a successful campaign for Jagr, who surpassed Mark Messier for second all time in NHL scoring, while tallying 46 points to finish fourth in Florida scoring. This coming season, a clean bill of health from top forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who saw just 31 games in 2016-17, should go a long way in returning the Panthers to the playoff picture.

There's no doubt Jagr, a two-time Stanley Cup champion, wants to win, and he'll have a chance to do that next season with Florida.

15. Jonathan Bernier (G)

Age on Oct. 1: 29
2016-17 Cap Hit: $4.15M

Bernier is in a conundrum. He had a solid season, which normally means more money on a new deal; but the reality is that Bernier is sure to see a pay cut.

That's because his previous deal was signed when he was the No. 1 for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was a different situation with the Anaheim Ducks, as Bernier played second fiddle to John Gibson.

While there are no assurances Bernier will return to Orange County, the likelihood is he'll only land a similar role elsewhere. At this stage, Bernier is a steady backup who can fill in for a struggling or injured starter. If Anaheim isn't an option, a few teams could add Bernier as part of a goaltending tandem.

14. Brian Elliott (G)

Age on Oct. 1: 32
2016-17 Cap Hit: $2.5M

It was a tale of two seasons in what was surely a short stay for Elliott in Calgary. Acquired from the St. Louis Blues last offseason, Elliott struggled through his early goings in Calgary, winning just three of his first 12 games in a Flames jersey.

That all changed down the season's stretch drive, with Elliott seemingly finding a comfort in Calgary as he rattled off 11 straight victories, pushing the Flames into the postseason for just the second time since 2009.

But in the playoffs, Elliott's play was forgettable, as the Flames were swept by the Ducks. It all came crashing down in Game 4, when Elliott lasted just six minutes, three shots, and one goal against before getting the early hook, effectively ending his time in Calgary.

13. Ryan Miller (G)

Age on Oct. 1: 37
2016-17 Cap Hit: $6M

The Canucks have expressed interest in bringing back Miller, and that feeling may be mutual, with Miller preferring life on the west coast. The issue lies in Vancouver's plans for the veteran netminder, which could see Miller slide into a secondary role behind up-and-comer Jacob Markstrom.

This despite Miller owning a save rate that outpaced not only Markstrom, but the likes of Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Jones, both highly regarded goalies on teams that qualified for the postseason. Not to mention their squads had far superior supporting casts when compared to the Canucks.

While Miller is unlikely to lock down a starter's role, odds are that he can find a situation better than Vancouver, which finished second to last in 2016-17. The 37-year-old remains on the lookout for his first Stanley Cup and he'll need to venture outside of British Columbia for a shot to win it all.

12. Justin Williams (F)

Age on Oct. 1: 35
2016-17 Cap Hit: $3.25M

"Mr. Game 7" should have plenty of suitors this offseason. The three-time Stanley Cup champion and 2014 Conn Smythe Trophy winner is one of many Washington Capitals eligible for unrestricted free agency, and that cap crunch could leave Williams looking elsewhere for work.

Williams had a solid season with the Capitals, potting 48 points, which ranks him among the top five right-wingers who could reach free agency. Meanwhile, his 24 goals sit third, behind only Patrick Eaves and teammate T.J. Oshie.

For teams seeking experience, particularly a veteran who often plays the playoff hero, they'd be hard-pressed to fare better than Williams.

11. Andrei Markov (D)

Age on Oct. 1: 38
2016-17 Cap Hit: $5.75M

It would be strange to see Markov suiting up in another uniform, but Montreal fans shouldn't worry. The career Canadien still fills a role for the Habs - that is, a veteran puck-mover on the left side of the blue line. In all likelihood, it's only a matter of time before Markov re-ups in Montreal.

Appearing in 62 games last season, Markov put together a 36-point campaign, second to only Shea Weber among Montreal defensemen. That averages to 0.58 points per game, consistent with Markov's production rate over the past three seasons.

Looking forward, the veteran blue-liner has earned a similar pay clip, but likely on a one-year term, given the restrictions of contracts signed after 35.

Free Agent Rankings

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

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