Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Only three of the top 20 unrestricted free agents as ranked by The Athletic’s Craig Custance remain unsigned: Gardiner, Ferland and Ryan Dzingel. And with nothing appearing imminent on any of those fronts, it may still be some time before deals get done.
Below is a look at the latest buzz surrounding some of the top names on the market.
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press
Gardiner’s track record speaks for itself.
From 2014 to 2018, Gardiner’s points total increased each season, capped off by a career-high 52 points. He also registered a positive plus-minus rating in three consecutive seasons, averaging a plus-17 during that span.
He was plus-19 in 62 games last season with three goals and 27 assists.
A back injury shelved the 29-year-old for much of the final five weeks of the season. Prior to last season, though, he had made 79-plus appearances in five consecutive seasons.
Unfortunately for Gardiner, his eight-year run with the Toronto Maple Leafs may be over. Toronto does not have much wiggle room in terms of salary-cap space, and with Mitch Marner in line for a nice payday, Gardiner—who just completed a five-year, $20.25 million deal—may have to move on.
According to NHL Network’s E.J. Hradek, teams have yet to offer Gardiner the length and money that he is looking for:
NHL Network @NHLNetwork
Why is Jake Gardiner still unsigned? #NHLTonight https://t.co/3QUdMJe1QW
Although it’s not known exactly why the Minnesota native remains unsigned, his back injury could have teams cautious of a long-term deal.
Even as he remains unsigned, there does appear to be a solid market for Gardiner. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported previously reported the left-handed shooting D-man is “considering a number of different scenarios.”
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
While there may have been more prolific playmakers on the market earlier this month, Ferland could still provide a boost to a team’s offense.
After netting 21 goals in his final year with the Calgary Flames in 2017-18, the first-year Carolina Hurricane scored 17 times last season en route to 40 points. After suffering an upper-body injury during the first round, he had one assist in seven postseason appearances as Carolina made a run to the Eastern Conference Final.
Ferland let it be known in May that he would welcome a return to the Hurricanes. A source reiterated that stance to Custance.
“He really enjoyed his time in Raleigh,” the source said. “I know he enjoyed that dressing room.”
However, Custance has reported that the two sides are expected to go their separate ways due to the inability to find common ground on salary.
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
Dzingel has topped the 20-goal plateau in back-to-back seasons, but the 27-year-old still remains available in free agency.
Looking for an upgrade at the center position in hopes of making a playoff push, the Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Dzingel and a seventh-round pick in February from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for forward Anthony Duclair and a pair of second-rounders.
Dzingel tallied four goals and eight assists in 21 regular-season games for Columbus. While the Blue Jackets recorded their first-ever playoff series victory, he managed only one goal in nine postseason games. He was a scratched for a second-round game against the Boston Bruins.
It’s not clear what Dzingel’s market looks like, though Hradek reported last week that “six or seven teams” were interested:
NHL Network @NHLNetwork
Where could Ryan Dzingel sign? @EJHradek_NHL gives his thoughts on the UFA. #NHLTonight https://t.co/rPBfHV2KYa
The only thing that appears to be certain is that he won’t be returning to Columbus. According to The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline, the Blue Jackets have “no interest” in re-signing Dzingel even after losing Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene in free agency.
Hradek suggested Dzingel may be looking for a one-year prove-it deal. That way, he could shake off his disappointing stint with the Blue Jackets and earn a nice payday with a strong 2019-20 campaign.