July 1 kicks off the annual NHL free agency stampede, and with everyone trying to dethrone the newest NHL dynasty based in Chicago, this year will be noteworthy to those playing fantasy leagues and hoping for Stanley Cup parties come next June. The Rangers have already wrestled Antti Raanta from Chicago's goalie stash, so will everyone try and pluck the team apart? Here are some story lines forming, which will bleed deep into the free agency period.
Kings Will Be Busy
Los Angeles, like Anaheim this year, knows what it's like having Chicago on the brink of elimination. After high expectations went awry, Los Angeles will be stocking up on front line talent. Highly talented blueliner Andrej Sekera will be high on the Kings' shopping list, although Johnny Oduya may draw interest with a much smaller price tag. Regardless who's available, expect Los Angeles execs manning the phones from the first second calls are permitted.
Blackhawks Keep Most - But Not All
The busiest NHL phone line will lead right to Scotty Bowman's desk, given the Chicago salary cap could burst. Brendan Saad will be priority number one, meaning older talents like Patrick Sharp and Antoine Vermette may go unsigned. USA Today puts Brad Richards at No. 6 overall in free agency worth, and at 35-years-old, would be hard pressed to get resigned before youthful talent like Saad gets inked. Expect several well-known Blackhawks players to find new homes, but also expect money to fly towards new free agents.
Caps Will Spend -- Big
General Manager Brian MacLellan learned plenty during his freshman season in the Capitals' front office. With plenty of defensemen available this offseason, the NHL should watch MacLellan closely, given they're still holding all seven 2016 draft picks and there's money to be spent without too much trepidation. Patrick Sharp, as briefly mentioned above, will more than like demand more than Chicago can offer, meaning Washington could be yet another landing spot for him.
Lightning Have Most To Prove -- And Will
Pushing Chicago to Game 7 just to lose isn't sitting well with Lightning execs, and with many players still under team control, expect a balderdash of moves to occur from Day 1. Five players who became restricted free agents were extended offers already, with Andrej Sustr biting first. Jon Cooper is as talented as any NHL coach, but without motivated players ready to finally get their second NHL grand prize, they'll always be second best. Fans would probably start crowdfunding to acquire top talent, so watch Tampa Bay closely throughout the free agency period.
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