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  • We're past the draft and free agency doesn't have a lot to offer after John Tavares. Here are the NHL subplots we'll be watching this summer.
By Michael Blinn
June 26, 2018

Aside from the John Tavares Watch already in full swing, there's not a whole lot of free agent intrigue this summer.

With the star forward likely to make his decision soon after hearing pitches from multiple teams this week, something else will have to entertain pundits and fans in the long summer weeks ahead of training camp.

Luckily, there have already been a couple of big names on the move to discuss and debate, and with the salary cap on the rise, there will most definitely be more.

Here's a look at a few storylines we'll be watching this summer:


HURRICANES' MAKEOVER

New owner Tom Dundon and new general manager Don Waddell made it clear early on that they were going to start reshaping the franchise, and it began with taking stock of their lineup. At the NHL draft, they made their first move, dealing RFAs Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin for a haul that included defenseman Dougie Hamilton and forward Micheal Ferland. Those won't be the only dominoes to fall—No. 1 blueliner Justin Faulk is expected to be dealt before the summer is over, as are forwards Jeff Skinner (who has a no-move clause and reportedly provided the team with a list of destinations) and Victor Rask.

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MAX PACIORETTY’S FUTURE

The longtime Canadiens forward has been the subject of trade rumblings for months now, and the mill reached an all-time high over draft weekend, when a rumored deal with the Kings fell apart. For reasons not made public, Pacioretty and CAA agent Pat Brisson split, with Octagon's Allan Walsh picking up a new client. Pacioretty can begin discussing a contract extension with the Habs on July 1—he has one year remaining on his current deal at a $4.5 million cap hit—giving way to the possibility of a sign-and-trade.

BIG CONTRACTS COMING?

The 2019 free agent class was supposed to be one stocked with elite defensemen, but in recent weeks, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Drew Doughty have taken themselves off the market with eight-year deals from the Coyotes and Kings. While they've already cashed in, things are complicated for Erik Karlsson up in Ottawa. The Senators defenseman is due a very big raise from his $6.5 million AAV on his current seven-year dealbut given the Senators' myriad of issues (see below), the two-time Norris Trophy winner could be ready for some new surroundings.

In the non-franchise defenseman category, winger Artemi Panarin could find himself being moved after reportedly not wanting to discuss an extension with the Blue Jackets, and Stars forward Tyler Seguin will command a sizable raise from his $5.75 million cap hit on his next deal, due in 2019-20.

CLEANING UP IN OTTAWA

A season after coming within a goal of the Stanley Cup Final, the Senators found themselves in the draft lottery. While adding forward Brady Tkachuk to their prospect pool was a nice consolation prize, there's plenty for GM Pierre Dorion to focus on. He was able to deal Mike Hoffman and move on from one source of discord, but Dorion also has to figure out what to do with Karlsson, get RFA forward Mark Stone and early-season acquisition Matt Duchene locked up and trade goalie Craig Anderson, who has reportedly asked for a ticket out of Ottawa. There's also the possibility of buying out or dealing forward Bobby Ryan, who's carrying a hefty $7.25 million cap hit through next season.

And all of this says nothing of suspended assistant GM Randy Lee's charges for harassment stemming from a combine weekend incident, nor of the fan unrest surrounding owner Eugene Melnyk and his threat to move the franchise.

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SEARCHING FOR STARTERS

The 2018 free agent season offers little in the way of high-caliber starting goalies, and Carter Hutton, Jonathan Bernier and Jaroslav Halak all quickly inked deals. The rest of the FA market doesn't leave a whole lot to work with. What's a team in need of a netminder to do? 

The trade market has a few options available, though there's no long-term answers there, either. Anderson can be had from Ottawa, while Philipp Grubauer's presence in Colorado put a question mark around Semyon Varlamov's future with the Avalanche.

There's a number of teams in need of a solution in net with the Islanders and Hurricanes the biggest potential buyers this offseason.

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