What Each Metro Division Team is Facing in Free Agency

Apr 29, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers right wing Patrick Kane (88) awaits a face-off against the New Jersey Devils during the second period in game six of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 29, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers right wing Patrick Kane (88) awaits a face-off against the New Jersey Devils during the second period in game six of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports /

As the playoffs are rolling through, it’s natural to keep an eye on the offseason that is rapidly approaching. For Flyers fans, a lot of that will be seeing what the new Flyers leadership team will do. A big part of that will be looking at trading away some players and trying to acquire others via free agency.

Currently, the Flyers have only two players who are unrestricted free agents heading for the market: James van Riemsdyk and Brendan Lemieux. Justin Braun would’ve been a third candidate, but he hung up his skates at the end of the season. JVR is likely done with the Flyers, unless he takes a MASSIVE discount to remain and Lemieux, a trade deadline acquisition, could go either way as he started off strong for the Flyers before not doing much toward the end of the season.

But the Flyers aren’t the only team facing these issues. What are rivals in the Metropolitan Division facing? Who are their free agents to be and how will that affect their next season…and beyond? Each team in the division is listed below with their pending free agents and current salary.

And a few of these teams have a lot more to worry about than the Flyers.

Carolina Hurricanes

Jordan Staal ($6 million), Jesper Fast ($2 million), Paul Stastny ($1.5 million), Mackenzie MacEachern ($750,000), Derek Stepan ($750,000), Shayne Gostisbehere ($4.5 million), Calvin De Haan ($850,000), Frederik Andersen ($4.5 million), Antti Raanta ($2 million), Max Pacioretty ($7 million), Jake Gardner ($4 million), and Ondrej Kase ($1.5 million)

Carolina is going to have a lot of salary coming off the books. The question now is, who do they keep?

Paciorretty, Gardner and Kase finished the year on injured reserve. Paciorretty was their big move the previous season, and he never hit the ice for the Canes. Do they stick with him?

Likewise, Staal, Stastny, and Stepan are older vets. Could they retire or keep playing? Staal would probably be welcomed back. The other two, unclear. Gostisbehere has played well in Carolina and would be a star on their already stellar defense. Most of the other guys are depth pieces.

Finally, we come to Andersen and Raanta; two 30+ goalies. Carolina has had this thing during the Rod Brind’Amour era of just cycling through goalies. But because of their defense, they are able to play through it. Both have played well enough where one or both could stick around. They could also find someone on the free agency market, hope they have a prospect below that is good, or maybe swing a trade for someone.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Gavin Bayreuther ($750,000)

Columbus did all their wheeling and dealing last year when they got Johnny Gaudreau. They have some cap space left over, so they can add it to whatever the cap raises up to this year, but it would only be enough to add a bottom six player or an aging vet at best. So, last year’s team is pretty much what will be back, unless they make some trades or acquire other talent. And since they finished in last place, that is probably not what CBJ wants to do.

Bayreuther had a career year with 12 points, but he is basically a bottom six depth piece. He’s the sort of guy where there are tons of out there each year. He could come back or go somewhere else.

New Jersey Devils

Tomas Tatar ($4.5 million), Miles Wood ($3.2 million), Erik Haula ($2.375 million), Damon Severson ($4.1 million), Ryan Graves ($3.1 million), and Jonathan Bernier ($4.125 million) 

The Devils surprised everyone this year as they had the third best record the year in the NHL after having the worst record. They are maxed out on salary cap and will have a lot of decisions to make. Bernier was on LTIR for a chunk of the season. Many of these guys, like Haula and Tatar, are good grinder type players/valuable depth pieces, but not stars that will change your team around.

However, Jersey has a problem. They have eight restricted free agents. They are many of their young star talent, like Jesper Bratt, Timo Meier, and Yegor Sharangovich. If ANY team has players that another could consider poaching some RFA talent, Jersey is ripe for the plucking. Will they be able to afford all of their young stars? They better make some decisions soon before another team makes it for them. A smart move might be to offer Bratt and Meier huge contracts in order to put a crimp on the financial resources of the Devils. In short, NJD has work to do.

New York Islanders

Pierre Engvall ($2.25 million) , Zach Parise ($750,000), Scott Mayfield ($1.45 million), and Semyon Varlamov ($5 million)

The Isles don’t have a lot of free agents this year and only one RFA. They are pretty stable as far as teams go. For a team that made a late run to get into the playoffs, they seem to be in good shape.

Engvall could get a little bit of a pay raise after scoring 17 goals this year. Parise will be 39 this year, but still scored 21 goals. If he decides to stay, it’s easy to see the Isles keeping him around.

The bigger issue is if NYI decides to roll the dice on Varlamov again or bring up a younger goalie or sign a free agent. The do have Ilya Sorokin under contract for another year, so much like Carolina, they have some decisions in net to make.

New York Rangers

Vladimir Tarasenko ($3.75 million), Patrick Kane ($2.625 million), Tyler Motte ($1.35 million), Niko Mikkola ($1.9 million), and Jaroslav Halak ($1.5 million)

The Rangers “won” the trade deadline by getting two of the biggest names that were available: Tarasenko and Kane. Then they were bounced out of the first round and fired their coach. So…there goes that! A team that was build for a deep run fizzled out despite a lot of strong talent.

Can they keep Tarasenko and Kane? Can they afford both of them, let alone either one? Likewise, they need to consider their future. Alexis Lafrenière, who scored 16 goals and a career high 39 points, is an RFA. Do they sign two plus 30 year olds at the expense of losing or alienating a 21 year old who was the first overall pick in 2020?

Pittsburgh Penguins

Jason Zucker ($5.5 million), Nick Bonino ($1 million), Danton Heinen ($1 million), Josh Archibald ($900,000), Brian Dumoulin ($4.1 million), Dmitry Kulikov ($1,125 million), and Tristan Jarry ($3.5 million)

The Penguins missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06; the last of a four year stretch where they failed to do so. Likewise, it was during this stretch that they drafted Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang…all of whom are still playing. However, they are getting older now. And much like just about every team in the Metro, they are maxed out on the cap and have some decisions to make.

Many of their pending free agents are depth pieces; good and valuable ones, but not their top line guys. Zucker is probably worth them keeping around and Dumoulin is a fairly reliable defender. But because of that, there will be teams that will try to go after their services.

Jarry had kind of an up and down year. There were times he looked like the wunderkind of old and times he looked lost. But to be fair, that was the Pens’ season in a nutshell. Like several of the teams on this list, they have to make a decision in net. Keep Jarry and go with it or move on and try to forge a new future.

Washington Capitals

Craig Smith ($3.1 million), Conor Sheary ($1.5 million), Matt Irwin ($750,000), Connor Brown $3.6 million), and Carl Hagelin ($2.75 million)

Hagelin and Brown finished the year on injured reserve. Sheary and Smith had down years stats wise, but Sheary is younger and performed better. He also came with a cheaper price tag and might be more valuable in that regard.

Washington, much like the Pens, missed the playoffs. It was their first time since 2013-14. They have an aging veteran roster that won them a Stanley Cup in 2018, but they haven’t done much since then. So, again like the Pens, the Caps have to make some decisions.

They could go all out on the free agency market and try to grab a high priced star like Kane or Tarasenko (who might make sense with his friend, Alex Ovechkin). They may try to start to build for a youth movement. It is unclear where the Capitals are heading at this moment, but it is worth keeping an eye on.