The 2023-2024 NHL season is right around the corner but first is training camp. Several names, some of them noteworthy, are still unemployed and looking for either a contract or training camp invite.
Some of these free agents will sign before camps open, while others seek the training camp tryout to prove their worth and earn a spot in the opening night roster. In total, 85 players remain unsigned but that total should not diminish the closer we get to training camp.
Some of the notable forwards include Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Josh Bailey, Tomas Tatar, and Jesse Puljujarvi.
Defensemen include Oscar Klefbom, Jake Gardner, Ethan Bear, and Nick Holden. Mike Smith, Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliot, David Trendeck, and Aaron Dell are the top five goaltenders remaining.
There are tons of good NHL free agents still looking for a home this season.
Toews and Smith may be leaning towards retirement, or at least taking some time off from hockey.
Toews has been dealing with some health issues and Smith has some nagging injuries. Kane recently had hip surgery, is still recovering, and may not be ready until mid-season.
He is being linked to the Detroit Red Wings when he is set to return. Kane and the newest Red Wing Alex DeBrincat were linemates back in their Chicago Blackhawks days. Reuniting them on the same line could be a huge bonus for Detroit.
There are other players who may sign minor league deals for the sake of playing hockey and work their way up to the main roster.
Training camps open later than the main camps so players will filter down. Some AHL teams may have openings for a veteran player who did not get a camp invite. Organizations throughout the NHL can never have too many players.
This late into the summer without a deal could cause some of these players to take a significant pay cut to sign a deal.
Teams around the league likely have their camp roster ready to go and are not looking for players at this time.
Of the list above, there is still talent ready to be signed or invited to camp that has experience and could make a team better.
Teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Colorado Avalanche do not have many roster spots open as their roster looks to be close to set already.
Teams like the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals may have a spot or two to sign a player at league minimum.
The competition for roster spots is about to get intense as camps will soon be open. Veterans want to prove they still have it while younger players want to take those spots.
This could be an exciting time for rookies also as they get a first-hand look at what the NHL will be like in the early going.