NHL Rumors: 2 Restricted Free-Agents Who May Be Released

The NHL's offseason is just around and general managers across the league will try and piece together their summer and just how exactly they're going to upgrade their hockey clubs. Free agency opens July 13 and while there's a number of talent set to become unrestricted free agents, the restricted free-agent market is going to be fascinating to watch. Hockey insider Elliotte Friedman had this to say on the RFA market:

There are a lot of eyes on qualifying offers. Cap space is tight, and the arbitration walk-away number this summer is $4,538,958. (Teams can’t “walk-away” from any award below that number.) If they’re not convinced a player’s production matches, teams may choose to let them go free in July rather than risk an arbitration award they can’t escape.

Others to watch include: Ethan Bear (Carolina), Denis Gurianov (Dallas), Kasperi Kapanen (Pittsburgh), Dylan Strome (Chicago), Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha (New Jersey). It’s not to say all of these players are guaranteed to hit the market. It’s more like, teams are watching to see what decisions are made.
Speculation is starting to brew about some teams walking away and two players from Friedman's list stand out:

Dylan Strome, Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks management has shown they are in full rebuild mode, even if that's pissing off the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Seth Jones. Strome is a prime target to be released as the 25-year-old hasn't quite reached his potential in the windy city and fell further and further down the depth chart as the season went along in 2021-22. The former third overall draft pick battled through his up-and-down season to actually produced respectable numbers which included 22 goals and 48 points in 69 games. You would think a rebuilding team would want to keep around a 25-year-old one-time can't-miss prospect but we saw with the Brandon Hagel trade to Tampa Bay, things are confusing as ever in Chicago.

Kasperi Kapanen, Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ron Hextall has some major decisions to make with the likes of Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin hitting the open market come July 13. The Penguins also have Rickard Rakell and Evan Rodrigues to re-sign along with Kasperi Kapanen. The speedy winger has been inconsistent throughout his tenure in Pittsburgh and while he's been given every opportunity to succeed, it hasn't quite worked out as planned. Kapanen could be let go in favor of keeping Rodrigues just based on versatility as Rodrigues also can play down the middle. 

Kapanen is coming off a season where he recorded 32 points in 79 games and was held goalless in the Penguins first-round series loss to the New York Rangers. He's best suited for a third-line role where he can fly in on the forecheck and disrupt defensemen. Kapanen is also an elite penalty killer meanwhile Pittsburgh never uses him while shorthanded. It's been a weird match that Jim Rutherford tried to make work and now Hextall is left to clean things up. While it's certainly not a given, it has become more likely we see the Penguins move on here.

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