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free agency

Tavares' future biggest question heading into free agency

Karlsson could be traded by Senators ahead of July 1 market opening

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

With the completion of the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas on Saturday, the focus turns to the beginning of the interview period for potential unrestricted free agents on Sunday.

During the interview period, teams can discuss general parameters of a possible contract with potential UFAs to lay the groundwork for when the free agent market opens at 12 p.m. ET on July 1.

Here are the biggest questions to be answered in free agency this year:

Will John Tavares re-sign with the New York Islanders?

Tavares reportedly will meet with five teams, in addition to the Islanders, during the interview period to determine if he wants to return as New York's captain or play elsewhere. TSN reported Monday that the Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs will meet with the 27-year-old center and his agent, Pat Brisson, this week in Los Angeles.

Tavares will speak via telephone to an additional two or three teams, who could then earn an in-person meeting, TSN said.

Re-signing Tavares remains the top priority for Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello, who has the advantage of being able to give him an eight-year contract. The maximum contract term for other teams trying to sign Tavares is seven years.

Video: Discussing John Tavares' meetings during free agency

Tavares, who had 84 points (37 goals, 47 assists) this season, has stated repeatedly his desire to return to New York, but is weighing all his options.

Will Erik Karlsson be traded?

Some thought the Ottawa Senators might trade Karlsson, 28, before the draft so they could get back a high pick or two as part of the package. The next key date for Karlsson is July 1, the first date the Senators can sign the defenseman to a contract extension, which would prevent him from becoming a UFA after next season.

Video: OTT@TBL: Karlsson banks the puck home off a defender

Senators GM Pierre Dorion has promised to offer Karlsson an extension if he's still with the team on July 1. If Karlsson doesn't accept it, that might push Ottawa to trade him this summer.

How active will the Sharks be?

It appears the Sharks want to be big players after clearing salary cap space in the past week by buying out defenseman Paul Martin and trading forward Mikkel Boedker to the Senators in the deal for Mike Hoffman, who was subsequently traded to the Florida Panthers. The Sharks will meet with Tavares and reportedly had met with Ilya Kovalchuk before he decided to sign with the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Where will James van Riemsdyk sign?

The 29-year-old left wing scored an NHL career-high 36 goals this season with the Toronto Maple Leafs and, if Tavares re-signs with the Islanders before July 1, he'll be the top UFA forward available. Lamoriello, who was the Maple Leafs GM last season, knows van Riemsdyk well and would like to upgrade New York's scoring depth from the wing, but he'll have plenty of competition from other teams.

Will the Montreal Canadiens add a center?

Max Domi might get a look at center after being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes on June 15, but Montreal needs more help in the middle than that, even after selecting center Jesper Koltkaniemi with the third pick in the draft.

Paul Stastny is probably their best UFA option, if he doesn't re-sign with the Winnipeg Jets. The 32-year-old had 53 points (16 goals, 37 assists) this season with the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg, which acquired him from the Blues on Feb. 26.

Montreal is also among the teams interested in trading for Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly, according to The Athletic.

What's Max Pacioretty's future in Montreal?

The Canadiens reportedly had talks with the Kings and the Sharks about a trade for Pacioretty prior to or during the draft, but no deal was completed. The 29-year-old left wing then switched agents on Saturday, jumping from Brisson to Allan Walsh and leading to speculation that working out a contract extension with the Canadiens remains a possibility.
Pacioretty, who had four straight 30-goal seasons before dipping to 17 this season, can become a UFA on July 1, 2019.

Video: CAR@MTL: Pacioretty redirects Petry's shot for PPG

Will the Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes find No. 1 goalies?

Each team was interested in Philipp Grubauer before the Capitals traded him to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. The best goaltender option among the potential UFAs is Blues backup Carter Hutton, who led the NHL with a 2.09 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage this season, though he played just 32 games (26 starts). Islanders coach Barry Trotz and goalie guru Mitch Korn, who might follow Trotz from Washington to New York, know Hutton well from their time together with the Nashville Predators.

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