It's been an interesting summer for free agents, as a lot of players have decided to sign one-year deals with their sights set on cashing in next season when the cap is expected to go up as much as $4-5 million. Let's take a look at some of this year's most notable free agent signings and what we can expect from them in 2023-24.
Tyler Bertuzzi – Signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract with Maple Leafs
It was a Tale of Two Cities for Bertuzzi during the 2022-23 campaign. He started the season off in Detroit where he had 14 points in 29 games, missing 13 games early in the season with a hand injury before requiring hand/wrist surgery in early December that ultimately cost him another 16 contests. He was dealt to the Bruins at the trade deadline and proceeded to pick up four goals and 12 assists in 21 regular-season appearances with his new team. He went on to perform admirably in the playoffs for Boston, picking up five goals and five assists in just seven games. The Maple Leafs will likely deploy Bertuzzi as a top-six forward in 2023-24, skating either with Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner on the top line or with John Tavares and William Nylander on the second unit. If he's able to avoid the injury bug, Bertuzzi will have 30-plus goal and 70-plus-point upside this year.
Vladimir Tarasenko – Signed a one-year, $5 million contract with Senators
Tarasenko also split last season between two teams. He started the campaign with the Blues, finding the back of the net 10 times while adding 19 assists through 38 games. He was dealt to the Rangers on Feb. 9 and proceeded to pick up eight goals and 13 helpers in 31 regular-season contests before adding three goals and an assist during New York's seven-game, first-round playoff loss to the Devils. Now with Ottawa, Tarasenko is slated to play alongside Tim Stutzle and Brady Tkachuk on the Senators' top line in 2023-24, and he should see plenty of time with the team's top power-play unit, too. If he's able to stay healthy, Tarasenko could surpass the 30-goal and 65-point marks for the seventh time in his career this year.
Tony DeAngelo – Signed a one-year, $1.675 million contract with Hurricanes
DeAngelo has been an offensive force during his NHL career, but he's also had a tough time gelling with his teammates. He's fortunate to be returning to the Hurricanes this season after he was bought out of the final year of a two-year contract by the Flyers in July. DeAngelo had great success with the Hurricanes in 2021-22, racking up 10 goals and 51 points in only 64 games. He will likely be limited to second power-play unit usage in 2023-24 as Brent Burns is locked into a spot on the top unit, but DeAngelo should nonetheless be good for double-digit goals and 30-plus assists for a third straight season, that is if he's able to remain healthy and out of trouble.
Ryan O'Reilly – Signed a four-year, $18 million contract with Predators
O'Reilly is expected to center the top line in Nashville in 2023-24, skating between Filip Forsberg and Gustav Nyquist, at least to start the season. O'Reilly had a tough year from an offensive standpoint in 2022-23, managing only 30 points in 53 contests split between St. Louis and Toronto. It was the worst offensive performance in 12 years for the 32-year-old, but he should bounce back this campaign, as he'll presumably be seeing plenty of time with the Predators' No. 1 power-play unit. Look for O'Reilly to tally at least 20 goals and 50 points this season.
Connor Brown – Signed a one-year, $4 million contract with Oilers
Brown signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Oilers in July after playing just four games with Washington last season. He tore his ACL in October and never returned to action after undergoing surgery. Brown is expected to get playing time with Connor McDavid on the top line in 2023-24. The two played together for a pair of seasons with OHL Erie from 2012-14. Brown led Erie with 128 points in 68 games while the 16-year-old McDavid managed 28 goals and 71 helpers in 56 contests. The duo had a lot of chemistry in junior hockey and if they manage to stick on the same line this season Brown could have a career year -- his current best is the 43-point effort he submitted in 71 games with the Senators in 2019-20.
Max Pacioretty – Signed a one-year, $2 million contract with Capitals
Health permitting, Pacioretty could have a big season with the Capitals in 2023-24. That's a big if, as the 34-year-old vet is coming off a lost season with the Hurricanes in which he missed 77 games with a torn Achilles. Pacioretty potted three goals in five games with Carolina before suffering the season-ending injury. He's expected to serve as a top-six forward while seeing action on the first power-play unit for Washington, so if he can stay on the ice, Pacioretty could rack up 30-plus goals and 60-plus assists this year.
Matt Duchene – Signed a one-year, $3 million contract with Stars
Duchene had an outstanding 2021-22 campaign, finding the back of the net 43 times and adding 43 assists in 78 games with Nashville, his best season to date. But 2022-23 was not as kind to the veteran forward, as he slumped to 22 goals and 56 points in 71 games. The Predators bought out the last three seasons of Duchene's seven-year contract in June, making him an unrestricted free agent. The Stars quickly signed the center after he passed through waivers, giving him a one-year, $3 million contract. Duchene should slot in as a middle-six forward for Dallas, a role that could lead to 25 goals and upwards of 60 points for the 32-year-old in 2023-24.
Jonathan Drouin – Signed a one-year, $825,000 contract with Avalanche
Drouin has largely been a disappointment during his nine-year NHL career. He was drafted third overall by Tampa Bay in 2013 and managed a career-high 21 goals and 53 points as a 21-year-old in 2016-17 before the Lightning traded him to the Canadiens in exchange for Mikhail Sergachev. The trade worked out exceedingly well for the Lightning and not so well for Montreal as Drouin managed just 82 points over 163 games with the Canadiens over the last four years. Now with the Avalanche, Drouin could see time with Nathan MacKinnon on Colorado's top line this year -- the duo played together for QMJHL Halifax for a couple campaigns in juniors. If MacKinnon can get him going, Drouin could have his best season in years in 2023-24.
Alex DeBrincat – Signed a four-year, $31.5 million contract with Red Wings
DeBrincat had a solid season in his only year with the Senators in 2022-23, lighting the lamp 27 times while adding a career-high 39 assists through 82 games. But DeBrincat refused to negotiate with the Senators on a long-term deal, forcing Ottawa to trade him away. DeBrincat eventually inked a four-year sign-and-trade contract with Detroit, where he's expected to play alongside Dylan Larkin and either David Perron or Lucas Raymond on the top line this season. DeBrincat has managed to pot 41 goals twice in his six-year NHL career and with Larkin setting him up in 2023-24, a career high in goals is well within reach for the 25-year-old sniper.
Blake Wheeler – Signed a one-year, $800,000 contract with Rangers
The Jets bought out the final season of Wheeler's five-year contract in June, at which point he was free to sign with New York as an unrestricted free agent. The talented winger had 10 outstanding seasons with the Jets, culminating in a pair of 91-point campaigns in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Wheeler should jump into a top-six role with the Rangers, lining up with the likes of Artemi Panarin and/or Mika Zibanejad. Expect a 55-plus point effort from Wheeler in 2023-24.