It's never too early to take a look into the future and what may lay ahead this summer when it comes to free agency.
The list of players who may be available is a who's who of star players who may or may not be ready to hang it up or change home addresses. Teams around the NHL might view a handful of players as the veteran they need to solidify their case as a Stanley Cup contender.
Teams are going to be in different stages of development, so some players might not be a fit come July. Do we think Patrice Bergeron is going to play anywhere else but Boston after this season? Of course not. Could Jonathan Toews play elsewhere if he's healthy enough? Hard to think his Chicago career would end without a proper send-off. Everyone else available? Game on.
This list will be all unrestricted free agents because, while the most intriguing free-agent names are restricted, the (very unfortunate) truth is NHL GMs just don't use offer sheets, even though they absolutely should.
We'll pick out six of the most interesting players slated to be free agents and match them up with a team that could make really good use of their abilities next season. We'll use our imagination and facts to find a match and even a little bit of gut instinct as well. It's never too early for a taste of silly season.
Jason Zucker to Vegas Golden Knights
Sometimes an idea makes too much sense to be ignored.
Penguins winger Jason Zucker, while born in California, grew up in Las Vegas and became the NHL's first-ever Nevada-raised draft pick and player. Everyone loves a homecoming story, and Zucker going home to play for the Golden Knights is a perfect match.
Vegas is going to need scoring help along the wings next season, and Zucker is on 24 goals this season after not reaching 20 for four straight injury-hit seasons. The Golden Knights have been without Mark Stone for parts of each of the past two seasons and have had injury problems continually. Managing to add more depth to the lineup is an issue GM Kelly McCrimmon has to face head-on this summer.
Zucker missed 41 games last season and 18 of the 56 games in the COVID-19 shortened 2020-2021 season, but he's only missed four this season, and his improved health has been noticeable in his goal scoring.
All that said, nothing can salve old wounds like returning home, and Zucker coming back to the glitz and glam of Sin City could provide both him and the Golden Knights the kind of boosts they're each looking for.