NHL free agency: What we already know as free agency is about to officially kick off

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By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

NHL free agency officially kicks off at noon on Monday. At that time, you can expect and avalanche of deals to come through your news wire. But plenty has already happened in a busy NHL offseason since the draft, and some of the biggest free agents have already decided on new teams.

Others, meanwhile, have narrowed their choices down. Among those big free-agent names yet to decide is Bruins winger Marcus Johansson, who appears very likely to sign a long-term deal with a new team soon after the NHL free agency period begins.

Trades are allowed to happen, though. And one of the biggest ones to take place in recent days involves two teams in the Bruins' own Atlantic Division. Plenty of other teams have made cap space-clearing moves, which the Bruins ostensibly need to do at some point themselves.

Here's a rundown of the biggest news and rumors to come out just ahead of the start of NHL free agency, especially as they relate to the Bruins.

-- Johansson has met with several teams - none of them Boston - and is expected to find a new home early in free agency on Monday.

-- Toronto successfully cleared more cap space by trading defenseman Nikita Zaitsev and forward Connor Brown to Ottawa in exchange for defenseman Ben Harpur, minor-league center Aaron Luchuk, and the rights to RFA defenseman Cody Ceci. Moving Zaitsev and Brown off the books and bringing in Harpur clears up $5.875 million, $4.5 million of which will reportedly go to a one-year deal for Ceci. But in the big picture, the move will open up more space for the Leafs to safely sign Marner to a massive long-term deal without having to give up any other major pieces.

-- The race to sign top unrestricted free agent Artemi Panarin is down to the Blue Jackets, Panthers, and Islanders. Florida has long been rumored as Panarin's destination, but the Isles have apparently emerged as the favorite. The Panthers remain the likely destination for Bobrovsky, who was originally thought to join Panarin in Florida as a package deal.

-- Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry are both signing with the Dallas Stars. Pavelski is expected to get three years with an AAV around $7 million, while it's just one year and $1.5 million with performance-based incentives for Perry.

-- The Leafs are signing forward Kenny Agostino to a two-year, one-way contract worth close to the league minimum of $700,000.

-- Former Bruins winger Brett Connolly is signing a four-year deal with the Panthers.

More coming later on Monday as NHL free agency officially begins and the moves really start going down.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].