PWHL free agency primer: Which players have signed, and who might hit the open market? (2024)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect recent signings and news announced by the PWHL.

PWHL free agency is right around the corner.

Since June 1, each general manager has been able to re-sign their players on expiring deals. On Friday, free agency will officially open.

As of Wednesday morning only New York (Corinne Schroeder), Ottawa (Natalie Snodgrass, Zoe Boyd, Aneta Tejralová), and Montreal (Amanda Boulier, Mariah Keopple, Elaine Chuli) have announced contract extensions. Some signings could be made official in the coming days, but there are still dozens of players expected to hit the open market.

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Impact players from last season such as Daryl Watts (Ottawa), Hannah Miller (Toronto) and Michela Cava (Minnesota) could be free agents if they don’t come to terms on an extension by Friday. Depth players like Lexie Adzija, Kaleigh Fratkin, Mikyla Grant-Mentis and Emma Woods could also be available, among many others.

Players not selected in the PWHL Draft will also be available as free agents including forward Laura Kluge; defenders Rylind MacKinnon, Alexie Guay and Chayla Edwards; and goalie Klára Peslarová.

GO DEEPER2024 PWHL Draft: Best picks and biggest surprises from Sarah Fillier to Amanda Kessel

Most teams currently have 11 or 12 players signed for the 2024-25 season — Montreal has 13 — which leaves between 10 to 12 roster spots available for 2024 draft picks, potential extensions and free agents. According to the CBA, each team must invite 28 players to training camp, which will be cut down to a 23-player active roster. Last season, each team also had three reserve player spots.

Not all general managers will take the same approach. Some might opt for more camp invitations rather than outright contracts once free agency begins — depending on who is ultimately available — to ensure legitimate competition for spots come training camp ahead of the 2024-25 season.

Before the official signing window opens, it’s time for a team-by-team look at who is signed, who could stay, and who could hit the open market.

Note: Mélodie Daoust (Montreal), Brittany Howard (Toronto), Jess Healey (Boston), Sophia Kunin (Minnesota), and Brittyn Fleming (Minnesota) have announced their retirement and are not included. Becca Gilmore (Ottawa) is also reportedly retiring.

PWHL Toronto

Signed players (12)

Forwards: Natalie Spooner, Sarah Nurse, Blayre Turnbull, Emma Maltais, Jesse Compher, Maggie Connors, Victoria Bach
Defense: Renata Fast, Jocelyne Larocque, Kali Flanagan, Allie Munroe*
Goalie: Kristen Campbell

Pending free agents

Forwards: Hannah Miller, Rebecca Leslie, Sam Cogan, Jess Jones, Alexa Vasko, Kaitlin Willoughby
Defense: Olivia Knowles, Maude Poulin-Labelle, Lauriane Rougeau, Jessica Kondas, Emma Keenan
Goalies: Carly Jackson

*Note: PWHL Toronto announced Munroe signed a two-year contract extension on Thursday afternoon. Goalie Erica Howe has announced her retirement.

Offseason priorities

Most of Toronto’s forward core is locked in for at least another season — Spooner, Compher, Bach and Connors have one year remaining on their deals. Draft picks like Julia Gosling and Izzy Daniel should get contracts and top-nine roles, meaning there might not be a ton of spots open at the top of Toronto’s lineup, though Spooner’s injury certainly leaves a big opening on the first line.

More than anybody, Miller should be a priority for GM Gina Kingsbury to bring back. She was fourth in team scoring (14) and third in goals (7) and hit her stride in the second half of the season, scoring four goals and nine points in her final 11 games.

The blue line — in terms of contracts — will require a bit more work with only three players signed for 2024-25. Allie Munroe should be another priority free agent after she mostly played on the second pair with Flanagan last season. With Megan Carter — who could take on an immediate top-four role — and Lauren Bernard incoming from the draft, Toronto’s blue line depth already looks stronger than last year.

Seventh-round pick Raygan Kirk — who works out with Campbell back home in Manitoba in the offseason — could very well be the backup goalie next season. The team could bring back Howe or Jackson to round out the goalie depth chart.

Toronto will likely be looking for depth additions via free agency to continue to beef up the blue line to give the Larocque-Fast pair some help and its secondary scoring, given the team’s struggles to score without Spooner in the playoffs.

PWHL Montreal

Signed players (13)
Forwards: Marie-Philip Poulin, Laura Stacey, Kristin O’Neill, Maureen Murphy, Kennedy Marchment, Lina Ljungblom
Defense: Erin Ambrose, Dominika Lásková, Kati Tabin, Mariah Keopple, Amanda Boulier
Goalies: Ann-Renée Desbiens, Elaine Chuli

Pending free agents
Forwards: Gabrielle David, Jillian Dempsey, Claire Dalton, Ann-Sophie Bettez, Sarah Bujold, Sarah Lefort, Leah Lum, Mikyla Grant-Mentis, Catherine Dubois, Alexandra Poznikoff, Liliane Perreault, Brooke Stacey, Liliane Perreault
Defense: Catherine Daoust, Madison Bizal, Brigitte Laganière
Goalie: Marlène Boissonnault

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Offseason priorities

GM Danièle Sauvageau said on a media call this week that some forwards could re-sign before June 21, but Boulier, Keopple and Chuli were the team’s priority. Claire Dalton and Gabrielle David were top 10 in team scoring last season and showed the ability to scale up and down the lineup. They could be worth extending for middle-six roles.

Signing Ljungblom — the MVP of the SDHL last season — before the draft was a big win for Montreal. The 22-year-old scored 23 goals and 46 points for MoDo last season and should add another consistent scoring option to Montreal’s forward group outside of Poulin and Stacey.

Montreal’s forward draft class was interesting with Jennifer Gardiner, Abby Boreen, Dara Greig and (surprisingly) Amanda Kessel. Gardiner and Greig could either be secondary scoring options or a complementary winger for Poulin on the top line. Sauvageau said Boreen and Kessel are expected at training camp, but I still have questions. Boreen has one more year left of pharmacy school at the University of Minnesota. Can she do that online? Kessel took last year off to work as a special assistant to Pittsburgh Penguins GM Kyle Dubas. Can she work for the Penguins and play in Montreal? Will she want to?

The expectation is that players will play where they are drafted, so maybe I’m just overthinking things. Still, depending on what happens with both Kessel and Boreen, Montreal could either have one of the deepest forwards groups in the league or be looking for more scoring options in free agency.

Montreal has five defenders signed and a first-round pick in Cayla Barnes coming in for a top role and Anna Wilgren and Anna Kjellbin who could fight for top-six roles with the crew that’s already locked in for next season.

PWHL Boston

Signed players (15)
Forwards: Hilary Knight, Alina Müller, Jamie Lee Rattray, Loren Gabel, Theresa Schafzahl, Susanna Tapani, Taylor Girard, Sophie Shirley, Hannah Brandt
Defense: Megan Keller, Jessica DiGirolamo, Emily Brown, Sidney Morin
Goalies: Aerin Frankel, Emma Söderberg

Pending free agents
Forwards: Lexie Adzija, Gigi Marvin, Amanda Pelkey, Taylor Wenczkowski, Kelly Babstock, Nicole Kosta, Caitrin Lonergan
Defense: Kaleigh Fratkin, Abby Cook
Goalie: Cami Kronish

*Note: PWHL Boston announced that Brandt, Shirley and Brown signed two-year contract extensions. Morin signed a one-year deal.

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Offseason priorities

After the draft, GM Danielle Marmer said the team felt good about the depth of talent already in Boston and thought the team only needed a few more quality pieces to round out the roster. It’s fair to expect, then, that Marmer will opt to focus on extending key pieces and locking in the draft picks, rather than shopping the free agent market in a major way.

Brandt and Shirley seem like easy bets to return to the middle-six next season, while fourth-overall pick Hannah Bilka should add some dynamic skill to the top of the lineup. Pelkey, Wenczkowski and Marvin combined for an excellent fourth line, particularly in the playoffs, but given the requirement to have 28 players at training camp — and draftees like Shay Maloney and Ilona Markova coming in — Marmer can’t just sign her entire roster in June. Not to mention, players like Pelkey or Marvin could draw attention from other teams, given their success as role players last year.

Daniela Pejšová and Sydney Bard add two-way puck-moving ability to the blue line via the draft — Hadley Hartmetz will too when she is healthy. In terms of the free agents, Brown ended up as a nice D-partner for Keller and Morin was steady, Fratkin was great on the second pair with DiGirolamo, but again, Marmer can’t just re-sign everybody. So she might have to choose between the three.

Even with the draftees and some top free agents, Boston might do well to dip into the free agency pool for some more depth. As happy as Marmer is with the core, the team only scored 50 goals last season — which ranked last — and the offense dried up when it mattered most in the final few games of the finals.

PWHL free agency primer: Which players have signed, and who might hit the open market? (2)

2024 PWHL Draft pick Hannah Bilka should add dynamic skill to the top of Boston’s lineup. (Troy Parla / Getty Images)

PWHL Minnesota

Signed players (11)

Forwards: Taylor Heise, Grace Zumwinkle, Kendall Coyne Schofield, Kelly Pannek, Denisa Křížová.
Defense: Lee Stecklein, Sophie Jaques, Maggie Flaherty, Natalie Buchbinder
Goalies: Nicole Hensley, Maddie Rooney

Pending free agents
Forwards: Michela Cava, Liz Schepers, Sydney Brodt, Brooke Bryant, Claire Butorac, Claire DeGeorge
Defense: Mellissa Channell, Emma Greco, Dominique Kremer, Nikki Nightengale
Goalies: Amanda Leveille, Lauren Bench

Offseason priorities

The bulk of Minnesota’s work in the offseason will be at the forward position with only five very good players currently under contract for next season. If we assume most of the forward draftees — from Britta Curl, Klára Hymlárová, Brooke McQuigge, Dominique Petrie and Katy Knoll — are signed, there’s a bit less work to do. Not to mention there are some pending free agents worth extending.

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Cava, who tied Heise in playoff points, should be a priority to bring back for next season, as well as Schepers, who scored five points in the playoffs and the championship-winning goal. Minnesota had a lot of solid depth players in the postseason — Butorac had a critical game-winner against Toronto — and considering they won a championship with that core, I wonder how many players will return. We should also consider that only five players (Zumwinkle, Coyne Schofield, Pannek, Heise and Jaques) scored at least 10 points in 24 games this season. So there are some upgrades that could be made through free agency.

The defense core looks solid, especially with Stecklein, Jaques and third-overall pick Claire Thompson in the top four. Mae Batherson (Round 6) gives Minnesota another solid puck mover, and along with Flaherty and Buchbinder, six solid defenders. Mellissa Channell was excellent in the playoffs and could be worth extending to round out the top seven spots.

PWHL Ottawa

Signed players (12)
Forwards: Brianne Jenner, Emily Clark, Hayley Scamurra, Gabbie Hughes, Tereza Vanišová, Natalie Snodgrass
Defense: Savannah Harmon, Aneta Tejralová, Ashton Bell, Zoe Boyd, Jince Roese
Goalie: Emerance Maschmeyer

Pending free agents
Forwards: Daryl Watts, Kateřina Mrázová, Akane Shiga, Fanni Garát-Gasparics, Shiann Darkangelo, Kristin Della Rovere, Rosalie Demers, Sammy Davis, Sam Isbell, Malia Schneider, Audrey-Anne Veillette
Defense: Emma Buckles, Lauren MacInnis
Goalies: Sandra Abstreiter, Rachel McQuigge

Offseason priorities

Ottawa’s biggest priorities are pretty simple: signing Watts and Mrázová. Watts led Ottawa with 10 goals last season, while Mrázová was second in points behind Jenner. The trio was one of the best lines in the PWHL for a solid stretch of the season leading into the April world championship break. Ottawa’s depth at all three positions looks pretty strong with Danielle Serdachny, Ronja Savolainen and Gwyenth Philips adding top-end talent to the forward, defense and goalie depth chart via the draft.

If a Watts-Mrázová-Jenner line returns, plus the Hughes-Scamurra-Clark trio — which was a good checking, two-way line — Serdachny could drive a more offensive-minded middle-six line but could require one more skilled winger beside her. Maybe it’s sixth-round round pick Anna Meixner, or a free agent to give Ottawa a dangerous and well-rounded top nine.

Ottawa has five defenders signed with Savolainen likely taking on a top-four role, which would leave maybe a few training camp spots for free agents to fight for a job with the other defense draft picks in Stephanie Markowski (Round 4) and Madeline Wethington (Round 7).

GM Mike Hirshfeld said the team offered Abstreiter a contract, but nothing has been announced at this time, so Ottawa could also need a third goalie behind Maschmeyer and Philips.

PWHL New York

Signed players (12)
Forwards: Alex Carpenter, Abby Roque, Jessie Eldridge, Jade Downie-Landry, Élizabeth Giguère, Jill Saulnier, Chloe Aurard
Defense: Ella Shelton, Jaime Bourbonnais, Micah Zandee-Hart, Brooke Hobson
Goalie: Corinne Schroeder

Pending free agents
Forwards: Emma Woods, Paetyn Levis, Alexandra Labelle, Savannah Norcross, Kayla Vespa, Madison Packer, Alexa Gruschow
Defense: Johanna Fällman, Taylor Baker, Olivia Zafuto, Carley Olivier
Goalies: Abbey Levy, Lindsey Post

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Offseason priorities

New York had such an excellent draft that we can expect many of the picks to fill out the roster for next season, with first-overall pick Sarah Fillier at the top of that list. Fillier and Tulus will give New York more consistent offense at the top of the lineup, while Elle Hartje could be a sleeper pick — she scored 143 points in 101 games in her final three years of college hockey. Gabby Rosenthal will likely be an excellent bottom-six center in the PWHL, giving New York a lot of depth up the middle with five realistic center options: Carpenter, Fillier, Roque, Downie-Landy and Rosenthal.

The team has four defenders signed for next season. New York struggled a lot defensively last season, but the group did not play to the sum of its parts and should be better in 2024-25 under new coach Greg Fargo. Maja Nylén Persson and Allyson Simpson should beef up the blue line with more offense (Nylén Persson) and two-way ability (Simpson). GM Pascal Daoust should look for at least one more shutdown-type defender in free agency to balance the offense-heavy blue line out.

Schroeder was the biggest priority to bring back, and Daoust got that done last week signing the goalie of the year finalist to a two-year deal. If Abbey Levy, last year’s backup, extends she will be in a roster battle for the No. 2 role with fifth-round pick Kayle Osborne.

Daoust said during a media availability on Tuesday that he doesn’t anticipate many signings between now and training camp. So we should expect more camp invites than free-agent contracts being handed out from New York.

(Top photo: Mark Blinch / Getty Images)

PWHL free agency primer: Which players have signed, and who might hit the open market? (2024)

FAQs

Which player was signed first for PwHL? ›

Founding and inaugural season

Emily Clark, Brianne Jenner, and Emerance Maschmeyer became the league's first players when they signed with Ottawa.

How was free agency created? ›

And in December 1975, the players finally won the right to free agency, when arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled that the reserve clause granted a team only one additional year of service from a player, putting an end to perpetual renewal right the clubs had claimed for so long.

How much do PWHL players get paid? ›

What's changed with the PWHL is a salary structure ranging from $35,000 to $80,000 (not including bonuses), coupled with a collective bargaining agreement that features monthly $1,500 housing stipends and compensation for relocation costs.

Who went first overall in PWHL? ›

Sarah Fillier was selected first overall by PWHL New York with the pick announced by Advisory Board member Billie Jean King. The forward from Georgetown, ON, who celebrated her 24th birthday on Sunday, is a three-time Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award finalist from Princeton University.

What player started free agency in baseball? ›

St. Louis Cardinals player Curt Flood, an African-American, likened the MLB prohibition on free agency to slavery. This week, the Retro Report team looks back at the legacy of St. Louis Cardinals player Curt Flood.

Who was the first baseball player to get free agency? ›

After further persuasion from Miller, Seitz spelled out a remedy in his ruling: Hunter would become the first free agent in baseball's modern era. Hunter admitted he was partially stunned when he learned of Seitz's ruling.

Can a free agent be signed at any time? ›

Free agents can be signed by a club at any time during the season, if they had been released by their previous club before the end of the transfer window. A club can request to sign a player on emergency basis, e.g. if several goalkeepers are injured at the same time.

Who is the founder of the PWHL? ›

Mark Walter Group and BJK Enterprises then purchased the Premier Hockey Federation and wound down its operations before announcing the launch of the new Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL).

How much do you get paid in the Ottawa PWHL? ›

How much are the players being paid? Under the collective bargaining agreement between the PWHL and the PWHL Players' Association, players' salaries are to range between $35,000 and $80,000, excluding bonuses. These are to rise by 3% annually throughout the duration of the eight-year agreement.

How many children does Brianne Jenner have? ›

It's a Tuesday morning in Boston and PWHL Ottawa forward and team captain Brianne Jenner is spending a rare down day with her three kids June, Lowell and Fritz, and wife Hayley.

Is the PWHL full contact? ›

The PWHL allows hitting along the boards but still forbids open-ice hitting. In contrast, men's hockey at the OUA level allows full body contact similar to the NHL and other professional leagues around the world.

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