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Canucks, Leafs among teams with interest as FA Bear nears return

Ethan Bear Vancouver Canucks Ethan Bear - Getty Images

A strong market appears to be forming for free-agent defenceman Ethan Bear as he nears a return from off-season shoulder surgery.

TSN Hockey Insider Chris Johnston reports that the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs are believed to be among the interested parties. 

"He's getting very close. The fact that he is only going to cost you the cap space that it takes to bring him in I think has helped drive some interest here on the 26-year-old defenceman, to the point that he's going to allow teams on Monday of next week to come to Kelowna if anyone wants to get a look at him on the ice - see him go through his paces - after having off-season shoulder surgery," Johnston said Thursday on Insider Trading. "Remember that he was injured playing for Team Canada at the World Hockey Championship last year. He's had a long recovery from that shoulder surgery, but he's getting close.

"The Vancouver Canucks have interest in bringing him back. I think the Leafs have shown interest there. That team to watch could be the Washington Capitals. They seem to be keenly interested. New Jersey and Pittsburgh as well. There's certainly no shortage of interest in Bear, who can be signed just for the money it costs to pay him."

The Canucks elected not to issue Bear a qualifying offer in June after he was given a six-month timeline for the injury sustained at the 2023 IIHF World Championship. He played in eight games at the tournament, earning a gold medal with Canada.

Bear had three goals and 16 points in 61 games last season, his first with the Canucks.

In 251 career NHL games, he has 16 goals and 63 points split between the Edmonton Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes and Canucks.