NHL Rumor Mill – June 24, 2020
A look at this year’s top UFA defensemen plus the latest Canadiens speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TOP DEFENSEMEN IN THIS YEAR’S NHL UFA MARKET
THE SCORE: St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo, Boston’s Torey Krug, and former Winnipeg Jet Dustin Byfuglien top Josh Wegman’s listing of this year’s top NHL defensemen. Calgary’s TJ Brodie and Toronto’s Tyson Barrie round out the top five.
Vancouver’s Chris Tanev, Calgary’s Travis Hamonic, Tampa Bay’s Kevin Shattenkirk, Carolina’s Sami Vatanen, and Winnipeg’s Dylan DeMelo complete the top 10.
Other notables include Pittsburgh Justin Schultz, Washington’s Radko Gudas, and Edmonton’s Mike Green.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No question Pietrangelo and Krug top the bill among this year’s class of UFA blueliners. Both will be among this summer’s most-prized free agents.
The Blues’ limited salary-cap space could see Pietrangelo depart if they cannot free up sufficient room to re-sign him. The Bruins could have an easier time keeping Krug in the fold, but they might also have to shed some salary to do it.
I wouldn’t place Byfuglien that high on the list. While his talent is undeniable, there’s no indication he intends to continue his playing career after his contract was mutually terminated following a season-long absence over a dispute regarding the seriousness of his ankle injury. His recent injury history and age (35) could also make clubs leery of pursuing him if the salary cap remains flat next season.
Had Schultz been healthier, I think he would’ve ranked higher on the list. That could work to the advantage of interested clubs. He might have to accept a one-year “show-me” deal for perhaps less than the $5.5 million annual average value on his current deal. It’ll be interesting to see how some of the others on this list fare on the open market under a flat cap.
SHOULD THE CANADIENS PURSUE JOSH ANDERSON?
SPORTSNET: In his latest mailbag segment, Eric Engels was asked if the Montreal Canadiens should target Josh Anderson if the Columbus Blue Jackets’ winger becomes available in the trade market. While Engels admires Anderson’s size and speed, he’s concerned about giving up assets for a winger coming off a serious shoulder injury who’s a year away from UFA status.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree. Anderson would provide some valuable size and physicality up front for the Habs, but those factors Engels noted raise red flags. Better to shop around for healthier options in the trade market.