NHL Rumor Mill – August 29, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 29, 2020

A look at this year’s noteworthy UFAs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin recently updated his listing of this year’s top NHL unrestricted free agents. St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tops the list, followed by Arizona Coyotes left wing Taylor Hall, Boston Bruins blueliner Torey Krug, Florida Panthers winger Mike Hoffman, and Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner.

TSN: Frank Seravalli also has Pietrangelo, Hall and Krug among his top-three and Lehner at No. 5 on his top-10 list, with Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom in the fourth spot.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No argument from me regarding Pietrangelo’s placement. He’ll be heavily courted if he and the Blues fail to reach agreement on a contract extension. Despite the flattened salary cap for next season, he could command over $9 million annually on the open market.

The respective playoff performances of Hall and Krug didn’t do much to improve their free-agent value, but they still remain near the top of this year’s UFA crop. Hall’s current annual average value is $6 million and Krug’s is $5.25 million. Under normal circumstances, they’d get long-term contracts with big raises. Now, they might have to accept short-term deals for more modest raises in hopes of scoring more lucrative deals once league revenue improves.

Hoffman played well for the Panthers during the qualifying round. He’s a reliable scorer but his age (31) could limit him to a three-year deal with an AAV of around $6 million.

I’d put Lehner slightly ahead of Markstrom but both are the best pending UFA netminders. Lehner will want a long-term deal after spending the past two years on one-year contracts and for more than his current $5 million. Markstrom is rumored to be seeking over $6 million annually on a long-term contract, but maybe he’ll accept that much on a three-year deal.

Larkin has Markstrom ninth on his listing, with Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie, Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli, and Calgary Flames rearguard T.J. Brodie coming in sixth through 10.

Seravalli has Hoffman and Dadonov sixth and seventh on his listing, followed by Toffoli, Panthers center Erik Haula, and Barrie completing his top-10 list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe Toffoli’s two-way skills should put him higher on those lists. Dadonov has tallied 25-play goals in each of the last three seasons and probably would’ve reached 60 points again this season had the schedule not been derailed by COVID-19, but I wonder how productive he’ll be with another club. 

Barrie’s stock really took a hit this season with the Leafs. However, he’s a right-handed shot with good puck-moving skills. As Seravalli suggests, he could regain his form away from Toronto’s harsh spotlight. I’m puzzled by Seravalli’s ranking Haula so high. While I agree this year’s market isn’t a good one for centers, Haula’s injury history could hurt his UFA value.

Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien are 13th and 14th on Larkin’s rankings. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Sami Vatanen, Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund, and Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk fill in the rest of spots 11 through 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby’s playoff performance didn’t help his UFA stock. His play has been in decline since 2018. The flat cap will also work against his chances of securing a hefty raise on a long-term deal. Granlund also didn’t help his case with his postseason play. I’d put Byfuglien at the bottom of this list because we don’t know if he intends to resume his career after sitting out this season and if the 35-year-old blueliner will be as effective as he once way.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford lands at No. 20 on Larkin’s list, preceded by Calgary Flames defenseman Erik Gustafsson, Washington Capitals blueliner Brenden Dillon, Haula, and Flames rearguard Travis Hamonic.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Larkin pointed out, Crawford played well despite the horrible blueline in front of him this season. He wonders if the long-time Blackhawks goalie will take less money to stay in Chicago. I think he will. At 35, he could sign a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary that could take him up to $5 million.

Dallas Stars netminder Anton Khudobin, Calgary Flames goalie Cam Talbot, and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz are among Larkin’s bottom 10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin’s play throughout this season and in the playoffs could send his value rising for clubs pursuing an experienced, reliable backup. Talbot could seek a starter’s job elsewhere if he doesn’t re-sign with the Flames. Schultz’s value plummeted this season, in part because he was returning from a serious leg injury suffered last season. He could prove a worthwhile, affordable gamble on a one-year, “show-me” deal.

New York Rangers winger Jesper Fast, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo, Predators forward Craig Smith, Canucks blueliner Chris Tanev, Colorado Avalanche winger Vladislav Namestnikov, Carolina Hurricanes’ defenseman Joel Edmundson, and Arizona Coyotes center Carl Soderberg complete the listing.










NHL Playoffs: Ten Players Who Were Stanley Cup Disappointments

NHL Playoffs: Ten Players Who Were Stanley Cup Disappointments

 










NHL Playoffs: Winners And Losers – So Far – Among NHL Free Agents

NHL Playoffs: Winners And Losers – So Far – Among NHL Free Agents

 










NHL Free-Agent Flat Cap Fallout – Atlantic Division

NHL Free-Agent Flat Cap Fallout – Atlantic Division

 










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 19, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 19, 2020

A look at the five UFAs with the most to prove in the NHL’s return to play and an update on Loui Eriksson in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.

THE SCORE: Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall and Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby top Matt Teague’s recent list of five unrestricted free agents with the most to prove during the upcoming NHL playoff tournament.

Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall (Photo via NHL Images).

Hall’s struggled with injuries and played with two inconsistent teams since his 93-point Hart Trophy performance in 2017-18. He turns 29 in November and the playoff tournament could represent his best chance to secure a big payday. His performance will go a long way to raise his value under a flat salary cap for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall’s value on the open market was tagged at over $9 million annually before COVID-19 interrupted the NHL schedule. A weak effort in a quick exit from the playoff tournament will send his value tumbling.

Holtby put up mediocre regular-season stats since 2017-18 but solid performances in the last two postseasons. Turning 31 in September, he has little room for error to prove he’s still a reliable NHL starter. If he’s outplayed by teammate Ilya Samsonov in the playoff tournament, it will hurt his chances for a big raise over his current $6.1 million annual average value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby has acknowledged this is probably his final season with the Capitals. He will garner interest on the open market but could find landing a lucrative new deal hard to come by if he has a shaky postseason.

Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie, and Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner round out Teague’s list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund struggled for a while following his trade last season to the Predators, but his performance improved when John Hynes took over as head coach midway through 2019-20. If that trend continues, Granlund could prove himself worthy of at least a short-term deal at the same AAV ($5.75 million) with the Preds or another club.

After several productive years with the Colorado Avalanche, Barrie had a difficult 2019-20 campaign with the Leafs and isn’t expected to be re-signed. A solid effort in the upcoming playoffs could get him a one-year deal with another club for an AAV similar to his current $5.5 million.

Lehner was looking for a big payday last year after winning the Masterton Trophy and finishing as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. Instead, he had to settle for a one-year, $5-million deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. He played well for the struggling Hawks, who shipped him to Vegas at the trade deadline. His performance with the Golden Knights sparked speculation they could attempt to re-sign him. If he outplays Marc-Andre Fleury in the tournament, maybe the Golden Knights try shopping Fleury to free up cap space for Lehner.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – July 2, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 2, 2020

A look at TSN’s listing of this year’s top unrestricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TSN: St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall, and Boston Bruins blueliner Torey Krug top Frank Seravalli’s listing of this year’s top-50 unrestricted free agents.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise there. Media consensus has those three in exactly those three positions among the top-50.

Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom (fourth) and Vegas’ Robin Lehner (sixth) ranked above Washington’s Braden Holtby (12th) among this year’s top UFA goalies.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby has a Vezina Trophy (2016) and a Stanley Cup (2018) on his resume, but his inconsistent play over the past two seasons sent his stock tumbling. A strong performance in the upcoming playoff tournament, however,  could send him rising on this list.

Former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien ranked fifth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If this was two years ago, I’d have no issue with Byfuglien ranking this high. But the 35-year-old blueliner missed all of this season over a dispute with the Jets regarding the severity of an ankle injury, which ultimately required surgery. We don’t know if he’s keen to return to the NHL following the mutual agreement to terminate his contract in April. Until we get an indication from the Byfuglien camp that he wants to resume his playing career, he should be at the bottom of this list.

Florida Panthers wingers Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov, Vancouver Canucks’ versatile forward Tyler Toffoli, and Toronto Maple Leafs rearguard Tyson Barrie round out the top ten.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’d rank Toffoli over Hoffman and Dadonov because of his two-way skills, Stanley Cup experience, plus he’s younger than those two. I’d put Holtby over Barrie, who had a rough season with the Leafs and should be ranked much lower than 10th.

Among the surprises was Florida Panthers oft-injured center Erik Haula ranked 11th, aging Washington Capitals winger Ilya Kovalchuk at 23rd, and Leafs blueliner Cody Ceci at 24th.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Haula shouldn’t be ranked that high. He hasn’t fully recovered from knee surgery in 2018. Kovalchuk enjoyed a bounce-back performance during a two-month tenure with the Montreal Canadiens, but there’s no certainty the 36-year-old can sustain that effort over a full season. Ceci’s stock was in decline before he was dealt to the Leafs last summer and tumbled further this season.

Defensemen dominate this list. Along with Pietrangelo, Krug, Barrie, and Ceci, the list includes Calgary’s T.J. Brodie (13th) and Travis Hamonic (20th), Carolina’s Sami Vatanen (14th), Tampa Bay’s Kevin Shattenkirk (15th), Vancouver’s Chris Tanev (17th), Philadelphia’s Justin Braun (19th), and Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz (29th).

Seravalli believes many UFAs could be on edge as this will be a free-agent period like no other thanks to the interruption of the season by COVID-19 and the effect upon league revenue and the salary cap. Players on non-playoff clubs, like Buffalo’s Wayne Simmonds and Ottawa’s Mark Borowiecki, could be sidelined for seven months, potentially affecting their future earnings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This year’s UFA class could have difficulty finding lucrative long-term contracts if the salary cap is frozen at $81.5 million for next season. Thirteen teams have payrolls already exceeding $70 million for next season, with a handful of others sitting with payrolls over $65 million.

Some of those notable free agents could end up accepting short-term deals, perhaps for less than market value, in hope of landing more lucrative offers when (if?) revenue rebounds over the next couple of years.