NHL Free-Agent Flat Cap Fallout – Atlantic Division
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.
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.
Recent speculation on the Leafs, Senators, and Sharks in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LEAFS MOST LIKELY TO BE ON THE MOVE THIS OFF-SEASON
THE ATHLETIC: Jonas Siegel and James Mirtle consider Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci as the most likely not to return with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both defensemen are unrestricted free agents who underwhelmed during their one-season tenures with the Leafs. They also considered forwards Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and Alex Kerfoot among the Leafs’ likely trade chips as the club seeks to shed salary and bolster their blueline depth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most of Leafs Nation will agree Barrie and Ceci won’t be back. It just didn’t work out for either guy.
Kapanen, Johnsson, and Kerfoot frequently surfaced as trade candidates through this season. General manager Kyle Dubas didn’t have to move them during this campaign but could have no choice during the off-season.
The Leafs have over $76 million invested in 16 players. They desperately need to bolster their defense. Dubas surprised most observers with his slick moves last summer to free up sufficient cap room to re-sign Mitch Marner. Unless he’s got another trick or two up his sleeve, Kapanen, Johnsson, or Kerfoot could be shopped for a top-four defenseman.
COULD THE SENATORS WEAPONIZE THEIR CAP SPACE?
OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren believes a flat or reduced salary cap for next season could work in favor of the rebuilding Senators as cap-strapped clubs attempt to shed salary in the off-season. The Sens only have around $41.9 million invested in next season’s cap payroll. They don’t need any more draft picks, but Warren believes they should listen if some promising prospects are packaged into the deal.
NBC SPORTS: Scott Charles believes the Senators should look for short-term players that other clubs no longer have the patience for, such as the New York Islanders’ Joshua Ho-Sang. Charles points out Anthony Duclair turned into a successful reclamation project for the Sens.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators also have 13 picks in the 2020 NHL Draft, including three in the first round, four in the second, and two in the third. They also hold three second-rounders in next year’s draft.
Their first-rounders are off the table, but GM Pierre Dorion could offer up a couple of those other picks to take on a toxic short-term contract that’s packaged with prospects or young NHL-ready players, or perhaps a player who could accelerate the rebuild. He can even afford to acquire someone like Ho-Sang on an affordable contract that can be easily buried in the minors if that player doesn’t work out.
WILL THE SHARKS MAKE A BIG MOVE THIS OFF-SEASON?
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: During a recent interview long-time San Jose Sharks broadcaster Dan Rusanowsky told Brodie Brazil he believes the club needs to make a big change or two, partly for salary-cap reasons.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s easy to see why Rusanowsky feels this way. Despite spending to the cap ceiling to ice a star-studded roster, the Sharks were among this season’s worst clubs.
Making a big cost-cutting change, however, won’t be easy. The Sharks have over $66.6 million tied up in 13 players for 2020-21. Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Brent Burns, and Martin Jones all have three-team trade lists, while Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic have full no-movement clauses.
Timo Meier ($6 million annually through 2022-23) lacks no-trade protection, but GM Doug Wilson could be reluctant to peddle the 23-year-old winger. Winger Tomas Hertl ($5.625 million AAV through 2021-22) also lacks no-trade protection for this season, but his long injury history could scare off potential suitors.
Remembering Henri Richard, the Jets move into a wild-card berth and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Henri Richard, who won a record-setting 11 Stanley Cups as a player during his 20-year career with the Montreal Canadiens, died yesterday at age 84 of Alzheimer’s disease. The younger brother of Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Henri carved out his Hall-of-Fame career as a skilled two-way center. A 10-time All-Star, Richard captained the Canadiens from 1971-72 to 1974-75, won the Masterton Trophy in 1974, and was voted one of the NHL’s 100 greatest players in 2017. He also played a franchise-record 1,258 games with the Canadiens and finished third all-time among Habs scorers with 1,046 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m old enough to recall seeing Richard play with the Canadiens whenever they appeared on Hockey Night in Canada in the early-70s. With his grey hair, the Pocket Rocket looked so old to my very young eyes back then, but he impressed me with his skating and puck-moving skills. Richard was the quintessential two-way center and one of the Canadiens’ all-time greats. Had the Selke Trophy existed during his playing career, he would’ve won it multiple times. My sincere condolences to his family, friends, and former teammates.
Connor Hellebuyck turned in a 29-save shutout as the Winnipeg Jets (76 points) blanked the Vegas Golden Knights 4-0 to move into the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers each had a goal and an assist. The Golden Knights (82 points) remain two ahead of the Edmonton Oilers for first place in the Pacific Division.
Matthew Tkachuk collected three assists in the Calgary Flames 3-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. With the win, the Flames (79 points) to within one point of the second-place Oilers in the Pacific. Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist for the Coyotes, who slip two points behind the Jets.
Zack McEwen tallied twice while J.T. Miller and Antoine Roussel each had a goal and an assist as the Vancouver Canucks trounced the Colorado Avalanche 6-3, snapping a four-game losing skid. With 76 points, the Canucks hold the first wild-card berth with two games in hand over the Jets.
Make it three straight losses for the Toronto Maple Leafs in California as they fell 2-1 to the Anaheim Ducks. John Gibson made 26 saves for the Ducks before leaving midway through the third with an undisclosed injury. Leafs defenseman Cody Ceci returned to the lineup after being sidelined for a month. With 79 points, the Leafs still hold a playoff spot, sitting third in the Atlantic Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If it wasn’t for the inept Florida Panthers, the Leafs would be in real danger of falling out of a playoff spot. Maybe the knowledge that the stumbling Panthers probably can’t catch them explains the Leafs’ lifeless effort in California.
The New Jersey Devils upset the St. Louis Blues 4-2, snapping the latter’s eight-game winning streak. Devils goaltender Cory Schneider kicked out 31 shots. The Blues (90 points) hold a two-point lead over the Avalanche for first place in the Western Conference standings.
Detroit Red Wings goalie Jonathan Bernier turned aside 32 shots in a 2-1 upset of the Chicago Blackhawks. Tyler Bertuzzi and Robby Fabbri scored for the Wings, while Patrick Kane replied for the Blackhawks (70 points), who failed to gain ground in the playoff race, sitting six points out of a wild-card spot in the West.
IN OTHER NEWS…
NBC SPORTS: Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov won’t face supplemental discipline for elbowing Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo on Thursday night.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers re-signed forward Josh Archibald to a two-year extension worth $1.5 million annually.
THE SCORE: The NHL is urging its players to limit contact with fans due to the coronavirus.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Good idea. Too bad the league doesn’t make a similar plea every year during flu season.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues signed a five-year affiliating agreement that starts next season with the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds.
Marc-Andre Fleury and Andrei Vasilevskiy reach goaltending milestones, plus updates on Shea Weber, Mark Giordano, Elias Pettersson, Brent Seabrook and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
NHL.COM: Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 23 saves in a 7-2 drubbing of the Florida Panthers. Fleury picked up his 460th career victory to move past Henrik Lundqvist into fifth place on the all-time wins list. Mark Stone led the way offensively with two goals and three assists for the Golden Knights (63 points), who moved within two points of the first-place Vancouver Canucks in the Pacific Division. Max Pacioretty also tallied twice for Vegas.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves backstopping his club over the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2. Vasilevskiy set a club record with a 17-game points streak. Victor Hedman collected three assists for the surging Lightning (73 points), who sit five behind the first-overall Boston Bruins. Bolts blueliner Ryan McDonagh left the game after being struck on the right leg by a shot from Penguins center Evgeni Malkin.
Jeff Petry scored in overtime to give the Montreal Canadiens a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Carey Price made 35 saves for the Habs (59 points), who’ve won six of their last eight games and sit five points behind the Panthers and six out of a wild-card spot. Montreal defenseman Shea Weber missed the game with a lower-body injury. He’s on injured reserve and expected to miss a week.
The Detroit Red Wings edged the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on shootout goals by Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou. Larkin also scored twice in regulation. With 54 points, the Sabres’ playoff hopes are fading. They’re 11 points out of a wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference and 10 behind the third-place Panthers in the Atlantic Division.
New York Islanders rookie Kieffer Bellows scored the first two goals of his NHL career in a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. The Isles overcame a 3-1 deficit with four unanswered goals. They sit third in the Metropolitan Division with 68 points.
MacKenzie Blackwood made 46 saves and picked up his first career NHL assist as the New Jersey Devils blanked the Philadelphia Flyers 5-0. Miles Wood tallied twice for the Devils as the Flyers (65 points) slipped out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Colorado Avalanche picked up their fifth win in their last six games by defeating the Ottawa Senators 4-1, handing the latter their fourth straight loss. Cale Makar had a goal and an assist for the Avs.
Andrei Svechnikov and Sebastian Aho each scored twice to give the Carolina Hurricanes a 5-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes. With 65 points, the Hurricanes hold the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot. Winners of just two of their last 11 contests, the struggling Coyotes (61 points) are clinging to the first Western Conference wild-card spot.
Jusse Saros kicked out 37 shots to give the Nashville Predators a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames, who are clinging to the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 60 points. Nashville captain Roman Josi collected two assists. The Flames were playing without captain Mark Giordano, who’s listed as week-to-week with a hamstring injury. The Predators are now one point behind the Flames.
Andrew Copp tallied the game-winner as the Winnipeg Jets doubled up the St. Louis Blues 4-2, snapping the Blues 11-game home points streak. With 59 points, the Jets are one behind the Calgary Flames for the final Western Conference wild-card berth.
The Minnesota Wild kept their playoff hopes alive by downing the Vancouver Canucks 4-2. Brad Hunt and Kevin Fiala each had a goal and an assist. The Wild (56 points) are four points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Canucks played without leading scorer Elias Pettersson, who missed the game with a lower-body injury.
Timo Meier scored twice and collected an assist as the San Jose Sharks overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 6-3. The Oilers (62 points) are two points behind the first-place Canucks in the Pacific, but only three points ahead of the ninth-overall Predators.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook underwent successful right hip surgery on Thursday. He had surgery on his right shoulder in December and on his left hip last month. He’s expected to make a full recovery and be ready for training camp in September.
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Ceci will be out “for a while” with an ankle injury.
LAS VEGAS SUN: The Golden Knights purchased the American Hockey League team in San Antonio, Texas, and plan to move it to the Las Vegas area next season.
NHL.COM: The NHL and NHLPA will resume negotiations toward an extension of the collective bargaining agreement. The CBA is due to expire in September 2022.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes are seeking funding to stage an outdoor game at Carter-Finley Stadium in 2021.