NHL Rumor Mill – April 16, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 16, 2020

Updated unrestricted free agent rankings and how the current season shutdown could affect the UFA market in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE HOCKEY NEWS/TSN: St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall, and Boston Bruins blueliner Torey Krug are the top three on Matt Larkin’s and Frank Seravalli’s respective lists of this year’s top NHL unrestricted free agents.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex PIetrangelo is among this year’s top unrestricted free agents (Photo via NHL Images).

Florida Panthers wingers Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie, Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner, Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli, Washington Capitals netminder Braden Holtby, and Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Sami Vatanen round out Larkin’s top-10.

Seravalli had Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom in fourth place (he was 11th on Larkin’s list), followed by Lehner, Hoffman, Dadonov, Toffoli, Holtby, and Barrie. Vatanen was 12th on his ranking.

Other noteworthy players to appear on both lists include Calgary Flames defensemen T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, and Erik Gustafsson, Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk, Washington Capitals d-man Brenden Dillon and winger Ilya Kovalchuk, and Florida Panthers forward Erik Haula,

Larkin also included Nashville Predators wingers Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith, Bruins backup goalie Jaroslav Halak and defenseman Zdeno Chara, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz, Winnipeg Jets blueliner Dylan DeMelo, Capitals rearguard Radko Gudas, New York Islanders netminder Thomas Greiss, Toronto Maple Leafs center Jason Spezza, Vancouver Canucks d-man Chris Tanev, Carolina Hurricanes winger Justin Williams, and Ottawa Senators defender Mark Borowiecki.

Seravalli’s ranking included Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Justin Braun, Hurricanes blueliner Joel Edmundson, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, Leafs defenseman Cody Ceci, Blues rearguard Marco Scandella and Dallas Stars netminder Anton Khudobin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think most observers will agree where Pietrangelo, Hall, and Krug sit among this year’s top UFAs. I’m sure there will be considerable disagreement over where the others are ranked.

For example, I think Barrie’s struggles in Toronto this season could send his UFA stock tumbling. Remember, some observers (including yours truly) considered Jake Gardiner among last year’s top-10 free agents, and he wound up waiting until September to get a deal that was well below the $6 million annually he was projected to get.

It’s also safe to say some of these players, such as Chara, Crawford, and Williams, are likely to re-sign with their current clubs.

Seravalli reports the effects of the current league shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainty for this year’s free-agent market. One agent expects the players will have a hard time going backward financially, but that’s what’s going to happen because of the pandemic. Should the salary cap remain at $81.5 million next season, many free agents may have to accept significantly less than they expect.

One agent pointed out there won’t be much of a market for top UFA. Only bottom-feeding clubs will have the most money to spend, but they’re usually not attractive destinations for free-agent talent. Seravalli suggests players might accept short-term deals for less money in the hope of trying to cash in later.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Players will still try to get the best deals they can, but I concur most won’t find the lucrative offers they would’ve received in a normal year. I agree with Seravalli that many could accept one- or two-year deals for less money and try their luck again in a year or two, or opt for the security of term over dollars.

The UFA market could also be flooded with additional players if the league and the NHLPA agreed to implement compliance buyouts for this off-season as a means of helping cap-strapped clubs hit hard by the shutdown. That could also drive down prices for free-agent talent.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 14, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 14, 2019

The Blues re-sign Jordan Binnington plus updates on Jake Gardiner, Brock Boeser, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues yesterday avoided salary arbitration with goaltender Jordan Binnington. The two sides agreed to a two-year contract with an annual average value of $4.4 million. 

The St. Louis Blues re-sign Jordan Binnington to a two-year deal (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a very reasonable contract for Binnington. For the Blues, this doesn’t lock them in for too long with a player who has a  very short (albeit impressive) body of work in the NHL. It also doesn’t put a big dent into their salary-cap payroll. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $7.1 million in cap room, with Joel Edmundson, Ivan Barbashev, and Oskar Sundqvist to re-sign.

For Binnington, it’s a healthy payraise over last season’s $650K. It also gives him the opportunity to become a UFA in two year’s time. If he builds upon this year’s performance, he’ll be in line for a more lucrative deal. 

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz examines why defenseman Jake Gardiner remains available in the unrestricted free agent market. Gardiner’s recent back injury could be a legitimate concern among interested clubs. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In recent years it seems there’s always one player considered among the top UFAs who ends up taking longer to sign a contract, usually for much less than projected. That’s free agency under a hard salary cap.

When the free-agent market opens there’s usually several teams with plenty of money pursuing the top talent. Within a couple of days, however, most of the best players are signed and there aren’t as many teams with the cap space to invest in the remaining UFA talent. It’s almost like musical chairs. Now that the music has stopped, Gardiner finds himself without a seat. 

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton looks at what it might take for the Vancouver Canucks to get Brock Boeser under contract. The restricted free agent winger could get around $7.5 million per season. 

SPORTSDAY: The Dallas Stars offseason moves have received high grades from many NHL observers. Their additions include Joe Pavelski, Corey Perry, and Andrej Sekera. 

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Vegas Golden Knights owner Tom Foley hopes to build a new aircraft hangar “to upgrade the way the executives behind the franchise and other companies he’s tied to travel.”

NHL Free Agent Updates – September 18, 2016

NHL Free Agent Updates – September 18, 2016

Ryan Strome has until Sept. 22 to re-sign with the New York Islanders.

Ryan Strome has until Sept. 22 to re-sign with the New York Islanders.

 A look at the status of several notable remaining unrestricted free agents plus the latest on New York Islanders restricted free agent Ryan Strome.

SPORTSNET:  Luke Fox recently provided an update on the top-10 remaining NHL unrestricted free agents. The Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames were linked to defenseman Kris Russell, while blueliner James Wisniewski is on a professional tryout offer (PTO) with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The New Jersey Devils are speculated as a possible destination for defenseman Kyle Quincey. The Devils say there’s no timetable for a possible return of forward Patrik Elias, who underwent offseason knee surgery. 

The Ottawa Senators reportedly kicked tires on former Boston Bruins rearguard Dennis Seidenberg. Eight teams are apparently interested in offering a PTO to winger Tomas Fleischmann, while forward Tuomo Ruutu accepted a tryout offer with the Vancouver Canucks. 

Left wing Alex Tanguay isn’t interested in a PTO and prefers a one-way contract. Two or three teams reportedly have interest in him. Winger Kris Versteeg accepted a PTO with the Edmonton Oilers, while blueliner Christian Ehrhoff hopes his performance with Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey bolsters his fading stock. 

TSN 1050 (VIA TODAY’S SLAPSHOT):  Bob McKenzie recently speculated Kris Russell could have a new contract “in the next number of days.” He claimed multiple teams have spoken to the defenseman, but the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t believed among them. McKenzie also believes Russell could a one-year deal. 

NHL.COM: Dan Rosen recently suggested the Devils could be a potential fit for Russell because he believes they need another veteran defenseman. He thinks Russell, Kyle Quincey, David Jones, Lauri Korpikoski and Tomas Fleischmann will “definitely find work soon.” 

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons reports the Ottawa Senators are closely following Dennis Seidenberg at the World Cup of Hockey. He speculates Seidenberg will likely sign with the Senators once the tournament is over. 

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the New York Islanders policy of cutting off contract talks when training camp opens gives restricted free agent forward Ryan Strome until Thursday (Sept. 22) to re-sign. GM Garth Snow also said that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t match an offer sheet for Strome after that date. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Apart from Simmons’ report that Seidenberg could sign with the Senators, there’s nothing really new regarding those other UFAs. Russell’s agent recently said he expected his client be signed before the end of the World Cup of Hockey. One reason for the delay could be that the clubs with interest in Russell are waiting to see what the Anaheim Ducks do once they re-sign RFA blueliner Hampus Lindholm, as there’s talk they could put Cam Fowler on the trade block.

As for Strome, if he and the Isles fail to agree to a deal by Sept.22nd, Snow could decide to trade the 23-year-old forward. Strome had a promising 50-point sophomore performance in 2014-15 but managed only a disappointing 28 points last season.