Frank Seravalli of TSN took another look at the upcoming crop of unrestricted free agents this week and noted names like Alex Pietrangleo, Tory Krug, Taylor Hall, Jacob Markstrom, Tyson Barrie and others as his top names this summer whenever.

Of note before he made his list is that many of these players are in for some tough decisions. Seravalli notes that he’s getting word from executives and agents and a good chunk of these players haven’t quite grasped the severity of their unfortunate financial situations.

“I don’t think players truly grasp just how much the world has changed,” one prominent agent said Tuesday. He added, “One thing I’ve learned working with players is that they have a hard time accepting going backward financially, but that’s what is going to happen.”

And what he means by that, is players want what they players before them got. They want what’s been building and what they’ve been waiting for and playing for. Not what the market will bring now that the NHL, and world, has changed.

Should the salary cap remain at $81.5 million next season, one agent said, “Flat is the new up.” If the salary cap goes up by just $1 million this season, that will be a miracle, hints another. This means, not only will free agents not get what they’re looking for, many will have to either take much less than they figured they’d be worth two months ago or sign creative deals that last until the NHL re-stabilizes.

There’s only one choice if certain free agents want their money now. That is, play in a less-desirable city. Even that’s a maybe. Seravalli reports that one agent said:

It’s the bottom feeders that will have the most money to spend, but they usually aren’t attractive to top free agents, and their owners don’t like to spend dumb money anyway. How many teams are going to be able to give you what you want? So many players are kicking themselves, wishing they had signed last year.”

Who Will Be Affected the Most?

Unless the Colorado Avalanche or Calgary Flames spend nearly every available penny, Taylor Hall likely won’t get anywhere near the $10 million per season he was set to ask for. Unless the St. Louis Blues want to dump contracts or can convince Pietrangelo to take a pay cut, there might not be room for him at his asking price. We already know Krug thinks his days in Boston are numbered.

What about a player like Tyson Barrie? He might be last season’s Jake Gardiner, only worse.

And Vancouver? They may still have to give goaltender Jacob Markstrom whatever he wants. Then what? What else can they possibly do? What other money will they have to spend? Markstrom will have to recognize that if he gets what he wants, the pieces the team can put around him to remain competitive may be limited.

In the short-term, it may wind up that players will have to trade term for dollars, risking security in the event they get injured.

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