Sportsnet’s Luke Fox took a look recently at the crop of this year’s NHL free agents and noted that their timing isn’t impeccable when it comes to hitting a home run on the open market.
Between what will happen with the salary cap as a result of the NHL work stoppage and big-ticket free agents not getting the most possible games in to prove their value, players may have to determine if this summer is the best summer to get the most value, or if they’ll hold off until next off-season.
If we assume that the NHL will be dealing with a flat salary-cap next year, that will take out as many as 15-18 teams from being able to chase big-money contracts. In fact, at least 10 teams will be looking at how to manage their current cap issues as they currently stand, likely offloading salaries if possible. They’ll hardly be able to add more.
Of course, there will some teams that can take advantage of the fact that few teams have room to add. Those teams include the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators. Each of those teams offloaded salary at this year’s trade deadline or already had room with the intention of going big-game hunting. Can these teams convince players to narrow their field of options down to five-or-so teams?
Fox writes, “If your name is Taylor Hall, Braden Holtby, Jacob Markstrom, Tyson Barrie, Alex Pietrangelo or Torey Krug, this is a concerning development.” Each of these players were set to hit huge contracts and are now going to have to try and still do so in an NHL world of uncertainty.
Hall, for example, was moved to the Arizona Coyotes at the trade deadline. They, at the very best, are a bubble team based on how a playoff format is put together by the NHL this season. If the Coyotes don’t get in, Hall will be seen as, in many respects, as a player who joined the organization, their record went into the toilet and he didn’t get a chance to help them improve it and make the post-season. He also won’t get a chance to show what he can do in the playoffs, where his production might matter most.
No doubt, Hall will still be a coveted free agent, but is he better served to join a stacked team on a low contract for one season, then try to maximize his earnings in the summer of 2021? A team like the Edmonton Oilers were rumored as interested at the deadline and they’ve got some potent offensive weapons that could really help elevate his personal production.
What about someone like Alex Pietrangelo? The St. Louis Blues want to keep him. But, he’ll be a coveted free agent for a number of teams looking to improve their blue line. The only problem is, not a lot of teams that were rumored as interested have the means to add his expected salary of $9 million or more per season. What should he do?
Fox adds, “Same goes for soon-to-be RFAs like Max Domi, Anthony DeAngelo, Sam Reinhart, and Tyler Bertuzzi.” He suggested bridge deals might make more sense until NHL revenue stabilizes.
This is certainly going to be an interesting off-season and one where their may not be a ton of high-valued, long-term deals.