With the NHL free agent market about to heat up it is a good time to review the big names and possible destinations. It may take a series of articles to cover all of the major free agent stories, but today, the lens will focus on Swedish goaltender Robin Lehner, back end stars Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug, as well as sniper Taylor Hall.
Robin Lehner – Does the ‘Panda’ Stay in Vegas?
During the Western Conference final series between the Las Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars, several reports surfaced claiming Lehner was about to sign a big long term deal with the Golden Knights. Clearly wanting to divert a distraction during the playoffs, Lehner denied the reports of any contractual agreement with Vegas and the situation has been quiet since. However, this does not mean a potential deal between the Golden Knights and Robin Lehner are off the table.
Where are other possible destinations Lehner could land? The three teams with a) the most cap room heading into 2020/21, are b) all teams that missed any semblance of playoff action, and c) all need a legitimate starting goaltender. Could either of the Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres or Detroit Red Wings step into the market and grab Lehner? More importantly, would Lehner have interest in either of those three teams?
The market for the 29-year-old Lehner is likely going to be $5+ million and at least three years, likely more. However, this is an off-season where there are also several other goalie options on the market. Based on the list below, it is likely some goaltenders will be changing creases before next season starts.
Alex Pietrangelo – Where Will the Top UFA Land?
The biggest fish in the UFA market this Fall is former 4th overall pick, Alex Pietrangelo. After 758 games in a St. Louis Blue jersey, it appears that Pietrangelo’s time there is coming to an end. Last week, reports indicated talks between the Blues and Pietrangelo had broken down.
Pietrangelo has become one of the five top defenceman in the entire NHL. The right-handed defender was a vital member of the 2019 Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues. This season, Pietrangelo showed no playoff hangover and was well on pace to break his career point total numbers. Likely all 31 NHL teams have interest in adding a player of this caliber.
After the stalled contract negotiations in St. Louis, lots of chatter surfaced linking Pietrangelo with the Toronto Maple Leafs. There has also been some speculation that he may be leaning towards Vegas. However, as the top UFA available I have a feeling that a deal for Pietrangelo may come out of the blue.
Torey Krug – Likely Done in Boston
Quite an amazing story really. Torey Krug was an undrafted, undersized defenceman at Michigan State University when his game took off in 2011. For his home state Spartans, Krug would lead the team in scoring with 12 goals and 22 assists (34) in 38 CCHA games. The Bruins, recognizing the kid can play, provided Krug a chance by signing the left-handed defender to an entry-level contract. Krug would play one season with the Bruin’s AHL affiliate in Providence, and since that time, he has played in 523 games as a member of the Boston Bruins.
Beyond the sentimental value of Krug’s journey, he is about to get paid again. Since Krug’s last contract in 2016 he has averaged 53 points a season. Any team looking to add some offence from the back end will have interest making deal with Krug. So far, Krug has rejected a one-year deal from the Bruins. That simply is not enough for Krug as he knows “this is my time, in terms of my value at its peak.” He is right. I have also heard speculation that Krug may land in Detroit, Philadelphia or Edmonton.
Both Krug and Pietrangelo are highly sought after, but expensive additions.
Taylor Hall – Can New GM Bill Armstrong Keep Hall in Arizona?
The now well traveled first overall Edmonton Oiler pick has hit free agency at an interesting time in his career. After leaving Edmonton, Hall re-established himself as an elite NHL talent in 2018 by winning the Hart Trophy as a member of the New Jersey Devils. Hall was a big trade target this past deadline and eventually landed in Arizona with the Coyotes.
Despite a decent offensive pace (10G, 17A in 35 games), the Hall in Arizona experiment never really took off. After staggering into the Covid shutdown, the Coyotes had fallen out of a playoff spot. This after a hot start, pre-Hall. Hall’s post-season impact was not as expected either. The Coyotes managed to get through the Nashville Predators during the play-in round and earn a spot in the 2020 NHL playoffs. The end result was a first round loss to the Colorado Avalanche in five games.
The Coyotes are keen on keeping Hall, but will he want to re-sign in Arizona? Despite a great new hire in GM, Bill Armstrong, things in Arizona haven’t exactly been smooth sailing. If Hall chooses not to go back to Arizona there will certainly be a ton of outside interest, but some teams might also be hesitant on the 28-year-old offensive weapon. I think there might be some folks that feel teams have not always gone in the right direction with Taylor Hall in the lineup.
Taylor Hall has been rumored to be heading back to Edmonton, and has had interest from the Canadiens, but things have been quiet in the last several days.
Stay tuned – Fall free agent frenzy officially starts on October 9th!
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