2020 NHL Free Agency Outlook

In a season filled with uncertainty and unpredictability, the NHL will see one of its quickest offseason turnovers. In aims to start the season at the turn of the new year, this offseason will see a sped-up process to finalize rosters for the impending season.

The Stanley Cup Finals came to a close with a 2-0 Tampa Bay Lightning win over the Dallas Stars in game six on September 28th. Just eight days later, the league saw Alexis Lafreniere selected number one by the New York Rangers. Now, the free agency period will open this Friday, which comes just two days after the close of this year’s draft. Last year there was a nine-day period before free agency began.

NHL clubs will look to fill their rosters with newly signed players as they attempt to fit their team under the flat salary cap of $81.5 million. Teams have already moved to adjust to this season’s revenue losses and salary cap with buyouts and trades.

As countless players enter the marketplace in hopes of signing a new contract, let’s look at the top unrestricted free agents.

1. Alex Pietrangelo, D, 30

St. Louis Blues

2019-20 cap hit: $6,500,000

Over the past year, speculating rumors have surrounded Alex Pietrangelo on whether he would stay in St. Louis or hit the market. The stout defender will hit free agency with the aims of singing a big contract as he brings several valuable intangibles. The 2019 Stanley Cup champion has amassed 450 points over 12 seasons. He’s a versatile and reliable defender as he logs towards 25 minutes of ice-time a night, finding himself as a power-play specialist and a shot-blocker on the penalty kill. His leadership experience will be significant for whatever team wins the Pietrangelo sweepstakes.

The St. Louis Blues are still looking to sign the elite defender as they will have to clear cap room for a potential $9 million contract. However, several teams that are emerging as favorites to land the coveted defenseman include the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers.

2. Taylor Hall, LW, 28

Arizona Coyotes

2019-20 cap hit: $6,000,000

Hall is notably the top forward on the market this year as teams would love to sing the speedster. The first overall pick in 2010 has been hindered throughout his career by mediocre teams, who just can’t seem to turn the corner. Every year it seems like his team is ready to turn the corner and be a true contender, they run out of gas and fail to meet expectations. Hall would be a great asset to any team as he can find the back of the net as he has totaled 218 goals over his 600 game career.

Teams who may be interested in Hall include the Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche. However, many indicators are pointing towards the Nashville Predators as the team to land the former Hart Trophy winner. The Predators are still in the hunt for a Stanley Cup championship and Hall could boost them to that level.

3. Torey Krug, D, 28

Boston Bruins

2019-20 cap hit: $5,250,000

Torey Krug has been a reliable mainstay on the Bruins blueline over the past seven seasons. Krug’s mobility and puck-movement have catapulted him into a star defenseman, along with his effective power-play work. Over his career, Krug has pilled on 160 points on the power-play making him a favorable target in the free-agent market. Also, his transitional 5-on-5 game and play-making ability add to his repertoire.

Krug is in the position to receive a big payday with his offensive abilities and defensive skill sets. Detroit could be a potential landing spot as they have over $28 million in cap room and are in the market for a talented blueliner.

4. Braden Holtby, G, 31

Washington Capitals

2019-20 cap hit: $6,100,000

The former Vezina Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion, Holtby will most likely test the market as the Capitals locked up Nicklas Backstrom earlier in the year, reducing the team’s cap space to just over $6 million. Holtby will search for a team in need of a starting goaltender. Over the past few seasons, Holtby has seen his numbers decline and the emergence of Ilya Samsonov in D.C. Although Holtby is on the wrong side of 30, he is still one of the league’s more talented and successful goalies.

There are a handful of teams looking to sure up their goaltending including the Minnesota Wild, Edmonton Oilers, and Detroit Red Wings. However, the New Jersey Devils just joined the market for a goaltender after buying out Cory Schneider’s contract. If Holtby lands in New Jersey, he would have to compete with Mackenzie Blackwood for the starting role.

5. Tyson Barrie, D, 29

Toronto Maple Leafs

2019-20 cap hit: $5,500,000

The Maple Leafs eyed up Barrie to be one of their more productive defensemen, however, he had a down year in all statistical categories. The right-handed defender would be a boost to anyone’s power play as he has totaled 129 points on the man advantage. If Barrie could rekindle his shooting mantra on the pawer-play as he did with the Avalanche, he could fit in as a quarterback on the power-play.

One team that is looking for a defenseman of Barrie’s caliber is the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets are hovering around the $10 million mark in cap space, therefore paying Barrie would take a hit on their cap.

6. Mike Hoffman, LW, 31

Florida Panthers

2019-20 cap hit: $5,187,500

Hoffman’s postseason performance this year, three goals and five points, may be intriguing to a lot of teams. The left-handed winger has a knack for finding the back of the net as he has finished with 20 plus goals in six seasons. Just two years ago he set career highs in goals with 36, and points with 70. His deadly release and quick speed could fit in well with any team’s top six.

A reasonable landing spot for Hoffman would be the New York Islanders. The Isles will have to sacrifice a good chunk of their $8.9 million in cap room. Barry Trotz could utilize Hoffman’s addition to help the team’s scoring.

7. Jacob Markstrom, G, 30

Vancouver Canucks

2019-20 cap hit: $3,666.667

Besides Holtby, Jacob Markstrom might be the most compelling netminder on the market. Markstrom has been a fringe starting throughout his career and now has been dispatched by Thatcher Demko for the starting role in Vancouver. Markstrom finished last season with a .918 save percentage and 2.75 goals-against average. The 6’6” goalie, possesses a strong lateral movement and puck-tracking ability.

Markstrom will have no problem finding a new home if the Canucks do not resign him. The Flames and Red Wings may pursue Markstrom to fill their number one goalie position. After a fine season in Vancouver, Markstrom will be looking to cash in on a new contract around $6 million.

8. Tyler Toffoli, RW, 28

Vancouver Canucks

2019-20 cap hit: $4,600,000

Tyler Toffoli spent eight seasons with the Los Angelas Kings before being dealt to the Canucks, where he filled in as a top-six forward. In 10 games with the Canucks, Toffoli put up six goals and 10 points in 10 games. Toffoli has a high - IQ and is a strong two-way player, who possesses an understated defensive game.

Toffoli could be a complementary piece for any team looking to find scoring depth. His quickness and strong wrist-shot would be a beneficial addition to teams looking to contend for the Stanley Cup. If the Predators miss on Taylor Hall, they might find themselves signing Toffoli.

9. Evgenii Dadonov, RW, 31

Florida Panthers

2019-20 cap hit: $4,000,000

Dadonov has been an overlooked player on an average Florida Panthers team. He has reached 25 plus goals over the past three years and set a career-high in points with 70 in 2018-29. Dadonov has a creative approach to the game and thrives in pulling players out of position to open up space for his teammates. Also, his goal-scoring ability will be a favorable asset that teams will look to add.

The 31-year-old might find himself playing with either the Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, and Washington Capitals next year. Dadonov’s level to find the back of the net is very intriguing and could land him a solid contract.

10. Sami Vatanen, D, 29

Carolina Hurricanes

2019-20 cap hit: $4,875,000

After Pietrangelo, Krug, and Barrie, the defenseman in free agency become similar in skill and potential. Vatanen’s productivity has slowed over the past couple of years, but is still in the heart of his prime. Vatanen registered three points in seven games in the postseason with the Hurricanes. Vatanen found himself quarterbacking the power-play unit in New Jersey before he was dealt.

The right-handed defender could find himself a solid payday this offseason as many teams are in the market for power-play caliber defenders. Minnesota might find themselves in the hunt to land Vatanen to pair with Jared Spurgeon.