With over 75 names already off the market in terms of this year’s NHL free agency, there are still a ton of big names left. In fact, most of the top names on the board haven’t found a home yet and their stories are quite intriguing and respectively different from one another.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest names still on the board:
Alex Pietrangelo: Likely Headed to Vegas
The Pietrangelo story is, frankly, amazing. The defenseman wanted to stay in St. Louis but wasn’t willing to do so unless the team ponied up big money to keep him. This was of course, in spite of the fact that every team in the NHL was looking at having to cut costs due to a flat salary cap and major financial hardship. Pietrangelo wanted what he felt he was due and he wasn’t going to settle.
Unfortunately for him, St. Louis moved, tired of waiting.
The Blues came out of nowhere and signed Torey Krug which shocked almost everyone, including Krug who had no idea the Blues were even interested. In the meantime, the Toronto Maple Leafs added T.J. Brodie and Zach Bogosian to their blue line, essentially ruling out them out of the Pietrangelo race. That leaves the Vegas Golden Knights. Pietrangelo is current in Vegas getting a lay of the land, checking out the facilities and looking at schools. He wants to make sure that’s the best option — even though it doesn’t seem like he’s got a lot of options left.
Taylor Hall: Weighing His Options
Arguably the biggest name forward in this year’s free agency class, Hall is mulling over offers from as many as 25 different NHL teams this weekend. He opened the door to almost any team willing to make a pitch and he’s currently narrowing down his list to about two or three main choices.
It sounds as though Nashville, Columbus, Florida or Montreal could be possible landing spots, but it wouldn’t shock anyone if an unexpected team came out of nowhere and was announced the winner of the Hall sweepstakes.
What will be interesting to see if what became important to Hall. Was it winning? Was in long-term security? Was it a chance to explode offensively and have another Hart Trophy-like season to really cash in next offseason?
Tyler Toffoli: Waiting On Taylor Hall
Apparently, Tyler Toffoli decided that the Canucks offer wasn’t good enough. While he publicly said he was open to a long-term deal with the team that traded for him at the trade deadline last season, details couldn’t be worked out. He’s yet to sign.
Part of the reason must be that he’s waiting on a Taylor Hall decision. Once Hall picks where he’s going to go, Toffoli will be the first call for a lot of GMs and he should get good money as Plan B.
Mike Hoffman: Also Playing the Waiting Game
Like Toffoli, Hoffman seems to be waiting for the Hall situation to take care of itself. Once it does, he’ll do just fine in free agency and land with a team willing to pay him decent money on a three or four-year deal.
Anthony Duclair: Did He Make a Mistake?
Duclair walked away from the Ottawa Senators and decided to represent himself in free agency. That might have been a mistake. He’s not been signed by anyone despite a strong season and there’s a good chance he overshot his value coming into a tight market.
Unlike Hall, Toffoli and Hoffman, Duclair is not a player deemed as consistently good. He’s going to need to wait for all those players to come off the board if he’s hoping to get a deal anywhere close to what he probably feels he’s worth. It will be interesting to see if he pops up having signed a deal with a team for far less than most thought he would.
Sami Vatanen: Surprisingly Hasn’t Signed
It’s puzzling that Vatanen has not found a home yet. Whether he’s asking too much or other teams decided that there were defensemen they wanted to target first, there’s not really been any talk about him on the market.
As Thomas Drance of The Athletic points out, “Vatanen has been injury plagued and hasn’t really been the two-way beast he was earlier in his career for a few of seasons now, but he could be an interesting bounce back candidate at the right price point.”
Travis Hamonic: Concerns Over the Bubble?
One has to wonder if Travis Hamonic’s desire not to return to the NHL bubble during the postseason is causing teams to hold back on signing the free agent defenseman considering there’s so much uncertainty surrounding next season. In a tight cap world, it’s fair to say teams aren’t willing to invest money in a player that may not join the team right away.
Aaron Dell: One the Few Remaining Goalies Left
This year’s free agent cropped focused on a lot of available goaltenders. They came off the board at lightning speed. Now, there are only a handful remaining and Aaron Dell might be the most appealing among them.
He’s still relatively young compared to names like Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson and he’s got some history with decent numbers in San Jose, posting seasons with plus .900 save percentages and below 3.0 goals against. He won’t be expensive but how many teams still need a netminder?
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