The NHL unrestricted free agent market has ground to a near halt. The last signing was on Friday the 13th as the Senators added some bite by signing Mike Haley to a one-year/two-way contract ($700k). Prior to that, the last deal was a week earlier when the Winnipeg Jets inked 25-year-old UFA forward Mark Dano to a one-year contract ($700k) on November 5th. Does this mean anything for UFA’s that are still out there?
Is there a breaking point when it becomes disadvantageous for UFA’s to hold out during this strange offseason? What are the inhibiting factors with some of these deals – term, money, intangibles, fit, family reasons, etc? These are fair questions to ask as NHL free agency moves forward.
There is chatter that the NHL will release information about the 2020-21 regular season this Thursday. Perhaps a definitive start date, schedule and divisional details will re-kickstart the UFA market.
There are still some quality names available. Yesterday, the Score’s Josh Wegman, made some predictions on where a handful of the remaining top UFA’s might sign. Below, readers can find my thoughts on where a few remaining UFA forwards and defenders may eventually land.
The one team that caught my eye last season is the Columbus Blue Jackets. John Tortorella designed a tailor-made strategy that was geared toward the defensive side of the puck. Columbus has a great group of young defenders – Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, David Savard – along with a great goaltending tandem in Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo.
However, the Blue Jackets had trouble scoring. Adding Max Domi will help, but they likely need more punch offensively. Hoffman can finish – Columbus has over $9 million in cap room. Perfect fit!
There have been several rumours that Anthony Duclair is asking more than what is currently being offered. At some point, the market and his expectations will eventually merge into a deal. Candidly, it is quite surprising he has not re-signed with the Senators. Perhaps that is telling in and of itself.
However, one team that seems to be an under the radar candidate to sign Duclair is the Florida Panthers. They will lose Hoffman, and already lost Evgeni Dadanov to Ottawa this offseason. Further, the Panthers have close to $9M in cap space but has less than $30M allocated toward 10 forwards – the second lowest forward cap allocation in the league. Duclair might be a great candidate to help Florida out offensively.
There is one team that has been quiet this offseason in terms of UFA activity – the Los Angeles Kings. The silence is noteworthy because the Kings have cash on hand with over $13.6 million in cap space. Currently, the Kings have less than $20M allocated to a very young defensive unit – Drew Doughty is the oldest player at 30. Further, Vatanen knows the southern California landscape as he spent his first five NHL seasons in Anaheim with the Ducks.
Will Los Angeles get more active once a schedule is set and if so will they pursue Vatanen?
The consensus is that Travis Hamonic will sign with the Winnipeg Jets as he is originally from Manitoba. Currently however, the Jets are out of cap room. In the Score article above, Wegman noted that the Jets may be ready to place Bryan Little on long term injury. If that were to happen then the Jets would have $5 million to spend.
This is an interesting situation because Hamonic decided not to participate in the 2020 bubble playoffs citing family reasons. Perhaps being close to home is his MO right now. If not in Winnipeg, then does he want to stay in Canada? If it is Canada only, then Ottawa is really the only team with enough cap room to pay him.
This could be an interesting situation to follow. At 29, Hamonic could still provide value for a team in need of a more than serviceable right-handed defenseman. Not knowing the underlying family concerns makes this a complicated UFA to predict where he may eventually sign
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