Well, it has arrived.
The start of NHL free agency is Friday at noon ET. At that point, a number of the most talked-about names in hockey will be free to sign where they please.
Alex Pietrangelo, Taylor Hall and Torey Krug highlight this year’s free agency class, but it’s an interesting one for a number of reasons. The flat cap due to the COVID-19 pandemic means teams are a little more crunched than usual, which has led to a more robust market of non-qualified offer players hitting unrestricted free agency, as well.
With all that in mind, here’s our best guess at where players will sign.
Alex Pietrangelo — Vegas Golden Knights
As it stands right now, the Golden Knights most certainly do not have the cap space to swing a deal for Pietrangelo. But ultimately getting Marc-Andre Fleury off the books will help, and for a while we’ve heard the Knights named as a suitor for the current St. Louis Blues captain. The hunch here is they figure out a way to get it done.
Taylor Hall — Florida Panthers
The Panthers have a number of free-agent forwards, and letting guys like Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov walk becomes more palatable if they sign a guy like Hall. They took a run at Artemi Panarin last year, so maybe they try swing big again this year and actually connect.
Torey Krug — Colorado Avalanche
It seems all but certain the Avalanche are going to end up making a big signing. Inking Krug, who likely will cost less than Pietrangelo, might offer them a little more flexibility down the road when guys like Cale Makar are up for new deals. Plus, it puts Krug on a team that’s in a position to win now, something he’s made clear he desires.
Mike Hoffman — Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets seems like a team positioned to make a sneaky interesting signing, and bringing in Hoffman indeed would be sneaky interesting. Columbus really struggled to score last year, and signing Hoffman who, despite defensive shortcomings, really knows how to score could be what they need.
Evgenii Dadonov — Boston Bruins
Boston seems intent on shaking things up, and signing someone like Dadonov, who will come cheaper than other forwards but still possess a gnarly shot and goal-scoring ability, might be able to help fix the long-standing issue of stability on the second-line wings.
Tyson Barrie — Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers very well might be without Oscar Klefbom this year, and Barrie needs to get back on track after a bad season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. We’re thinking he signs a mutually beneficial one-year deal with Edmonton and then tests the market again next year.
Jacob Markstrom — Calgary Flames
Despite a solid year from David Rittich, he’s a UFA next offseason and the Flames don’t seem totally married to him. Bringing in Markstrom shores up the back end, and with the Flames likely set to lose a few defensemen to free agency, a reliable goaltender is what they need. They could fork over the cash for Markstrom, but whether he’ll be able to deliver is another question.
Tyler Toffoli — Nashville Predators
The Preds seems to be making clear that they want to shake things up, and they’re making a concerted effort to clear cap space. Someone probably will overpay for Toffoli, and since it won’t be the Vancouver Canucks, why not the suddenly awash with cap space Predators?
Braden Holtby — Carolina Hurricanes
Holtby most certainly is at a point in his career where he should be playing in a tandem. He could find a situation like that in Carolina, which would then allow the Hurricanes to trade either Petr Mrazek or James Reimer.