This has clearly not been a normal hockey year, not on the calendar especially. Today marks the first day of the NHL buyout period and we are a day or two away from our 2020 Stanley Cup winner.
With the level of uncertainty around the free agent period and even what teams will spend next year, player movement will be at an all time high. You just have to find the right dance partner.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Yesterday the Pens traded away valued teammate Patric Hornqvist, for Mike Matheson and Colton Sceviour from the Panthers. GM Jim Rutherford hasn’t made major changes to the team but has made renovations to the locker room glue over the course of the last few years. When Carl Hagelin was moved it was a massive blow to the players in their words, I would imagine Hornqvist is the same. Matheson can skate and has shown offensive talent but was behind Yandle and Ekbald in Florida for power play time and quality starts in the offensive zone. The move could be a good chance for him to show his worth as a puck moving defenseman, he played a few games at forward as well. Being a player with a few different skill sets could help the pens in the coming years. Scevior will be slated into a bottom six role off the bat and they do need some help on that side of the lineup. The rotating cast on those lines has been hard since the last cup in 2017. The Penguins aren’t done as GMJR trade tally is now at 52, I’m sure he will add to that prior to next season. With a goalie on the move (hopefully) and the fact you have a log jam on the left backend now it appears that more moves are on the way.
Alexander Pietrangelo: It was reported earlier in the week by Darren Dreger of TSN that the St. Louis Blues advised Alex and his agent that free agency is a route he should pursue. As the captain of the team that seems a bit harsh since they paid newly acquired dman Justin Faulk 6.5 million. Alex was rumored to only be offered around 7.5 million. Unsure of who had that leak but interesting. Are the Blues unwilling to offer the right amount of term or money? Could they be seeing signs of a declining player on the wrong size of 30? It could also be the Blues don’t want to pay for what they see as an over priced tag on the free agent market. It’s Pietrangelo’s right at this time in his career to cash in on him being a UFA, I support his right to chase the money as he only has a certain amount of time to earn a living playing hockey.
Toronto Maple Leafs: A team that is expected still to spend to the cap in the odd times even though they already spend a ton on talent. This could be the spot for Pietrangleo in my mind. It makes sense on paper. Good solid player with experience, right hand shooting and slick skater…kinda fits all the Leafs needs. Subtract the idea of salary and the fit is perfect. It would relieve a lot of pressure on Morgan Reilly and Jake Muzzin, plus it gives a role model for their younger prospects like Sandin and Liljegren. They will have to find a willing team or two to help them with cap space. Kapanen was the first piece to move and Nylander or Kerfoot are appealing given their actual dollar amount owed to them. William Nylander carries a cap hit of 6.9 million but is taking only 2.5 million in salary and a bonus of 3.5 million. That is a savings for many teams as next season’s potential revenue is still up in the air.
Arizona Coyotes: Before you say just move the team already maybe they have a chance…….With a new GM Bill Armstrong they will be looking to re-tool for coach Rick Tocchet in a way that lets him keep whatever hair he has left. They are a team I’m sure will be looking to shed salary. Their goaltender Darcy Kuemper has been solid in the desert, he also has two years left at 4.5 million. Will he also be thrown into teams roundtable discussions for what will be a crazy goalie market. Other vets like Kessel (not again) or OLE could find themselves changing sweaters too. The plan between the new management group and ownership will depend on direction and how much they are going to invest into this season. Moving some of their contracts could help recoup some of the lost picks from their draft violations and set them up for a major rebuild.
Goalie Market: This will be a massive year for goaltenders on the market. While I don’t think anyone will be given a 10 million AAV deal like Bob was last year I do expect a few to be taken care of. Craig Anderson was told to find a new home from Ottawa, Kuemper could be moved and Fluery stated that he wanted to remain in Sin City even if it’s in a back up role. That part shocks me since his agent didn’t really mind sharing his thoughts during the cup run. Don’t forget Holtby, Markstrom, Murray (still needs moved) and a change in Minnesota most likely. This will be really made more of a mess with Khudobin, Crawford, Lehner, Griess and Jimmy Howard. Hopefully you get the point I’m making.