Playing matchmaker: The best fit for the top remaining NHL free agents
As the third day of the NHL Free Agent signing begins, there are still some notable players left unclaimed, including the top two players to hit the open market this off-season (defender Alex Pietrangelo and forward Taylor Hall).
Let's take a quick look at some of the more notable players that are still available and see what team is the best and most reasonable landing spot for them.
These are not predictions of where each player will end up. These are suggestions to the teams that make the most sense.
It seems like a foregone conclusion that Pietrangelo will sign with the Vegas Golden Knights in the coming days. They're very interested, he visited them in person this weekend, and the book is closed when he returns to St. Louis. In addition to dramatically improving the Golden Knights defense, this will also further complicate the salary cap situation and will almost certainly require some trades (Marc-Andre Fleury? Nate Schmidt? Alec Martinez?) To make room.
While this may not be the best solution, it is definitely the most likely location.
But as long as we're talking about ideal fits and total hypotheses, Boston would be an absolutely perfect fit for Pietrangelo, wouldn't it? The Bruins have just lost Torey Krug in the free hand, missed an Oliver Ekman-Larsson trade and still have a big hole in their top four. Even if Zdeno Chara returns to the team, he will be 43 years old and hardly a fraction of who he was before. The Bruins need another top pairing player and still have a ton of salary caps to work with.
This could go in different directions.
Even after taking over Brandon Saad on Saturday, Colorado could still get an all-in contract with a free agent if it really wanted to chase a championship.
Columbus has a salary cap and a massive need for upside impact.
Boston could use some more scoring depth to level its lineup and has the salary cap to get him signed.
Nashville lost, lost Craig Smith and probably Mikael Granlund, bought Kyle Turris, and traded with Nick Bonino. Yes, that left a lot of room for salary caps, but it also got rid of a lot of offenses that need to be replaced.
Philadelphia is way too quiet and has too much salary cap to be that inactive. You have got something going on, and as good as the top of your lineup is, you could use some more depth of scoring.
So which team is the perfect match?
It has to be Nashville, Columbus takes a close second place.
The Predators need insults, their general manager loves big moves and it would (in theory) give Hall the chance to play for a competitor for the first time in his career.
The New York Islanders.
They need more insult and Toffoli actually seems to be a really good fit with Barry Spy's system. He's a smart, defensively healthy player who also has the talent to be offensive. That should be all the islanders need and want.
There's only one problem with this plan: the islanders only have around $ 8.5 million in salary caps, and you have to assume that Mathew Barzal (restricted free agent) will take up most, if not all, of the space becomes.
In order for the islanders to add another outside player, a trade may have to take place to lose some salary.
It might be worth it.
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NHL Free Agency
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ProHockeyTalks NHL Offseason Trade Tracker 2020
The devils take advantage of the problems of the Maple Leafs in trading with Andreas Johnsson
Devils take advantage of Maple Leafs' problems in trading with Andreas Johnsson
Hoffman will be the Plan B for a team that wants Taylor Hall but doesn't get a Hall.
On the plus side, he will score 30 goals for the team that signs him.
The downside is that by the start of the season he will be 31 and if he doesn't score, you probably won't notice him positively.
It will depend on how desperate an offensively starved team is for goals and how much they want to pay for them.
The Montreal Canadiens stand on it.
The ideal fit here is probably exactly where he's been for the past three seasons - Florida.
The Panthers are a deviously good offensive team, and Dadonov has been a huge part of that since returning to the NHL ahead of the 2017/18 season. He's a good player, you have room for him and I'm not sure if you can get a better fit at a better price.
Duclair was the most formidable restricted free agent not received a qualified offer, and from the perspective of the Ottawa Senators, it still doesn't make very much sense.
Will Duclair ever repeat his first half performance last season? Probably not. And you know what? That's fine! He has very quietly proven that he is a 20-goal scorer in the NHL (scored 20 goals in three of his five full seasons), still in his prime, full of talent and some finishing skills.
The best fit: The Calgary Flames, an otherwise solid team that probably needs another scorer.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk for NBC Sports. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.
Play Matchmaker: The best fit for the best remaining NHL-free agents originally appeared on NBCSports.com
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