Roundtable: NHL free agency predictions; teams needing to make a splash
What's a surprising forecast for free agency / trade for this off-season?
James O’Brien, NHL Writer: The Lightning are masters at navigating the wage cap smartly, so I expect more wizardry. I can even ask for it.
That doesn't just mean that lightning will be the beneficiary. Consider the J.T. Miller Handel. On the one hand, Tampa Bay gave up a player who turned out to be a legitimate front row striker in 2020/21. On the flip side, the Blitz managed to make a first-round choice despite the entire NHL knowing they were desperate.
In other words, if a team can get out of Steven Stamkos' deal, it's the bolt. If not, expect them to make another clever addition, Kevin Shattenkirk style.
Adam Gretz, NHL Writer: I think we'll see more offer sheets this off-season. I usually hate to say that because we always say it and then it never happens, but the Sebastian Aho thing a year ago makes me optimistic that someone else will try. And Tampa seems like a perfect destination. They have to move money and they have two massive RFAs sitting out there right now in Mikhail Sergachev and Anthony Cirelli. Someone could really force their hand by signing one of these guys (assuming one of them wanted to sign with a new team, of course).
Sean Leahy, NHL Writer: I'm on the same train as Adam. I think this off-season we're not seeing just one offer sheet, but several. This is the time to try the economic troubles surrounding the league. Teams with enough space and choices shouldn't be afraid to try one. Sergachev and Cirelli, even Mathew Barzal, are popular targets, but what about someone like Vince Dunn of the Blues? If you think a range for him as an AAV is between $ 4 million and $ 6 million, it would cost you either a round two selection or a round first and third selection. Well worth it if you want to improve your blue line. What happens to Alex Pietrangelo will of course take into account what happens to Dunn.
[Top NHL Free Agents for 2020 Off-Season]
Michael Finewax, Senior Hockey Writer / Editor at Rotoworld: The only surprising forecast for the off-season will be the Maple Leafs trading in Frederik Andersen. GM Kyle Dubas stated earlier this week that "from this point on" I expect him to be the starting goalkeeper for our team when we get here. The main part of the sentence was "from this moment on". I wouldn't be surprised if Andersen was treated with Colorado as a prime location. The Avs could use a better starting goalkeeper than Philipp Grubauer and currently have enough resources to sign Andersen on a longer-term deal if Colorado so wishes.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL Content: The most intriguing situation for me when joining the free agency is the goalkeeping dilemma in Vegas. With the Golden Knights, which enable Robin Lehner a long-term contract extension, it is almost certain that Marc-Andre Fleury will be removed from the squad at the beginning of next season. If I really got on my nerves, I would predict Fleury ending up in Pittsburgh again to form a 1A-1B tandem with the newly expanded Tristan Jarry (whose creation last year led to Matt Murray's trading this week whose creation four years ago primarily resulted in Fleury getting out of the pens, time is a flat circle.
That would register very high on the surprise knife, so I am voting that back for a second, more plausible offer: that Alex Pietrangelo stay in St. Louis. Though Pietrangelo would be a strong signal in the open market that his days as a bluesman are over, my gut still says the St. Louis captain is coming back with the only team he has ever known.
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Which team needs to get the most attention this off-season?
Sean Leahy, NHL Writer: It was February 2019 when the Senator's owner wrote a letter to fans promising that he would be spending near the cap as early as 2021-22 to freeze a competitive team . The COVID-19 pandemic has likely broken those plans, but the movement toward a better team is here after Pierre Dorion worked on the NHL Draft this week and took on Matt Murray.
Ottawa has a lot of space, and while they won't lure Taylor Hall or Pietrangelo to the Canadian capital, they can get short-term, bad deals as long as it's a sweetener. The hurricanes are good at it. Do you remember when they took on Bryan Bickell's contract and got Teuvo Teravainen too? They also took on Patrick Marleau's deal (before hurrying to buy him) and got a first-round selection that finished 13th overall this week (Seth Jarvis).
James O’Brien, NHL Writer: Do you remember when the future looked bad for the Flames? After a couple of disappointing playoff shows, things seem downright scary for Calgary. Most urgently, Mark Giordano, 37) is not getting younger and people are not overflowing with patience for Johnny Gaudreau and others to find out.
On the positive side, the Flames have some space and play in a weak Pacific division (at least as it looks at the moment). GM Brad Treliving is known for making bold moves out of season. I think it's time he did some of that riverboat gambling game.
Adam Gretz, NHL Writer: Nashville is the first team that comes to mind. They achieved little last year, they still have a competitive core of players who can now keep up, and they just pushed a mountain of money out the door to make room for more salary caps. David Poile always seems to swing for the fences in trade or in the free hand (even if it doesn't always work) and I just think there is something to be done here. I don't know if Taylor Hall fits, or if someone like Tyler Toffoli makes sense, or if a deal needs to be made (maybe one of Tampa's Cap victims?) But it just seems like they have a window to make a bold move.
[Predators bravely clear the space by trading Bonino and buying up Turris]
Michael Finewax, Senior Hockey Writer / Editor at Rotoworld: The team that needs to get the most attention is the San Jose Sharks. It's not been too many good years for Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson's injury-ridden seasons that hurt his worth on the blueline. They've already made a few deals to get Ryan Donato and Devan Dubnyk out of the wild, but there's a lot more left to do, not just to make the playoffs, but also to get a long and deep run. Vancouver also seems poised to make a splash, and if they don't get Oliver Ekman-Larsson I wouldn't be surprised if they took a run at Patrik Laine.
Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL Content: Nashville. What did the last three cup winners have in common? The Capitals, the Blues, and the Blitz were perennial rivals until their long-awaited championship. The Predators fit into this shape. You've made the playoffs six years in a row - the longest active streak in the West - but haven't won everything. And since their 2017 cup final, things seem to be getting worse, not better.
During this time, GM David Poile was very aggressive - and not always successful - trying to find the right mix of top-end players. Why stop now? After all, even after almost 40 years as GM in the league, Poile is still looking for his first trophy.
On Thursday TSN's Darren Dreger mentioned Nashville as a front runner for Taylor Hall. There will be a competition for his services, but maybe the presence of John Hynes - Hall's coach in New Jersey when he won MVP in 2018 - will help convince the previous first choice to choose the Predators when the free agency opens becomes.
Roundtable: NHL Free Agency Predictions; Teams that need to make a splash originally appeared on NBCSports.com
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