A lot has changed on the UFA front since we last checked in – and that’s just on the roster and contract front.
Some of the league’s top pending unrestricted free agents have been moved (Robin Lehner, Tyler Toffoli, Erik Haula, to name a few) while others (Jake Muzzin, Chris Kreider) stayed put and removed their free agency bids by re-signing with their current clubs. Jean-Gabriel Pageau did both, signing a six-year pact with the Islanders upon being dealt to New York from Ottawa.
Here’s an updated (and re-ranked) look at the top 20 pending UFAs of 2020, which we’ll continue to update as the season (hopefully) continues.
1. Taylor Hall, LW, Arizona Coyotes
2019-20 cap hit: $6 million
Back in the fall, the big question in New Jersey was whether Taylor Hall would be traded. It didn’t take long for that question to catch up with him after he was dealt to the desert in December, though both Hall and the Coyotes quickly made it clear that he’d be finishing the season in Arizona.
Now, the conversation shifts to what he might earn on his next contract, and where that might be. Trade rumours featured the Colorado Avalanche as potential suitors, and the Montreal Canadiens were floated around among other intriguing options as well.
Hall scored 10 goals and added 17 assists for 27 points through 35 games with the Coyotes. Add that to his totals with the Devils this season, and he’s got 52 points in 65 games. We know what Hall is capable of – his 39-goal, 93-point, Hart-winning 2017-18 season showed his ability to single-handedly pull a team into the playoffs — but might injury fears and slower production prevent him from hitting a double-digit cap hit?
2. Alex Pietrangelo, D, St. Louis Blues
2019-20 cap hit: $6.5 million
One season after leading St. Louis to the Stanley Cup, the Blues captain has scored a career-high 16 goals and was just two points shy of his highest total ever before the season was put on hold. If that doesn’t earn you a sizeable raise, I don’t know what will.
Early-season reports projected the AAV on Pietrangelo’s next deal to come in at around $8 million per, and that would turn out to be a bargain at this point. The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford pointed out recently that Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said he’ll wait to talk contract with his captain until after the season, though you can’t help but wonder if that changes over the course of this current hiatus.
3. Braden Holtby, G, Washington Capitals
2019-20 cap hit: $6.1 million
The emergence of rookie Ilya Samsonov made us all question the future of veteran netminder Braden Holtby. So have Holtby’s career-low numbers nearing the end of an up-and-down season in the crease. But Capitals GM Brian MacLellan put that to rest back in January.
“Holtby’s our guy. I mean, he’s got a Cup, he has a history, he’s been a huge part of our organization,” MacLellan said during a radio appearance. “I think what we’ve been trying to do is develop Samsonov and he’s handled everything we’ve thrown at him very well. He’s continually gotten better, he works at his game, he’s calm under pressure.”
When we last checked, it appeared the Capitals were prepared to wait until after the season to negotiate with the netminder who could very well cash in on a Sergei Bobrovsky-like contract — though, that particular deal hasn’t looked good on Florida’s books thus far which could make other clubs wary should Holtby hit free agency.
4. Torey Krug, D, Boston Bruins
2019-20 cap hit: $5.25 million
He’s one of the league’s best offensive defencemen with plenty of sandpaper in his game. In other words, should Krug hit the open market, there would be a mile-long lineup of GMs vying for his services.
Even with Boston’s cap-clearing moves around the deadline, they could find themselves hard pressed to re-sign the rearguard. Speculation around the Michigan native’s desire to head home has had many seeing Red Wings red in his future.
For now, though, we wait.
5. Tyson Barrie, D, Toronto Maple Leafs
2019-20 cap hit: $5.5 million (this AAV is split between Colorado and Toronto)
Barrie’s Toronto tenure hasn’t gone how he or Maple Leafs brass intended. GM Kyle Dubas explored the possibility of trading Barrie at the deadline but ultimately didn’t get a return offer to his liking. A slew of injuries on Toronto’s blue line made him less dispensable, too.