With at least some of the NHL future getting less muddy, it sure looks like the next “Free Agent Frenzy” will take place on or around Nov. 1. Unfortunately, an expected flat $81.5M salary cap could make the NHL “Free Agent Frenzy” more of a flurry.
But managing a flat salary cap — likely by shedding players they didn’t want to expel — is a job for overwhelmed GMs, particularly of big-market teams. For the rest of us, we can fill some time by daydreaming about different NHL free agent scenarios. (Some more realistic than others.)
Back in April, Adam Gretz ranked the top 20 (possible) NHL Free Agents. Being that Sean Leahy recently looked at the best destinations for assumed top 2020 NHL Draft pick Alexis Lafreniere, how about we combine those ideas?
In other words, what are the best destinations for some of the NHL’s top free agents? Actually, scratch that. Let’s go with the most fun NHL free agent situations. They occasionally might even make sense!
NHL fans have watched too many “super teams” form in the NBA. In some of those cases, said NBA stars flexed their leverage by agreeing to shorter deals. LeBron James left Cleveland after getting a hometown ring. Kawhi Leonard can eat apples elsewhere if the whole Clippers thing doesn’t work out.
In the case of this hypothetical scenario with the Avalanche, it would be more of an “everybody wins” scenario — except maybe Colorado’s competition. Consider these factors:
Now, some will point to that time the Avalanche brought in Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne, and that was kind of a disaster.
To which I retort: we’d get to talk about that time the Avalanche brought in Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne. Was it as much of a disaster as we thought? (Sounds like quality content either way.)
Just imagine the bad puns and headlines that could come from Dustin Byfuglien reviving his career with the Buffalo Sabres.
As much as anything else, the Sabres and their fans need some joy. Adding a much-needed defenseman who’s as flat-out as unusual as Byfuglien would be pretty fun, if you ask me.
Could it be another disaster? Sure, but in that scenario, at least cruel people would have fun? I think it’s worth the risk. (<— Person not signing any of these checks.)
Despite putting up fantastic numbers for two seasons, Robin Lehner can’t seem to get the sort of stability he wants. Despite putting together deep and talented teams, the Hurricanes are always a few netminding meltdowns from throwing all of that shrewd team-building away.
Frankly, I was a little surprised the Hurricanes shrugged their shoulders at Lehner last summer. Sure, they’re analytics-leaning with Eric Tulsky calling a lot of shots (although I wonder if Don Waddell “went camping” by acquiring Brady Skjei and his not-particularly-fancy-stats?). But Lehner seemed like a buy-low candidate, particularly in signing a low-risk, one-year deal with the Blackhawks during the 2020 offseason.
Maybe it’s finally time for Carolina to take the plunge?
OK, so the smarter move might be to continue going shorter term. Perhaps Corey Crawford would take a shorter deal than what Lehner is clearly seeking. Jacob Markstrom might be the craftier addition, if the Canucks let him walk.
Lehner and the Hurricanes would rank as the more interesting story, though.
Speaking of interesting narratives that might not be as wise as they look on paper, Holtby to the Sharks would be fascinating.
In Holtby, you have a Stanley Cup winner whose overall body of work is highly impressive. For a Sharks team tormented by playoff letdowns, Holtby’s postseason resume shines especially bright (Stanley Cup win, .928 save percentage over 89 career playoff games).
Yet, on the other hand, things have been bumpy for Holtby for some time. His game had already been slipping, but it really dipped badly in 2019-20 with a disturbing .897 save percentage. Holtby probably will demand a hefty contract thanks to his prior work, too.
So … there are a lot of red flags here. That said, the Sharks are pretty desperate. At minimum, it would be interesting to see if that gamble would pay off for San Jose.