NHL Free Agency: Names to Look Out For

Daniel Scisci, Staff Writer

After two grueling months, NHL players must endure if they want to win the most coveted trophy in hockey. In order to achieve their goals, most teams will look to sign free agents, players whose contracts have expired and were not get re-signed by their current teams, in order to make their teams better. With every year, comes a new batch of high-profile free agents, and this year is no different. While not as strong as last year, this year’s free-agent class is defenseman-strong, and rumors have been swirling for months about where they could end up. 

Here are a few of the top players looking for a new home, and some teams that could sign them:

Arguably the most notable free-agent on the market, Alex Pietrangelo captained the Blues defense for years, dating back to his breakout season in 2011-2012, when he finished 4th in the Norris Award voting (best NHL defenseman), at only 22 years old. Pietrangelo’s game offers defensive awareness unmatched by most, as well as offensive prowess, especially as a power-play quarterback. After scoring a career-best 52 points in a season cut short due to the pandemic, Pietrangelo has proven he is worthy of a raise from his current $6.5 million dollar contract, which will most likely end up being a long term deal, around six or seven years, to anywhere in the ballpark range of about $50-$55 million. In order for a team to sign him, it mainly needs cap space and a need for a leader on the blue line. A few teams come to mind, mainly Winnipeg. Winnipeg’s depleting defensive core over the last few years has shown their striving need for not only a quality defenseman but for someone who could lead their young defensive core into the future. 

After over ten years in the Boston Bruins organization, Torey Krug is headed for free agency. The 29-year-old American defenseman put up 49 points last year in only 61 games, and over the past few seasons has established himself as a top-tier offensive defenseman in the NHL. Krug’s mixture of smooth skating with the ability to get shots to the net shows why he is in the upper echelon of offensive defensemen. Teams who look for Krug’s services this offseason need a sizeable amount of cap space, but also the need for a left-handed defenseman who can provide good offensive numbers while putting up decent defensive numbers. Two teams that could use Krug are the New York Rangers and the Colorado Avalanche. With the Rangers, their need for a defenseman, specifically left-handed ones, became apparent after last season, as they fired their defensive coach, Lindy Ruff, due to his lack of leadership, which failed to bring the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Meanwhile, in Colorado, their defense is strong. The Avalanche have the room to look for a veteran leader on the back end, while also having the cap space to provide themselves with someone of his talent, especially considering Krug will most likely ask for an amount above $50 million. Similar to Pietrangelo, however, Krug will likely attain more money in his total contract.

The Washington Capitals have found themselves in a goaltending dilemma. They have two goalies, both capable of holding the crease for the next couple of years. They have the veteran goaltender Brayden Holtby who led them to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in 2018, while making arguably the most notable save in franchise history in the Stanley Cup Finals, against the Las Vegas Golden Knights in 2018, robbing Alex Tuch of a golden opportunity. Meanwhile, the Capitals also have youngster Russian goalie Ilya Samsonov, who proved this season that he is the future of goaltending for the Washington Capitals. It seems that Washington agrees, which is why Brayden Holtby is most likely heading for free agency. Holtby’s flexibility and range allow him to stop pucks that most goalies couldn’t. Even though it was a worse year for Holtby, only producing a 0.897 save %, Holtby is still able to control a crease and control it well. A good fit for Holtby and one that has swirled in the rumor mill recently is Minnesota, whose goaltending duo is aging and could use a player like Brayden Holtby to help them reach further than the first round for the first time since 2015. Normally, free agent goalies don’t receive long term contract offers, especially at Holtby’s age; however, Holtby is due for a six-year deal at around $50 million.