Who should your team sign?
Every year, many elites players get to the end of their contract, which signifies that they’re eligible to get signed by any team. During these times, teams battle to get their favorite free agent, raising the offers, and making the salary market increase year by year. Among these players, here are your top 15 unrestricted free agents of 2020.
1. TAYLOR HALL, LW, 28
2019–20 cap hit: $6,000,000
Hall should command at least $10 million annually across seven years. Hart-Trophy winner, he is a powerful left-wing evolving for the Arizona Coyotes, recently traded by the New Jersey Devils in exchange for many prospects and round picks.
2. ALEX PIETRANGELO, D, 30
2019–20 cap hit: $6,500,000
He is an amazing defensive defenseman. He’s a big, rangy, skilled leader with a Stanley Cup ring and, though he turns 30 in January, he’s still defending at an elite level. He’s a difference-maker in the short term. More likely to remain a Blue than not, however.
3. NICKLAS BACKSTROM, C, 32
2019–20 cap hit: $6,700,000
Backstrom is an extremely talented two-way center. Bäckström stands out with his tremendous hockey sense and soft hands. Unfortunately, the Stanley Cup champion extremely likely to stay with the Caps
4. TOREY KRUG, D, 29
2019–20 cap hit: $5,250,000
An undersized two-way defenseman, Krug can move the puck really well. He’s a terrific skater and has a great passing ability. He plays a smart game, but doesn’t shy away from physical battles, and will block shots.
5. MIKE HOFFMAN, LW, 30
2019–20 cap hit: $5,187,500
Hoffman is a hard-working forward who plays a gritty game. Offensively, he has a great shot and good playmaking ability, too. A speedy skater, he could improve his defensive game. Top-20 in goals since his first full NHL season. Bloomed late, so he’s older than a lot of people realize, but he hasn’t lost his wheels yet. A great complementary asset.
6. BRADEN HOLTBY, G, 30
2019–20 cap hit: $6,100,000
Is he still going to command a deal comparable to Sergei Bobrovsky’s? Holtby does have a Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup, but his numbers have declined the past few seasons. Given Washington has Ilya Samsonov positioned to take over as its starting goalie, it will likely choose Backstrom over Holtby.
7. TYSON BARRIE, D, 28
2019–20 cap hit: $5,500,000
Tyson Barrie is a talented offensive defenseman playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, former Colorado Avalanche player. When the Leafs replaced coach Mike Babcock with Sheldon Keefe, it saved Barrie’s season — and wallet. He still has several months to puff his trade value back up. As a right-shot with excellent power-play acumen, he’ll have a long list of suitors.
8. CHRIS KREIDER, LW, 29
2019–20 cap hit: $4,625,000
Enduring a bit of a down year but, because he mixes, size, physicality, and speed with his goal-scoring, he’s effective in multiple ways. He seems like a final piece for a contender rather than a building block for a basement-dwelling team.
9. ROBIN LEHNER, G, 28
2019–20 cap hit: $5,000,000
Proving 2018–19 wasn’t a fluke, which makes sense if we factor in his entire career, as he first entered the NHL as an elite-tier prospect. Had to sign another prove-it deal last summer, but he’s earned a longer-term pact now. Will it be Chicago that gives it to him?
10. EVGENII DADONOV, RW, 31
2019–20 cap hit: $4,000,000
Why don’t we talk about him more? Since returning to NHL for 2017–18, he’s 11th in scoring among right-wingers, between Mark Stone and Patrik Laine. The Panthers will have to offer a significant raise to keep Dadonov.
11. JAKE MUZZIN, D, 31
2019–20 cap hit: $4,000,000
Muzzin isn’t elite at anything but he’s pretty good at everything and delivers thunderous hits. Time will tell how quickly his body will age in his 30s given his heavy game, but he’s undeniably one of the top UFA blueline options.
12. JEAN-GABRIEL PAGEAU, C, 27
2019–20 cap hit: $3,100,000
Brings outstanding value as a disruptive penalty killer and, on a good team, he’d be a perfect third-liner who can score goals. Once he gets his big raise on his next deal, however, he’ll face much higher expectations.
13. THOMAS GREISS, G, 34
2019–20 cap hit: $3,333,333
Even if he hasn’t shown he can be a 60-game starter, he’s been as good as any goalie in the league in a 1B role the past couple years. In this era of load management, that’s quite valuable.
14. MIKAEL GRANLUND, LW, 28
2019–20 cap hit: $5,750,000
It hasn’t worked out in Nashville, but Granlund is young enough to recapture his scoring touch in the right situation. Just a couple years removed being one of the game’s most dynamic young players.
15. KEVIN SHATTENKIRK, D, 31
2019–20 cap hit: $1,750,000
Was better than his Ranger numbers indicated, making him less of a gamble than it may have seemed when Tampa signed him. Back to producing high-end offense and doing so in a contract year.