Yesterday, the free agency bell tolled for the NHL. The Islanders were probably active in the sense that they likely reached out to a bunch of players. But they did not make a single signing.
[Morning update: Beloved goaltender and expert poke-checker Thomas Greiss has found a new home, signing with Detroit for two years. Here’s a farewell from his partner, Brittney. And here’s something from the man himself. All the feels.]
That being said, most of the big fish are still out there. This free agency period will be unlike any other because of the flat cap pandemic surprise for which teams could not have really planned. In a normal year, teams learn that the salary cap will go up, even if only a modest amount, for the following season well before free agency opens. Then, anticipating having more cap space, many of those teams generally throw great big offers at guys like Taylor Hall and Alex Pietrangelo on Day 1 of free agency and they sign by the end of the night. Yet, this year, most of the high-profile free agents remain available.
A guy like Hall, in particular, is in a truly unique situation. He’s a former first overall pick, a bona fide star, and former MVP that, by virtue of playing on some teams lacking overall talent, has only played in ten career playoff games. He wants the chance to play in more. He has made it clear to contending teams that he would be willing to accept a short-term offer for good money and a chance to make a deep playoff run, or at least not get blown out of the first round as his teams have in both of his previous playoff appearances.
A team like the Islanders, if they had more cap space, would make a lot of sense for him. He’s close friends with Jordan Eberle from their time together with the Oilers and probably knows Andy Greene well from their time together with the Devils (assuming Greene comes back on a cheap deal). And they’re coming off a run in which they pushed the Stanley Cup Champions to a sixth game in the Eastern Conference Final. They’re a team that is a great mix of youth and veteran talent that can play in all three zones and whose time to win is right now—they just need an infusion of pure offensive skill, something Hall brings in droves. Again, I say, the Islanders would make a lot of sense for him. There’s just that pesky problem of limited cap room with three important RFAs to sign.
So naturally, I start to wonder if Hall might be waiting around for GM Lou Lamoriello to make some room for him.
Perhaps that is a bit too optimistic. I mean, I’m sure that Hall has some offers from contending teams with similarly limited cap space that don’t have three critical RFAs who figure to eat up all that cap space and then some; teams that will let Hall eat up the rest of their cap space. He’s probably just mulling over those offers and will end up on the Avalanche or the Bruins.
- Arthur Staple joked that this list of twenty free agents for the Isles to consider would be rendered useless quickly, but because of the nature of the market, only four of these options have been eliminated, by my count. [The Athletic]
- Many goalies found homes yesterday but Thomas Greiss has not yet. He’s probably the top netminder left on the market. [NHL]
Which makes this little tidbit all the more interesting.
Take this for what it's worth but...— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) October 9, 2020
hearing one option #Isles may be considering is trying to move Semyon Varlamov and then re-signing Thomas Greiss to pair with Ilya Sorokin.
Again, nothing concrete. But got nothing else for you right now.
(Seems unlikely because Semyon Varlamov currently has a full no-trade clause, but maybe they told him Ilya Sorokin supplanted him already and if he wants to start he’ll have to do it for another team?)
The Isles appear to be doing due diligence, but they don’t have a lot of room with which to work right now.
The Islanders have kept lines of communication open with Brassard, Greene & Martin. Hearing they've also kicked tires on UFAs Dadonov & Namestnikov, among others. Problem for NYI is they've been unable to unload salary, as they also have RFAs Barzal, Pulock & Toews to sign.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) October 9, 2020
Cap space is a valuable asset and hard to come by right now, but Lou has definitely tried to create some breathing room.
There was some chatter the Islanders & Sens had a discussion about Johnny Boychuk. Doesn't seem like it really got anywhere.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) October 8, 2020
- So, for now, Lou is focusing on what he has already. As was originally the plan. [Newsday]
- Interesting prospect news: the Islanders loaned out Otto Koivula to HIFK-Hockey Ab in Finland’s top professional league. [Islanders]
- Disappointing prospect news: the AHL announced that Kieffer Bellows violated AHL/PHPA performance enhancing substances rules and that he served his discipline. That explains why he wasn’t in the bubble, most likely. [LHH | Newsday]
- October 9 is a historic day in the field of Islanders arenas. It was on that date in 2015 they played their first game at Barclays Center, an overtime loss to the then-defending champion Blackhawks. [Islanders]
- And on that date in 2020, the final steel beam of UBS Arena, bearing flags, a potted plant, and the signatures of three all-time great Islanders, went up. It’s really happening, folks. [Newsday]
Final steel beam going up at UBS Arena. No, I don't know why there's a potted plant on it. pic.twitter.com/3C3MskeRtP— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) October 9, 2020
Our jerseys will be in the toy department and the the beam will have our signatures forever pic.twitter.com/zKISvCbqcz— Butch Goring (@91Butch) October 9, 2020
The Jets were informed that center Bryan Little would be better off not playing hockey this year. You wonder if that’s a permanent thing. Concussions, man. Guess that’s why they re-acquired Paul Stastny. [NHL]
Free Agency News
Okay, I’m just going to rattle off some of the signings that happened yesterday. Not all of them, mind you; that’s what the Free Agency Live Blog and Free Agency Tracker are for. But some of the bigger ones, for sure. Any cap hits I list that you don’t find in the articles I retrieved from CapFriendly, one of the very best websites associated with this sport.
- The biggest signing came in the evening when it seemed like everyone was done for the day. Torey Krug shocked the world by signing with the Blues, accepting a seven-year deal with a $6.5 million AAV. He says the Bruins hadn’t even spoken to him about a contract extension in a year. And St. Louis still hasn’t ruled out bringing back Pietrangelo. [NHL]
- The Devils snagged goalie Corey Crawford, formerly of the Blackhawks, on a two-year deal last night. He’ll average $3.9 million per year. [NHL]
- The Flames threw the bag at two former Canucks yesterday. First, they gave former Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom, age 30, a six-year deal worth $6 million a year. He’s been very good but that... will not age well. [NHL]
- Then, Calgary signed former Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev to a four-year contract with an AAV of $4.5 million. [NHL]
- Stars goalie and playoff hero Anton Khudobin is staying in Dallas on a three-year contract worth $3.33 million per year. Between he and Ben Bishop, the Stars have a lot of money tied up in aging goalies. [NHL]
- As had been rumored all week, the Capitals signed long-time Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. [NHL]
- Meanwhile, former Capitals goalie Braden Holtby landed in Vancouver to platoon with Thatcher Demko on a two-year deal with an AAV of $4.3 million. [NHL]
- He wasn’t a UFA, but after acquiring him the other from the Penguins, the Senators gave goalie Matt Murray a four-year contract with an AAV of $6.5 million. Gotta hit the cap floor, I guess. [ESPN]
- The Maple Leafs addressed their two biggest needs on Day 1: they got their defenseman in T.J. Brodie, for four years at a $5 million AAV [NHL] and their grit in Wayne Simmonds, who got a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. [NHL]
- Having dealt Devan Dubnyk, the Wild signed Cam Talbot to a three-year deal worth $11 million total. [ESPN]
- The Ducks signed defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to a three-year pact worth $3.9 million per year. Good for him. He got a raw deal from his hometown team, takes a one-year deal with a contender, wins a Cup, and then gets some financial security and the chance to live in Southern California. [NHL]
- The Panthers signed defenseman Radko Gudas and forward (and one-time Islanders property) Carter Verhaeghe. [ESPN]
- This is my favorite signing of the day: the Rangers signed recently bought-out defenseman Jack Johnson. It’s only a one-year deal worth $1.15 million but hehehehehe. [NHL]
- The Red Wings made a couple one-year depth signings, surely for trade deadline capital: they got defenseman Jon Merrill for just under $1 million [WIIM] and recently bought-out winger Bobby Ryan for exactly $1 million. [NHL]
- Edmonton nabbed another recently bought-out player in Kyle Turris. He got a two-year deal with an AAV of $1.65 million. [NHL]
- The Penguins brought back Evan Rodrigues after trading him a couple weeks ago in the Kasperi Kapenen deal. [ESPN]
So, as you can see, free agency got off to a bit of a tentative start, other than in goal. A lot of short-term deals with salary structures that push the big money off for a couple years. And most of the big-ticket names are still out there. [NHL]