The frenzy of the free agent market has not hit as hard as it usually does. Whereas in years past the NHL fax machine was inundated with faxes announcing transactions as early as the 12th stroke of noon, this time it was dead calm.
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Torey Krug had to wait until the end of the evening before his new destination was confirmed. Taylor Hall didn’t know hers until two days later. Alex Pietrangelo had to count an extra day, while Mike Hoffman is still waiting.
Two reasons explain the slowness of the market. First, last summer, when the collective agreement was rewritten, the seven-day discussion period enjoyed by the teams and free agents they coveted since 2013 was abolished. Unable to shop in advance.
However, the main reason is obviously directly linked to the pandemic. The 2019-20 season hiatus and uncertainty over the resumption of activities make the league’s revenue impossible to predict. Therefore, the NHL decided to freeze the salary cap at $ 81.5 million for a few seasons.
Result: several formations find themselves handcuffed.
“The teams are looking more to free up salaries than to add new players. It limits options for those in the market, ”Hall’s agent Darren Ferris, Max Domi and Josh Anderson told the Journal earlier this week.
This is how we saw the Lightning try, unsuccessfully, to get rid of Tyler Johnson’s contract by placing him on waivers. A rather unusual strategy during the off-season.
In a few days, the Blue Jackets freed up $ 11.76 million on their payroll by buying back the contract of Alexander Wennberg ($ 4.46 million) as well as by swapping Ryan Murray ($ 4.6 million) and Markus Nutivaara ($ 2.7M).
It was also the purge for the Golden Knights, who had to make space to accommodate Alex Pietrangelo.
Besides, he and Hall were the only ones who really broke the bank. For the same reasons that were enumerated above, no CEO has thrown his money out the window by engaging in a bidding up.
“If it hadn’t been for this pandemic, it would have been a more positive experience. But no one could predict what was going to happen, ”said Tyler Toffoli, on the market for the first time.
Let’s say the timing was not the best to become an unrestricted free agent.
But hey, everything is relative. No one in this industry questioned whether the ECP would be sufficient to pay for rent and groceries.
The big catches
- Golden Knights, $ 61.6M / 7 years
There’s no denying it, Kelly McCrimmon really cared about Alex Pietrangelo. To be able to put him under contract, the general manager of the Golden Knights had to clean up his finances. He divested himself of the contracts of Paul Stastny ($ 6.5M) and Nate Schmidt ($ 5.9M). At $ 8.8m per season, Pietrangelo becomes the fifth highest paid defenseman, behind Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, PK Subban and Roman Josi.
- Canadian, $ 17M / 4 years
The last two times that Marc Bergevin grabbed a major free agent, the relationship ended badly. Alexander Radulov only stayed one season with the Canadiens, while Karl Alzner ended up seeing his contract bought out. At least the arrival of Tyler Toffoli confirms that the Habs have an appeal unlike any in the last quarter of a century. “It’s a good time to be a Montreal Canadian,” Toffoli repeated.
His pocket first
The most courted striker, Taylor Hall decided to bet on himself by signing a one-season contract. To hell with the chances of enjoying a championship. Either way, will there be a championship? Instead, Hall went for the scenario that would highlight him the most. That of a team that would use it excessively and in which it could be paired with a leading center. The strategy is very simple: inflate his statistics to the maximum so that next summer, he can sign a huge seven-year contract that will take him to 36 years old and, possibly, very close to retirement.
Unable to offer him a raise, the Blues had no choice but to let Alex Pietrangelo go. To replace him, they turned to Torey Krug, a defender with a similar profile. Over the next seven seasons, the 29-year-old’s footprint on the team’s annual payroll ($ 6.5m) will be the same as Pietrangelo had left in the previous seven campaigns.
In the goalkeeper musical chair game, the Flames came out on top. Of all those (11) who have changed address since the market opened, they have acquired the one that was most coveted. Markstrom will possibly be the strongest cerberus to wear the Flames colored pads since Miikka Kiprusoff (2003-2004 to 2012-2013).