October 9th is the new Canada Day in the NHL.
We’re bound to see plenty of exciting moves as a result. Predicting where each free agent will go is a pretty difficult task, but just like a good baseball player, I’ll hope to get a hit 30% of the time. I gave a rough ranking of 50 free agents, but please don’t read too much into that. I was mainly focused on the predictions.
Before everyone asks, I think the Toronto Maple Leafs acquire a right-shooting defenseman via the trade route. While the Capitals are expected to sign Henrik Lundqvist (who I left off the list for that reason), I don’t expect them to be big players in the free-agent market. The Blue Jackets could be, but I’ll guess that they end up going the trade route.
2020 NHL Free Agents: Predicted Destinations
1. RD Alex Pietrangelo – St. Louis Blues
I think Pietrangelo stay in St.Louis if there are two comparable offers. However, the insiders have reported Florida’s interest in Pietrangelo for a while now, and they gave Sergei Bobrovsky $33 million of signing bonuses last offseason. St. Louis and Vegas seem to be the two other strong suitors, but I think Florida ends up surprising us with a big offer and tries to recreate the Pietrangelo-Parayko duo with Pietrangelo-Ekblad.
Editor’s Note: Following reports of an imminent Paul Stastny trade to Winnipeg, Kevin says he would now pick Vegas.
2. LW Taylor Hall – Colorado Avalanche
This feels like a perfect fit. Taylor Hall seems likely to sign with a contender, and Colorado has the cap space to pull this off. The Avalanche could run their top line of Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen followed up by an impressive Hall-Kadri duo. Carolina could make a lot of sense here as well. I could also see the Los Angeles Kings sweeping in like the New York Rangers did with Artemi Panarin last offseason. The Boston Bruins could also pull this off, which would be quite scary.
3. LD Torey Krug – Boston Bruins
Frank Seravalli reports that the Bruins have a 6 x $6.5 million offer on the table, and both sides could reconnect. If there are two comparable offers, I expect him to stay in Boston. Is someone seriously going to offer him significantly more than that? I think that’s a great offer. He’s a good player, but he’s 5’9″ and doesn’t face top competition, so I just don’t see how another team beats it. Detroit is rumoured to be interested, but if I’m Steve Yzerman, there’s no way I’m signing Krug when I’m at least two years away from being competitive.
4. G Jacob Markstrom – Calgary Flames
Pierre LeBrun reported that both Alberta teams have interest in Markstrom. While I expect the Canucks to make one last strong push to re-sign him, I think he’ll want full protection in the expansion draft. The Canucks will have a tough time doing that with Thatcher Demko in the mix, but the Flames will not. They should be able to make a significant offer.
5. LW Mike Hoffman – Nashville Predators
Likely losing Granlund and Smith to free agency, the Predators have a big need for a top-six forward. They’ve been dreadful on the power play over the past few years, and if there’s anyone who can change that, it’s Hoffman. They seem bound to add some type of high-end power-play scorer. Hoffman is the best option available in that regard by a wide margin. The Montreal Canadiens could also make sense, but they have tons of players to re-sign next offseason, so they may be more conservative. Columbus and New Jersey also make some sense here.
6. RW Tyler Toffoli – Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks seem to love Toffoli. I think they’ll make every effort to bring him back, especially if they can’t re-sign Markstrom. If he does leave, the Flames, Habs, Canes, Bruins, and Devils would all be good fits. I’m sure he enjoys playing with Elias Pettersson, and the Canucks have a clear need for a top-six forward. A return to the Kings would also be cool to see.
7. RW Mikael Granlund – Los Angeles Kings
Granlund is one of the youngest free agents available in this class. The Kings are quite weak on the right-side, Los Angeles certainly has the cap space to add this offseason, and they could get a bit of a bargain here if Granlund can return to being a 65+ point player. He should still be quite good in years three and four of this deal, which aligns with their timeline well. The Panthers, Hurricanes, and Devils could also make sense here.
8. RW Evgeni Dadonov – Florida Panthers
If Mike Hoffman signs elsewhere, the Panthers will have plenty of offense to replace. They could look to limit the damage by re-signing Dadonov. He’s a good fit with Huberdeau and Barkov, and they can offer him top-unit power-play time. The Predators, Sharks, Devils, and Flames could also make sense, but my guess is that he stays in Florida to play alongside two great players.
9. D T.J. Brodie – New York Rangers
Brodie is a left-shooting defenseman who played a ton on the right-side in Calgary, but the market is thin on the left-side this year and Torey Krug isn’t the same type of shutdown defender. The Rangers just cleared cap space by trading Marc Staal. They have plenty of offensive weapons with Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, and Alexis Lafreniere up-front. Their defense is loaded on the right side with Trouba, Fox, DeAngelo, and Nils Lunkqvist, so look for them to add a left-shooting player who defends well. The Leafs are a fit here as well, but he could be out of their price range. Darren Dreger reports that the Flames are still trying to get a deal done, but I think expansion draft protection could be a potential hold-up.
10. G Anton Khudobin – Vancouver Canucks
Khudobin posted a .930 save percentage this season before leading the Stars to the Cup finals. If Markstrom heads elsewhere, Khudobin seems like a great fit, as he gets a chance to play for a likely playoff team and the Canucks can just allocate the money they had for Markstrom elsewhere. Khudobin will be 35 in May, so he’s probably not overly concerned about Seattle taking him in the expansion draft, allowing allow the Canucks to protect Thatcher Demko.
11. LW Anthony Duclair – Detroit Red Wings
Duclair is 25 years old, scored at a 50-point pace last season, and the Red Wings should certainly be looking to invest in young talent. They can certainly give Duclair plenty of power-play time. Duclair gets to play big minutes, both at 5-on-5 and on the power play, and Detroit has plenty of cap space to make a strong offer.
12. C Carl Soderberg – New York Rangers
Soderberg only had 14 points way back in the 2016-2017 season, but other than that, he’s been a consistent 35+ point center who can anchor your third-line. The Rangers are weak up the middle, and I’m sure Soderberg would enjoy playing with their skilled wingers. The Rangers have plenty of cap space at the moment. This deal would expire when the team needs to give a raise to Zibanejad, Fox, and Kakko. Winnipeg could also make sense here if he’s willing to go there.
13. RW Craig Smith – Carolina Hurricanes
Smith grades out very well by advanced metrics like RAPM. It seems like he’s likely to go to a team that’s quite analytics-focused as a result. Carolina is a clear fit. They don’t really have any holes to fill on their back-end, so they’re likely to spend their money on forwards and goaltending. With Justin Williams now retired, Craig Smith would be a nice addition to help replace him. The Devils, Avalanche, and Kings would also make sense.
14. RD Sami Vatanen – Detroit Red Wings
Vatanen played well for Carolina after the deadline, but given their crowded blue line, he’s unlikely to return. The Red Wings could use a veteran on the right-side. If they’re willing to overpay a little bit, Vantanen could take them up on the offer. They’ll want to get the puck in the hands of Larkin and Zadina more, something Vatanen can help them with. I’m not sure I see him getting a long-term deal in this market, and the Red Wings have plenty of cap space to use on short-term deals. The Predators and Flames could also be good fits. Look out for Minnesota if they trade Dumba.
15. G Corey Crawford – Edmonton Oilers
Crawford posted a .917 save percentage this season, but he hasn’t played in 50+ games since 2016-2017 and needs to have a good partner. I do expect the Oilers to add a goalie. If they strike out on Markstrom and Khudobin, I think Crawford would be a great fit alongside Mikko Koskinen. Crawford gets a chance to play on a team with McDavid and Draisaitl, and the Oilers get an upgrade over Mike Smith. The Dallas Stars could also be a good fit here.
16. C Erik Haula – Winnipeg Jets
After a 55-point campaign in Vegas’ inaugural season, Haula is hitting free agency in a year where there’s hardly any centers available. The Jets desperately need to bring in some help up the middle. Unless they can acquire one via trade, they don’t have many other options here. I expect Haula to take the best offer out there. He would get a chance to play with some pretty good wingers in Winnipeg.
17. RD Travis Hamonic – Winnipeg Jets
The Jets are desperate to add depth on their blue line, and Hamonic would probably prefer to sign in Western Canada, being from Manitoba. They could use someone who can play big minutes on their penalty kill. The Jets may struggle to add other free agents, but I bet Hamonic wants to play there.
18. RD Kevin Shattenkirk – Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers have a hole to fill after Matt Niskanen retired. I expect them to try to move on from Shayne Gostisbehere as well. With Myers and Braun already playing shutdown minutes on the right-side, they could use a good puck mover like Shattenkirk. The Bruins could also make some sense. A return to the Lightning could work if he takes a discount and Tampa moves enough money out.
19. RD Chris Tanev – Calgary Flames
Rick Dhaliwal reports that things are quiet on the Tanev front with the Canucks. If the Flames don’t end up re-signing Brodie, they’ll need to replace him on the right-side. Tanev carries a strong reputation defensively. The Flames certainly know him well, as they’ve faced him plenty of times throughout his career. I expect the Leafs could also be interested, but I’m not sure if they’ll go crazy if there is a major bidding war.
20. G Cam Talbot – Dallas Stars
It seems like Khudobin is headed elsewhere, so the Stars will need someone to pair with Ben Bishop. Talbot would get a chance to play for a contender, and playing behind this defense would probably help his numbers. Bishop hasn’t played 55 games since the 2015-2016 season (when he was still on Tampa Bay), so Talbot would likely get plenty of playing time. Talbot posted a .919 save percentage last season, and the Stars will be looking to spend Khudobin’s money elsewhere. The Devils, Wild, and Blackhawks could also be good fits, and a return to the Flames does not seem to be out of the question.
21. G Thomas Greiss – Chicago Blackhawks
It looks like Corey Crawford is heading elsewhere. The Blackhawks did not qualify Malcolm Subban, either, but are expected to try to sign him. The Blackhawks have a clear need in net, and Greiss is just one season removed from posting a .927 save percentage. It’s not like he was bad last year, either. Even if Chicago trades for a younger goalie, Greiss can be a good “1B” option. New Jersey and Minnesota are also fits — as are both Alberta teams.
22. G Braden Holtby – Minnesota Wild
The Wild already traded Devan Dubnyk away, so it sounds like Bill Guerin has every intention of acquiring a goalie. Coming off a down season, and there’s no better place for Holtby to rebound his value, as Minnesota is always strong defensively. He’d have a clear path to playing time. Guerin can bridge the gap with a former Stanley Cup champion until Kaapo Kahkonen is ready.
23. C Lucas Wallmark- Detroit Red Wings
Wallmark just turned 25, plays up the middle, and has good defensive impacts. Detroit should be all over this. They can offer him plenty of opportunity, and he’s young enough to be a potential part of their future. I don’t understand why the Panthers let him go, but if I was a rebuilding team, I’d be all over this.
24. LW Dominik Kahun- Chicago Blackhawks
Kahun had a 37-point season with Chicago back in 2018-19. Let’s face it, the Blackhawks bring back every former player they’ve ever had. He just turned 25, and given the success he had in Chicago, I think he’ll see it as a good place to build back his value. They traded him for Olli Maatta, as they desperately needed to add defense, but I think they like him enough to bring him back.
25. C Alexander Wennberg – Florida Panthers
Just bought out by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the former 59-point center is still only 26. The Panthers traded away Vincent Trocheck during the season and didn’t extend a qualifying offer to Lucas Wallmark, so they have a clear need up the middle. Panthers General Manager, Bill Zito, came over from Columbus, so he knows this player well. Wennberg looked pretty good in the playoffs. He’s a good bounce-back candidate. The Jets would also make a lot of sense here, especially if Laine stays in Winnipeg.
26. RD Tyson Barrie – Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks could use another puck-moving defenseman. In Anaheim, Barrie would get an opportunity to play major minutes and re-establish his value. He’ll want a chance to play on the power play, and there’s plenty of minutes to go around in Anaheim. Given that he’s from British Columbia, the Canucks will likely be a rumoured destination, but I just can’t see him getting much power-play time on a team with Quinn Hughes and Alex Edler.
27. LW Tyler Ennis – Edmonton Oilers
Ennis broke his leg in Edmonton’s play-in series against Chicago, but he’s coming off a 37-point season and should still be able to provide a fair amount of secondary scoring. The Oilers seemed to like him. I’m sure he enjoyed playing with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
28. LW Conor Sheary – Detroit Red Wings
Sheary could struggle to get paid after scoring just 23 points this season, so a team with plenty of cap space like Detroit could make sense. Sheary would get power-play time in Detroit, which would help him re-establish some value, and he would likely be traded to a contender for draft picks. Detroit will likely have to outbid other teams to land free agents. A player like Sheary could make sense there.
29. RW Vincent Hinostroza – New Jersey Devils
I think Hinostroza is a good middle-six forward who scored at a 44-point pace back in the 2018-19 season. If Devils look to improve their forward depth, I think Hinostroza will provide great value. He can play some center in a pinch if needed, but I think he’s best at right-wing.
30. LW Andreas Athanasiou – Florida Panthers
26 years old, Athanasiou is just one year removed from a 30-goal season, and Florida has plenty of spots they need to fill up-front. Athanasiou could help to replace some of Mike Hoffman’s goal production. I think he’ll look to find a place where he can build back his value. Florida should be able to provide a top-six opportunity.
31. RD Justin Schultz- Vancouver Canucks
It looks like the Canucks could be losing Tanev and Stetcher on the right side. They probably can’t afford to spend on the big guys, especially if they trade for Ekman-Larsson. There are always rumours that Tyson Barrie will end up in Vancouver, but Schultz is also from British Columbia and he’s used to playing behind Letang on the power play. I think he ends up being slightly cheaper than Barrie, which is more in the Canucks’ price range.
32. LD Zdeno Chara – Boston Bruins
I just can’t picture him anywhere else. He still logs major minutes on the penalty kill and takes plenty of defensive zone starts. He’s not going to cost much, and I think there’s a lot of respect for him in that organization. I can see him going elsewhere if Boston trades for Ekman-Larsson, but there are not many left-shot defensemen available, and they might lose Torey Krug. I know he’s a left-shot, but I think he’d make the Leafs tougher to play against. Just saying.
33. RW Bobby Ryan – San Jose Sharks
In need of forward depth, the Sharks could provide a good opportunity for Ryan in a middle-six role. Given the big contracts on the back-end, the Sharks need to find some cheaper options up-front. Ryan gets to return to California, and given their lack of depth on the right side, he should get every opportunity to build up his value.
34. RD Troy Stetcher – Ottawa Senators
Stetcher had a solid season for the Canucks, but it was not quite enough to earn him a qualifying offer. I expect him to look for an opportunity to play more minutes. Ottawa could really use another puck-mover; the Senators already have Nikita Zaitsev and Erik Gudbransson, so they certainly don’t need any more size. A player like Stetcher could be a good fit there.
35. C Kyle Turris – San Jose Sharks
Turris still found a way to score at a 41-point pace last season. The Sharks will need to add depth up the middle if Joe Thornton leaves town. He struggles to put the puck in the net, but he does get a fair amount of assists, so if he can just grow a beard, he’ll be the perfect Thornton replacement. I’m sure he’d like to live in San Jose. They should be able to give him a pretty good opportunity there.
36. RD Trevor van Riemsdyk – Nashville Predators
The depth on Nashville’s blueline isn’t what it used to be, and Dante Fabbro had a bit of a rough year in the top four. I expect them to make an addition on the right-side. Van Riemsdyk has always graded out well defensively. He’s been blocked behind Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce in Carolina, but I think he could thrive if given the right opportunity.
37. C/LW Mattias Janmark – Buffalo Sabres
I have no logical reason for this, but something about Janmark screams “Buffalo Sabres free agent signing”. They need to add forward depth and I don’t expect them to spend on the big names, but a player like Janmark could help their bottom-six. The Leafs and Avalance have been reported to have interest here.
38. LD Erik Gustafsson – Los Angeles Kings
The Kings could still use another defenseman on their left-side, even after trading for Olli Maatta, and Gustafsson would get plenty of power-play time there. He’s just one year removed from a 60-point season. The Kings have good defensive defensemen on their right-side to pair with him.
39. LW Patrick Maroon – Florida Panthers
This is an important one, as whoever signs Maroon has to be considered the favourite to win the Stanley Cup. The Panthers could use some help in their bottom six. I see them trying to add more size to their lineup. Since Maroon played in Tampa Bay last season, he wouldn’t have to move far.
40. C/W Derick Brassard – New York Islanders
The Islanders seem to like Brassard. David Pagnotta reported that the two sides are trying to work out an extension. He had a pretty good season, but I don’t see him getting some sort of huge offer in this market, so I’ll bet on him returning to the Islanders.
41. RW Jesper Fast – Boston Bruins
Fast grades out well defensively, and just seems like a Bruins type of player. Boston is pretty much set in their top-six, but I expect them to add a depth forward or two to play lower in their lineup. Fast is a pretty generic third-line winger, so I could see him signing just about anywhere.
42. RW Corey Perry – Calgary Flames
The Flames could use some help on the right-side. A Tkachuk-Perry duo would be infuriating to play against. He’s a third-line player at this point of his career — and he’s probably not going to be a 40+ point player — but teams want him in their playoff lineup. I think he’ll sign with an above-average team. A return to Dallas is not out of the question, either.
43. C Mikko Koivu – Pittsburgh Penguins
Koivu went to Minnesota with the sixth overall pick of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, so it’s going to be incredibly weird to see him in another jersey. He’s 37 and hasn’t won a cup, so I expect him to sign with a contender. The Penguins could use center depth for their bottom six. Koivu could help to keep the game low-scoring while Crosby and Malkin are off the ice.
44. RD Radko Gudas – Vancouver Canucks
I don’t expect Gudas to get a major payday. The Canucks could use a cheaper option on their right-side, assuming they let at least one of Tanev or Stetcher walk. It also feels like the team could part ways with Jake Virtanen. They may be looking to add more physicality to their lineup.
45. C Joe Thornton – Vegas Golden Knights
Thornton wanted to go to a contender at the deadline. I expect him to take a discount to sign with a top team. Going to Vegas would re-unite him with Peter DeBoer and would give him a great chance at making a deep playoff run. The Leafs are also a possibility here. I could see the Lightning offering him a contract as well, but I think he takes the chance to play and live in Vegas under his former coach.
46. C Johan Larsson – Toronto Maple Leafs
Larsson is a bottom-six center who grades out well defensively by RAPM. Toronto would certainly benefit from adding a good defensive forward. Given that his career-high in points is 18, he should be within their price range. Larsson would give them the flexibility to move Kerfoot to the wing when needed. He can also take some minutes against top competition. If the team does not sign Evan Rodrigues, Larsson would be a good fit. I do expect the team to add some grit, but I expect that to come on the wing.
47. LW Vladislav Namestnikov – San Jose Sharks
The Sharks need to add depth up-front; Namestnikov can do just that. He’s been a middle-six forward for years now, and I don’t expect him to be overly expensive. Similar to Jesper Fast, he’s a pretty generic middle-six winger who could sign just about anywhere, but I’ll guess the Sharks.
48. LW Ilya Kovalchuk – Montreal Canadiens
The Habs seemed to love Kovalchuk during his time there. They’re in desperate need of shooting talent. A reunion seems possible, either in Montreal or Washington. He’ll get more power-play time in Montreal. It doesn’t seem like he’s against going back there.
49. LW Jimmy Vesey – Arizona Coyotes
Still only 27, Vesey has scored 16 or 17 goals in three of his first four seasons. I expect him to sign somewhere where he has a good chance to play top-nine minutes, and the Coyotes are rather weak on the left side. The Coyotes add cheap scoring talent. Vesey gets to live in Arizona and play on the power play.
50. RW Wayne Simmonds – Toronto Maple Leafs
I’ve always loved Wayne Simmonds. It’s no secret the Leafs want to add some physicality to their bottom-six. Simmonds would also be a good net-front presence on the second power-play unit, and with 900 career games under his belt, I think he’d take a little bit less to play for his hometown team. I could see the Leafs adding a depth defenseman like Mark Pysyk as well, although I think they’ll also get a more significant piece via trade. I’d love to see them add MacKenzie Weegar or David Savard.