Don’t blink, the hectic NHL offseason is well underway
The 2020-21 NHL season is over. . . of them . . . Three. . . four. . . And now in 2021-22.
It won’t be long before the NHL, its (now) 32 teams, agents, players, media and fans get ready for next season.
There is a lot to come, quickly.
The first standing: The extension project. Teams have until July 17 to submit their protected lists for the July 21 draft. The lists will be made public on July 18. The Seattle Kraken must take one player from each team, hitting at least the lower limit of the salary cap of $ 60.2 million. (Except Las Vegas. The Golden Knights are exempt. Their owner also does not share the $ 650 million expansion fee.)
Teams can protect seven forwards, three defenders and a goalie, or eight skaters and a goalie. The latter would be the choice of a team – perhaps like the Maple Leafs – that would prefer to protect four defensemen.
It should also be remembered that each team must include on its unprotected list a goalkeeper, two forwards and a defender under contract for next year. For the Leafs, Michael Hutchinson, Alexander Kerfoot, Jason Spezza, Wayne Simmonds, Pierre Engvall, Adam Brooks, Justin Holl and Travis Dermott meet these requirements.
Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas has options. The 8 and 1 pick would see Kerfoot and either Dermott or Holl left hanging. The 7-3-1 would see both Dermott and Holl hang.
What’s interesting here are the new Leaf ties to the Kraken. Seattle head coach Dave Hakstol has been an assistant to the Leafs for the past two years. Hakstol has hired former Leafs assistant coach Paul McFarland. Between them, they’ll know the available Leafs pretty well and can put pressure on GM Ron Francis for whoever they want.
It has been speculated, however, that the Leafs at least have a warning from Seattle about who they might want to take off the list as a favor for allowing Hakstol to leave. Maybe there’s even a deal in place, although that might be overstating. Teams rarely oppose this kind of promotion.
The Seattle Kraken will also have early access to unrestricted free agents – like Zach Hyman and Frederik Andersen.
Trades: The expansion draft puts additional pressure on teams fearing they will lose a player for nothing. They may be looking for veterans looking for prospects or draft picks – something that may be hidden from the Kraken.
Meanwhile, a whole bunch of players have asked for trades or are in the bargain: Buffalo captain Jack Eichel, Columbus defenseman Seth Jones, St. Louis forward Vladimir Tarasenko, Calgary forward Johnny Gaudreau. and Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith.
Draft entry: It’s July 23 (for the first round) and July 24 (for the second to seventh rounds) another draft by Zoom is calling. It promises to be one of the craziest and most dramatic drafts in history. And the drama begins at the top. Michigan defenseman Owen Power of Mississauga is the prohibitive favorite to become the No. 1, a Buffalo-owned pick. The Sabers are believed to buy it, however. Power plans to return to college next year. He already has a gold medal at the world championships to his credit.
So hang in there from that perspective. But just consider that so few players have actually played, and those who have played fewer games than normal, due to the pandemic. Scouts will advise GMs based on how the players played at 17, sometimes 16. There will certainly be more than a few mistakes made. There will be a lot of “end of flowering” as they say. Teams are probably as likely to make a pick late as they are early.
For the Leafs, no need to log in for now on July 23. The Leafs have no choice. As it stands, they only have three choices – their own second, fifth, and sixth. Finish the first (Nick Foligno), the third (because Jack Campbell re-signed), the fourth (Foligno) and the seventh (traded to Boston so the Leafs can draft Ryan Tverberg last year).
Dubas was creative in drafts, in and out, top to bottom. If he wants, he will come in. Maybe if contract talks with Hyman and Andersen go wrong, he could trade negotiating rights for choices.
Free agency: July 28 is the new July 1 for one year only. The frenzy will start at noon. The cap is fixed, at $ 81.5 million, so teams will pressure players to keep salaries low. Some teams choose to wait to re-sign their UFAs as it will make their extension-protected rosters a bit easier, even if that comes with an increased risk of losing a key player for nothing. Seattle actually has early trading rights.
Big names in unrestricted free agents expected to hit the market include Washington captain Alex Ovechkin, who would love to return to the Capitals, Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog, Boston winger Taylor Hall and goaltender Tuukka Rask, the Carolina defenseman Dougie Hamilton, Edmonton defenseman Tyson Barrie and Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez.
The Leafs risk losing Hyman, Andersen, Foligno and Alex Galchenyuk.
Some restricted free agents, who might have interesting times negotiating contracts and be prone to unfounded rumors about unicorns known as âbid sheets,â include Columbus winger Patrik Laine, Islanders forward Nathan Beauvillier and goaltender Ilya Sorokin, Winnipeg defenseman Neal Pionk, Buffalo winger Sam Reinhart and Florida winger Sam Bennett.