NHL Free Agency Levels – Top 90 Player Rankings (over)
There are two major factors that will shape the free agency of the NHL when it officially begins on July 28.
The first takes place a week before the market opens: the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft, in which each team not named the Vegas Golden Knights donates a player to the 32nd NHL team on July 21. In turn, the Kraken will open up a salary cap space for many of these teams, and open up even more as a landing point for veteran players that contract teams want to get rid of – sacrificing choices. draft and the prospects for doing so.
“People think of Seattle as the Swiss bank. I don’t think so [GM] Ron Francis will totally be, but he will take contracts, ”an NHL agent told ESPN this week.
The other factor is the flat-rate salary cap, which will be stuck at $ 81.5 million for the second consecutive season due to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on earnings.
Some agents are optimistic that the cap will be on the rise after the 2021-22 season. One said the NHL could eclipse the $ 4.8 billion threshold for hockey-related revenue next season, which would allow the cap to rise by $ 1 million each season until that the players’ escrow balance be refunded. Another predicted “one more cycle of this” before the cap begins to rise again.
But for now, it’s a flat cap, after a regular season in which teams have lost considerable income playing in empty or nearly empty arenas.
Some GMs we’ve spoken to believe this free agent market will be like last offseason, with a lack of long-term deals and stagnant salaries for mid-level talent.
“I think it’s going to be the same. I don’t see how that changes. The teams still have ceiling issues. There isn’t a lot of money that can flow, ”said an NHL general manager.
Others think there will be an increase in activity.
“I think it will be more active. The teams have had time to prepare for the flat cap. The expansion issues will be sorted out by the free agencies,” said another NHL general manager, who predicted that the pool of players could increase further with the teams moving away. players instead of offering them qualifying offers.
“It will be a busy free agent period, due to the expansion as well as the flat cap,” said another general manager. “There will be a group of players who will always get their money, but there will be a group of players who have to be smart about their place in the market, or they could be ousted with few options.”
This is also how the agents see it. “The market is going to be tight. The players you wait for to get their money will get it, and everyone else will be stuck,” said an agent.
Another factor to consider: the big names potentially available through trade, including Buffalo Sabers center Jack Eichel (with a contract that earns him $ 10 million in average annual value) and Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth. Jones ($ 5.4 million AAV). This is going to have an impact on which teams are looking to sign and how much is left to do so.
What does the current NHL free agent market look like? Here’s a tiered guide to the players available during the offseason: