The NHL had a moment to catch its breath after the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup on September 28, but now the offseason will hit overdrive.
The draft will start Tuesday night and finish Wednesday and then less than two days later, unrestricted free agency will begin (at noon ET on Friday). The jam-packed week likely means a lot will happen.
The coronavirus pandemic has also created uncertainty around the league. When will next season start? When will fans be allowed in buildings? How will this (along with a flat salary cap) affect the moves teams make in the coming days and weeks?
We can't promise to have all the answers, but we can at least sort through the pending craziness and provide an idea of some things to look out for.
From future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist to Jacob Markstrom to Braden Holtby, there is no shortage of goalies on the free agent marketplace. Whether a team needs a goalie as a long- or short- term solution, there is one who could fit a need. The abundance of goalies likely means prices will be suppressed. Robin Lehner's five-year, $25 million deal with the Vegas Golden Knights signed Saturday will provide a good barometer.
Braden Holtby is part of a large group of goalies entering free agency. (Photo: John E. Sokolowski, USA TODAY Sports)
But what about a franchise goalie of the future? The draft has an answer for that, too. Yaroslav Askarov, 18, is widely considered the best goalie prospect. He has backed Russia to six top-three finishes in six international events. "(Askarov) is the best goalie I've seen entering the NHL draft since Carey Price (in 2005)," Craig Button, TSN director of scouting and an NHL analyst, and a former NHL general manager, told NHL.com.
Alexis Lafreniere is expected to go No. 1 overall to the New York Rangers, but depending on who's taken next, history could be made.
Quinton Byfield, a 6-4 center from the Sudbury (Ontario) Wolves, is expected to go in the top three, making him the highest-drafted Black player.
Evander Kane (2009) and Seth Jones (2013) went fourth overall.
“Hopefully I can .. be a motivation to other players that are younger, of color as well, just to show you that you can play this sport and you can go places with it,” Byfield told the NHL’s Draft Class podcast.
Top international prospect Tim Stuetzle also could go in the top three, either matching or topping 2019-20 Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl (No. 3 overall in 2014 to the Edmonton Oilers) as the highest-drafted German player.
Lafreniere has pretty good company as a Rimouski (Quebec) player. Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby (2005) and former Tampa Bay Lightning star Vincent Lecavalier (1998) went first overall after playing there.
The hockey world always yearns for draft day trades, and most of the time, they disappoint. But there is reason to believe some significant ones could transpire — and if not on Tuesday and Wednesday, shortly thereafter.
The salary cap is frozen at $81.5 million and teams will also begin to get rosters in order for the Seattle Kraken's 2021 expansion draft. Roster maneuvering could be the theme of the offseason.
TSN.ca's Trade Bait List includes 30 names, highlighted by Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray, Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine. Several teams have multiple first-round picks and could use one of them for a trade: Rangers, Senators, Ducks and Devils).
The Capitals and Rangers are moving on from their previous No. 1 goalies. The St. Louis Blues will need a new captain if Alex Pietrangelo leaves in free agency. The Boston Bruins are expected to lose key defenseman Torey Krug, and Zdeno Chara, 43, needs to decide his future. The champion Lightning need to sign defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and a few others and might have to deal a forward or two. With Lehner signed, do the Golden Knights deal popular goalie Marc-Andre Fleury?
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