Free agency is a hectic period most years in hockey circles, but this fall’s edition is expected to be even wilder than normal.
Fresh off the awarding of the Stanley Cup up the road in the NHL’s bubble in Edmonton, this week will feature the draft on Tuesday and Wednesday and the start of free agency on Friday.
Combined with the effects of the pandemic and the league staying with a flat cap in the coming seasons, this will be a fascinating test for the 31 general managers.
This includes Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving, as there has been plenty of speculation regarding significant changes coming to the team’s roster following their playoff exit to the Dallas Stars.
Calgary has just under $17 million in cap space with a variety of pending unrestricted free agents themselves such as T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Cam Talbot, and Erik Gustafsson.
To make a splash the Flames will likely need to move out some contracts, but seem to be involved in some of this year’s most prized free agents.
1. Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis Blues)
2019-20 stats: 70 GP, 16 G, 36 A, 52 PTS
The top pending free agent on the market has been linked to the Flames, among several other teams like Vegas and Toronto. Talks between the Blues and Alex Pietrangelo have broken down and it looks like the all-star will head to market.
As a top-pairing defenceman, Pietrangelo will command a lengthy contract and somewhere in the range of $8 to $10 million per year.
2. Taylor Hall (Arizona Coyotes)
Position: Left wing
2019-20 stats: 65 GP, 16 G, 36 A, 52 PTS
Calgary product Taylor Hall could have the chance to come home to Alberta this off-season as it’s unlikely he’ll be back in the desert this winter. Before his trade to Arizona last season, the Flames were reportedly one of the teams who came close to acquiring the winger.
Especially if the Flames move off of Gaudreau, there will be an opening on Calgary’s top line.
3. Jacob Markstrom (Vancouver Canucks)
2019-20 stats: 43 GP, 23-16-4, 2.75 GAA, .918 SV%, 2 SO
Jacob Markstrom picked a pretty good season to post the best numbers of his career, becoming a top-10 goaltender in the league as he becomes a free agent. If Vancouver chooses to go with the younger Thatcher Demko full-time, Markstrom will be the most sought after goalie on the market.
His $3.6 million salary could get doubled this week and will be a long-term investment for whoever he signs with.
4. Braden Holtby (Washington Capitals)
2019-20 stats: 48 GP, 25-14-6, 3.11 GAA, .897 SV%, 0 SO
When it comes to pending free agents, there might not be a more interesting name than Braden Holtby this year. A Stanley Cup champion and one of the top goaltenders of the last half decade, Holtby is coming off the worst statistical performance.
Already 31 years old, a lengthy contract will come with some risk but Holtby remains a number one option.
5. Sami Vatanen (Carolina Hurricanes)
2019-20 stats: 47 GP, 5 G, 18 A, 23 PTS
The Carolina Hurricanes paid two players and a conditional draft pick to acquire Sami Vatanen at the trade deadline, for a defenceman that ended up playing just seven playoff games for them. Vatanen’s leg injury suffered while with New Jersey limited him to just 47 games, but he remains a legitimate top-four option.
If Calgary fails to get Pietrangelo, Vatanen could be a welcomed consolation prize.
6. Tyler Ennis (Edmonton Oilers)
Position: Left wing/right wing
2019-20 stats: 70 GP, 16 G, 21 A, 37 PTS
All of the above options will come at a sizeable financial cost to the Flames and cap space will be a hurdle with the cap staying flat for the foreseeable future. Veteran winger Tyler Ennis has provided some of the best bang for buck with at least 35 points in each of his last two seasons.
Calgary could get the Albertan on a deal worth less than $2 million for an inexpensive option on the wing.