This offseason got quiet in a hurry. The rumour mill dried up over the last week, which is surprising because there are still a handful of really good free agents available and some big names who I think could still get traded before next season begins. Over the next month or so, some teams are going to get good players on very cheap contracts.
I wonder if part of the reason why things go quiet is because of pending arbitration cases. Some teams still don’t know exactly how much cap space they’ll have next season. In the next few weeks, a total of 17 players are currently scheduled to have arbitration hearings. Once those are settled, I wonder if we see some big-name free agents start to sign deals.
Where could some of those big names land? Well, let’s take a look:
HAULA HAS SUITORS
The agent for UFA centreman Erik Haula came out earlier this week and said that his client has 10-12 suitors and they’re currently sorting through their options. It doesn’t surprise me that Haula has plenty of teams interested in him but it also doesn’t surprise me that he doesn’t have a deal yet.
At a time when almost every team in the league is pinching pennies, it’s not stunning to see that no one wants to spend a lot of money on a third-line centre. It will be interesting to see if Haula opts to take a one-year deal like Taylor Hall did, or if he wants a little bit more term than that.
Pierre LeBrun reported on Monday that the Golden Knights are interested, but would have to clear out cap space first. At the beginning of the offseason, I would have loved to see the Oilers go after Haula, but the addition of Kyle Turris makes the addition of another expensive centre highly unlikely.
WHERE WILL HOFFMAN GO?
Goal scoring winger Mike Hoffman is without a doubt the best free-agent left on the market and at this point, it sounds like he’ll have to take a one-year deal if he wants to make north of $5 million a season.
Hoffman’s agent told Adam Vingan of The Athletic that there were 13 teams interested in Hoffman with five or six of them being serious suitors. Vingan added that Hoffman is open to a one-year deal. He also mentioned Columbus, Boston, and Nashville as potential fits.
I think a one-year deal worth around $6 million is what Hoffman is eventually going to get.
For those saying that the Oilers should go after the perennial 25 goal scorer, I would suggest taking a look at the Oilers PuckPedia page. The team has just $735k in open cap space and still need to sign Ethan Bear. It’s not realistic to expect them to clear out the kind of money needed to sign Hoffman.
Just like the New York Rangers did a few years ago, the Chicago Blackhawks sent out a letter to their fans this week telling them that the organization plans to rebuild their roster and focus on getting younger. This comes at the heels of the team trading away Brandon Saad and opting not to re-sign goaltender Corey Crawford.
Jonathan Toews recently came out and said that he wasn’t aware of any plans to go into a rebuild, which leads you to believe he isn’t quite on the same page as the organization. Mark Lazerus of The Athletic wrote a piece last week that said the Hawks star players weren’t too thrilled with the club’s recent moves.
Pierre LeBrun noted on Inside Trading that the team would like to keep veterans like Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith around as they try to surround them with a new wave of young talent. Even if the team wanted to move on from one of those players, it would be difficult. Toews and Kane both make more than $10 million a season and they each have full no-move clauses, as does Duncan Keith.
The plan in Chicago is clearly to finish low in the standings for a few seasons, get some high draft picks, offload some expensive veterans (potentially Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw), and build around the likes of Kirby Dach, Alex Debrincat, and Dominik Kubalik. I don’t think we’ll see any massive moves anytime soon.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE OILERS?
There are three areas to keep an eye on when it comes to the Oilers. The first will be a new contract for Ethan Bear. We know that deal is going to come at some point before next season and will likely be a one or two-year contract worth just under $2 million. It’s a matter of when a deal will be announced, not if.
There has also still been plenty of chatter about a potential extension for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I’m not 100% sure if we’ll see the two sides make a deal before next season but there is a good chance it will happen. The Oilers clearly value Nugent-Hopkins, as they should, and considering the fact that we’ve heard rumours about the two sides already talking about an extension, I think it’s safe to say that Nugent-Hopkins wants to stay in Edmonton.
Finally, I still think we’ll see the Oilers add some depth players before the end of the offseason. Defenseman Madison Bowey and forward Dominik Kahun have both been connected to the team.
Lastly, I didn’t mind the extension given to Kris Russell. It makes sense for expansion purposes and if they really don’t want him on the NHL team in 2021/22, most of his contract can be buried in the minors. I’ve always liked what Russell brings on the ice, I just hated his contract. If he can keep up his current level of play when his new deal kicks in, I actually think he’ll be valuable.