While Day One of free agency on Friday saw 80 players ink new deals, the top players like Hall, Alex Pietrangelo and Mike Hoffman, saw a lot of money being taken up by lesser players who quickly signed deals.
The big names signed on Friday were the goaltenders as Jacob Markstrom went to the Calgary Flames after his former team, the Vancouver Canucks went all-in on Braden Holtby. The only major player signing was Torey Krug, who received seven years from the St. Louis Blues, taking them out of the race for their captain Pietrangelo.
The problem continues to be that the stars hope to grab a huge deal and that may not happen this year. NHL teams still do not know if fans will (or when) be allowed back into their arenas due to the coronavirus and that has a huge effect on each team’s bottom line.
While the NHL and NHLPA have peace for the next six seasons due to the new CBA, and have agreed to a flat cap and not have it go down over the next couple of seasons, there is not a lot of money to be thrown around. It appears that the agents of lesser talented players had that figured out Friday but the stars are going to have to take shorter term deals this off-season unless they are willing to sign with a bottom-feeder, who has plenty of money and needs to get to the floor of the salary cap.
And that happened on Sunday when the Buffalo Sabres shocked the hockey world by signing Taylor Hall to a one-year deal worth $8 million.
The happiest player on the planet has to be Jack Eichel. The Buffalo center was quite vocal with his frustration about the Sabres losing ways in the off-season and now he has a former Hart Trophy winner to play on his wing.
Hall has had a tough go of things in the last two seasons after winning the Hart in the 2017-18 season with New Jersey. Hall missed 49 games the following season with a knee injury that required surgery and in 2019-20 he was dealt by the New Jersey Devils to Arizona where he had 52 points in 65 games, split between the two teams.
Hall now gets a chance to play with a star in Eichel, something he really didn’t ever have in Edmonton, New Jersey or Arizona. He did play with Connor McDavid in his final year with the Oilers as it was McDavid’s first season in the NHL but remember that McDavid only played in 45 games that season, suffering a broken collarbone on a suspect hit by Brandon Manning.
The signing should also excite Sam Reinhart who is currently a restricted free agent but who should be the third member of the line. It gives Buffalo a pair of second overall picks in the NHL Draft (Reinhart in 2014 and Eichel in 2015) as well as a number one overall in Hall who was picked first by Edmonton in 2010. The fans in Buffalo should be quite excited for the coming season.
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The one-year deal will allow Hall to return to free agency next season with hopefully a more defined NHL, a vaccine for the coronavirus to allow fans back into the arena and lots more money as the NHL will have a new deal with American television. He should have a big year alongside Eichel.
Look for Pietrangelo to make the same type of deal. It could also be with Buffalo as he was born and raised just outside of Toronto and that will be close to home, or he could take a lot less money on a one-year deal to try and win another Stanley Cup. It should be the former as Pietrangelo has already stated that he was not interested in any team discounts.
Ottawa is currently the only team not at the cap floor according to capfriendly.com. Other teams that have plenty to spend are the New York Rangers, Detroit, New Jersey and Nashville.
The Rangers could be Pietrangelo’s place to go in 2020-21.