Ramblings: Eyeing free agency; Game 3; Bob Boughner in San Jose – September 24

Michael Clifford

2020-09-24

Yesterday, I wrote about where teams stand with regards to cap space and the off-season. Remember, the draft starts October 6th and free agency on October 9th, with the last day of playoffs potentially being September 30th. That doesn't give us much time to cover what may happen.

Today, I want to start the discussion about where the free agents may land. I don't have any particular insight beyond just having an idea of what teams need to improve, and where they need to improve. Or where I believe they need to do those things.

 

Alex Pietrangelo

It came as a pretty big shock when it was announced that the Blues told Pietrangelo to pursue free agency. We got some sources from Blues reporters saying they were pretty far apart on money and now here we are.

As mentioned in my Ramblings yesterday, I believe that Calgary is a dark-horse candidate. All the same, Pietrangelo is now 30 years old and he has his Stanley Cup. It would make sense if he were to chase the most money, regardless of situation. Among teams that have roughly $9-$10 million to spend in AAV on Petro, I'm going to exclude Detroit (I don't believe that's a contract Steve Yzerman would make), Ottawa (Melnyk), and Buffalo (internal cap). That leaves us, in my estimation, with four realistic targets: Florida, New Jersey, Los Angeles, and Colorado.

Florida makes a lot of sense. They technically have the room to sign Petro and one of Dadonov/Hoffman if they want. They also need a lot of help on that blue line. After the top pair of Weegar-Ekblad, it's thin. Maybe the Bobrovsky debacle makes them weary of significant contracts, though.

Los Angeles only does this if, as outlined in yesterday's Ramblings, they want to make a push with Carter/Brown still on the roster and Doughty/Kopitar still not in their mid-30s. If they don't want to do that, they likely pass.

New Jersey has the space, but I really don't think it makes sense given where they are right now. They don't need a guy like Petro for 2-3 years, and you don't want to hope he's still the same guy at 33 that he is at 29.

I still think Colorado is more likely to sign Hall than Pietrangelo, but I just wanted to mention the possibility here.

All told, if he doesn't end up back with St. Louis somehow, I think he ends up in one of Florida, Los Angeles, or Calgary.

 

Taylor Hall

I've written enough about this over the last six months. I believe whole-heartedly he's heading straight for Colorado.

 

Mikael Granlund

This could end up being the steal of free agency, if there is such a thing. After a pair of 67- and 69-point seasons, he has just 84 over his last 142 games, or a sub-50-point pace. Points aren't everything, but they do dictate a lot in contract negotiations, and falling off in Nashville could make for a bargain.

In my mind, Granlund goes to a team needing a middle-six left winger, but are already a playoff team, or very close to it.

Dallas makes sense to me. Granlund could slide in easily on the second line with Joe Pavelski, which would free up guys like Gurianov or Hintz in a sheltered third-line role.

I can also see Florida making a pitch here, assuming they don't go all in on Petro. Also, I assume he'll come in under Hoffman's number, so it could be a Hoffman replacement – and a good one – for less.

This is the type of signing I think Steve Yzerman makes. He can sign a good veteran on a good contract that can help balance out their offensive scoring, but also not leave the cap situation with an albatross as the team improves in the coming seasons. But maybe that's not a team Granlund wants to go to, in favour of a contender.

If Granlund wants to go to a contender, I think he's the consolation prize for the Avalanche if they don't get Hall.

 

Tyson Barrie

Where Barrie ends up could be very fascinating. In my mind, this guy is akin to Keith Yandle. He's someone I want playing 19-20 minutes a game with power play exposure. He's not a guy I want playing 21-22 minutes a game with power play exposure. "Is the juice worth the squeeze," to quote on of my favourite movies this century. Is Tyson Barrie worth what he'll probably command on the open market? I don't think he is, but I'm not an NHL general manager.

If this were the old Florida regime, I would say the Panthers will be in the mix. But it's not, so maybe they're a bit more cautious.

Hear me out: I think Ottawa is a good landing spot for Barrie. Thomas Chabot is on the left side, so it balances their puck-movers. Erik Brannstrom is a righty, and this could provide insulation on the second pair. Barrie coming off a tough year probably won't command as much on the open market as he would have a year ago. It's a Melnyk Savings Spree! (He won't sign there.)

If Calgary misses out on Pietrangelo, going after Barrie would make sense. As it stands right now, Rasmus Andersson is their only non-ELC right-shot defenceman with a contract. They have their own guys they can sign instead like Brodie, Gustafsson, or Hamonic, though, so maybe Barrie is way down the priority list.

*

The major development in the Cup Final was that not only did Steven Stamkos warm up for the Bolts before Game 3, he was inserted into the lineup. The Lightning captain hadn't played since late February but suited up for this pivotal contest. He wasn't handed a role high in the lineup, skating on the fourth line with Cedric Paquette and Patrick Maroon. However, with his team already up 1-0 early in the first period, it didn't take long for Stamkos to find his touch:

 

 

It's nice to be able to insert one of the best goal scorers of the last decade in the middle of the Stanley Cup Final.

It wouldn't last, though, as Stamkos didn't finish the first and didn't come out for the second. He would eventually come to sit on the bench, but that's about all he would do after scoring that goal.

Not that it really mattered, as Tampa scored three second-period goals (including on from Victor Hedman, putting him in a tie for first in playoff goal scoring) to take a 5-1 lead and cruise from there to take a 2-1 series lead.

On another injury note, Alexander Radulov took a hard spill into the boards with 10 minutes left in the game and did not return.

*

Tuesday, Bob Boughner was retained as the head coach of the Sharks full-time after taking over in the interim way back in December.

I'm intrigued by this. From January 1st through the end of the year, the team rolled along at a 52.8 percent xGF clip at 5-on-5, which put them in the top-10 league-wide, coincidentally enough sandwiched between the two current Stanley Cup finalists. Their record wasn't very good (12-15-2) but in that span they just couldn't buy a goal (fifth-lowest shooting percentage). Part of that had to have been injuries as in those 29 games, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl both missed 18 of them. Oh, and Erik Karlsson missed 13 contests. It's little wonder they had trouble scoring with all those guys missing for big chunks of time.

All this is to say I'm not as bearish on the Sharks as some others may be. There were good signs here after Boughner took over and settled in, despite the significant injuries. I can't imagine many of these players will be going in the top three or four rounds in fantasy drafts next year. Some more digging is necessary but there could be good drafting opportunities here based on ADP.

UPCOMING GAMES

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HOT PLAYERS

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LINE COMBOS

  Frequency STL Players
13.7% RYAN O'REILLY DAVID PERRON JADEN SCHWARTZ
13.4% IVAN BARBASHEV SAMMY BLAIS OSKAR SUNDQVIST
11.8% ZACH SANFORD BRAYDEN SCHENN ROBERT THOMAS

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