Capped: Looking Ahead to the 2021 Free Agent Class

Alexander MacLean

2020-10-29

This summer's free agent class is almost wrapped up, and that means we get to spend the next few months in the offseason doldrums before we get offseason hockey again. Usually during the latter half of the offseason I'll bring back the team by team buy/sell series, but first we need to cover the annual early "way too early" look ahead to the next free agent class. Below are 10 free agents to keep an eye on.

 

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Alex Ovechkin (RW) – Washington Capitals

Current Cap Hit: $9,538,462

Projected New Cap Hit: $7,920,659

We can't start with anyone but one of the biggest names in the game, the one chasing the all-time goals record, Mr. Ovechkin. Coming off a 13-year contract, the going theory is that either Ovechkin is going to be content with his cup, his bank account, and his accomplishments to date, and retire to Russia once his contract is up, or he will sign short-term deals until he has the NHL record for most career goals. If you own Ovechkin, then either way, now may be the time to get out. A short terms deal for a player of Ovechkin's caliber will be more along the lines of the legacy deals Joe Thornton was getting with the San Jose Sharks the last couple of years, more so than the discount price that he signed for this summer.

 

Ryan Getzlaf (C) – Anaheim Ducks

Current Cap Hit: $8,250,000

Projected New Cap Hit: $3,417,246

At 36 this may be Getzlaf's chance to follow Corey Perry out of Anaheim and be a difference maker on a team chasing the Stanley Cup. Plenty of teams could use Getzlaf on a smaller contract as their second- or third-line centre, and Getzlaf would likely thrive in that kind of role not having to bear the burden of carrying an offence all on his own. The veteran centre was also having to manage more defensive zone faceoffs that he has in years past, as well as facing a higher quality of competition. If he does have one good year left in him, 2021-2022 will be it.

 

Taylor Hall (LW) – Buffalo Sabres

Current Cap Hit: $8,000,000

Projected New Cap Hit: $8,940,186

Possibly back on the market again, it will be very interesting to see what happens to Taylor Hall both this coming season, and during the 2021 offseason. Hall's play this year will greatly dictate the size and length of his offers moving forward. Hall could exceed his AAV on a long-term deal if he shows well, and should have plenty more suitors next season as teams are able to plan for their cap better knowing ahead of time that the salary cap will stray flat at $81.5 million.

 

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (LW) – Edmonton Oilers

Current Cap Hit: $6,000,000

Projected New Cap Hit: $7,562,041

It caught me by surprise that Nugent-Hopkins could hit the free agent market in just one short year. The third-best forward on the Edmonton Oilers leaving via free agency would be a huge loss to a team already struggling