In September of 2016 I was given my start in hockey writing by Dobber, and from my first Capped article to today, I feel like the team here has helped me grow a lot. Luckily, Logan Doyle (formerly penning the Geek of the Week) is taking over the Capped column from me and I know he can do some great things with this space as well. Give him a follow on Twitter @doylelb4 so you don't miss any of his work!
In the meantime, you get one last article from me, and I'm going to publish a big list of the top 200 free agent salary projections for the 2021 offseason. For the uninitiated, I have been working on a projection algorithm the last few years that helps with my cap league rankings, and spits out a projected future cap hit for every player based on a variety of stats and variables. I've found them to be fairly accurate (close to other options that are mostly stuck behind paywalls), but no system is ever going to be perfect.
There should be a similar amount of cap space available from last season due to the flat cap, but this summer there is also the Seattle Kraken debut, which means we'll have an extra $81.5 million in available cap space around the league appearing out of thin air. That should minimize the number of players getting pinched for every penny like we saw last summer. In addition, it should mean some higher contract ceilings for a class that is heavy on defencemen and pure goal-scorers, both of whom typically get large sums in free agency.
Some things are tough to put into an algorithm though, and the lifetime service award contract that is likely coming for Alex Ovechkin isn't well estimated by the model. Likely for him we see him on a short-term deal that keeps his cap hit similar to the $9.5 million he is making now. The lowest he likely goes is a round $8 million to match his jersey number, which seems to be the trend now among star players. The other thing that is tough to account for is the players that have no NHL history and are coming into the league as rookies who have already established themselves in the pro ranks. Players such as Kirill Kaprizov and Ilya Sorokin have reduced projections as a result of this. I expect them to make two-to-three times what they are projected for below.
We see two goalies leading the class, though neither is likely to go very far in free agency. There have been rumblings that Tuukka Rask is going to retire after the season, and it would seem unlikely that Jordan Binnington would leave the St. Louis Blues (though going back to his "hometown" Toronto Maple Leafs as a replacement for Frederik Andersen would be a fun storyline). Philipp Grubauer and Andersen are both UFAs from top tier teams this season, but we saw how much Sergei Bobrovsky struggled after leaving Columbus, so teams may be more hesitant to overpay free agent goalies moving forward. We will likely see continued bridge deals for RFA goalies, despite them making larger impacts at younger ages. Carter Hart,