What in the world is going on with these key NHL free agents?

As far as we know, the NHL is planning to commence the 2020-21 season on January 13th, and with just a little over a month to go before puck drop, we have to ask; what in the world is going on with Mike Hoffman, Mathew Barzal, and Mikael Granlund?


Mathew Barzal


The difference between Islanders center, Mathew Barzal, and the two other guys on this list is that Barzal has a tentative home. Barzal hit restricted free-agency this offseason, and he is certainly going to demand a pretty penny from the cap-strapped New York Islanders. The consensus around the league has suggested that in order to keep the future star, Islanders' general manager, Lou Lamoriello, is going to have to get creative.


New York is currently stuck in the middle of cap hell. In a Covid stricken season, the NHL has been forced to commission a flat salary cap, something that couldn't have come at a worse time for the Islanders, who only have a little over $9,000,000 in remaining cap space available, which is certainly not enough to retain the 23-year-old Barzal long term, unless he is willing to accept a team friendly contract and be one of the most underpaid players in the league. Times have been worse for the franchise though, as they only had $3,000,000 in cap space prior to the November retirement of Johnny Boychuk, which gave the Islanders an additional $6,000,000 to work with.


In order to extend Barzal, Lamoriello has already had to trade away a very solid player in defenseman Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche for practically nothing (two second round picks) A similar situation plagues the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, Tampa Bay Lightning, as they have also been in salary-dump mode. Lamoriello has made mention before that any offer sheet given to Barzal "would be matched" by the Islanders.


So, with the retirement of Boychuk, and the trade of Toews, New York has already lost two of their top-six defensemen. Lamoriello has a little over a month left to move some more money around before the start of the season, otherwise he runs of the risk of losing his team's best player. My question for Islanders' fans is this; do you risk gutting the core of your team that just made it to the Eastern Conference Final for one guy? Or do you let him walk, and hope that the other guys on the team can pick up the slack? One thing is for sure, there are tough times ahead for the Islanders if Lamoriello can't figure things out soon.

Mike Hoffman


Former Florida Panthers winger, Mike Hoffman, is perhaps the most enticing unrestricted free agent who is somehow still on the open market. While Hoffman is still drawing interest from teams around the league, it is believed that the only reason he hasn't signed yet is because most teams cannot afford him. The New York Islanders aren't the only team suffering from a flat salary cap. TSN's Frank Seravalli states that Hoffman is drawing interest from teams like the Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks, with the Columbus Blue Jackets waiting in the wings as a dark horse candidate.


Hoffman racked up 59 points on 29 goals and 30 assists in the 2019-20 season with the Florida Panthers. Hoffman is sure to command a long term, big number contract, as he is one of the more recognizable names in this year's free agent class.


Mikael Granlund


The 2020-21 season will mark Mikael Granlund's ninth season in the NHL. The 28-year-old Finnish forward spent the first part of his career with the Minnesota Wild, before being traded to the Nashville Predators at the 2018-19 trade deadline. Granlund has seen a decrease in his offensive production since his 2016-17 campaign, where he recorded a career high 69 points and career high 26 goals. Granlund is still more than capable of producing, scoring 30 points on 17 goals and 13 assists during the pandemic shortened 2019-20 season. Granlund's Nashville Predators were not among the teams that qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoff bubble.


Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest recently tweeted out that Granlund is drawing interest from the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes, both of which were playoff teams last season. Strickland also mentioned that a reunion with Nashville is a strong possibility for Granlund.



Do you have any thoughts or ideas on where Granlund or Hoffman end up? Does Barzal re-sign with the Islanders short term, long term, or not at all? Let me know in the comments below!


Follow me on Twitter for all you NHL news, updates, and rumors. @NY_cth.


-Chris

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