NHL Free Agency 2020: Predictions for Mikael Granlund, Top Centers

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 6, 2020

Nashville Predators center Mikael Granlund, of Finland, plays against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The 2020 NHL free-agent class at center is not as robust as it was at the start of the season.

Nicklas Backstrom was taken off the market after he signed a contract extension with the Washington Capitals, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau inked a long-term deal with the New York Islanders after a trade with the Ottawa Senators. 

That leaves Mikael Granlund, Alex Galchenyuk and others at the top of the best available centers list going into the offseason. 

They will not be at the top of the majority of most-wanted free-agent lists because of the collection of wingers available, but Granlund and others will still hold value to teams looking to fill a need in the middle of the ice.

                 

Predictions For Top Free-Agent Centers

Mikael Granlund

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Billy Hurst/Associated Press

Granlund has not achieved the success with the Nashville Predators that some expected him to have. 

He produced five points in 16 games last season after he was acquired from the Minnesota Wild, and he put up 30 points in 63 contests this season. 

The lack of production for the Predators and his potentially high contract demands will likely keep him away from re-signing with Nashville.

Granlund is on the back end of a three-year contract worth $17,250,000, and his numbers with Minnesota suggest he can still be a solid contributor elsewhere. 

Before he was shipped to Nashville, Granlund put together back-to-back 60-point campaigns for the Wild. 

It could be difficult for Granlund to find a new home because of his form since he joined the Predators. 

If he believes he should be paid a certain amount, but teams are not willing to go that high, he could remain on the market for a bit. 

The good news from the player's perspective is he scored nine goals after January 18, so if he can prove to potential suitors that he can rediscover his scoring form, he could be in decent shape. 

Granlund could be intriguing to a handful of teams with salary cap space.

The Los Angeles Kings could be a decent landing spot since they have the sixth-most cap space and have a pair of aging centers in Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter.

If the Florida Panthers do not re-sign Evgeni Dadonov or Mike Hoffman, they could dip into the second tier of free-agent forwards and add Granlund for scoring depth behind Aleksander Barkov at center.

The Montreal Canadiens could improve their scoring from the center position and have $23.6 million to work with in the offseason. Only two Canadiens centers have over 40 points this season.

Wherever he lands, Granlund has to prove he can score at the levels he did in Minnesota, and he could be worth the risk for a team on the fringe of the playoff hunt.

Prediction: Granlund lands in Montreal.

             

Alex Galchenyuk

Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

Galchenyuk is in a similar position to Granlund, as his point total has dropped off in the last 24 months. 

In 59 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Wild, he has 24 points and a plus/minus of -5.

Last season, Galchenyuk's 41 points were a 10-point drop from the previous season. 

The 26-year-old could be a low-risk, high-reward signing in free agency because he does have two 50-point seasons on his resume. 

Staying with the Wild, who acquired him from Pittsburgh in a trade, might be the most logical option for Galchenyuk.

In that situation, Galchenyuk could find some comfort in returning to a familiar setup, and the Wild would keep depth at the position.

Galchenyuk may not be able to earn something similar to the three-year, $14.7 million deal he is currently on, but he could ink a short-term contract and then test himself on the market in a year or two. 

At 26, he still has plenty of time to earn a larger contract if he rebounds from a rough season. 

Prediction: Galchenyuk stays with Minnesota.

            

Erik Haula

Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

The lack of top-tier centers on the market could benefit Erik Haula.

The 29-year-old has hopped between the Vegas Golden Knights, Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers over the last two seasons and is likely looking for a more steady landing spot.

Like the other centers available, Haula has displayed in previous seasons that he can be a solid contributor in the two main offensive stat categories. 

Two seasons ago, he earned 55 points off 29 goals and 26 assists for the Golden Knights. 

Haula is on a three-year deal worth $8,250,000, so he likely will not come at an expensive cost in free agency.

The Buffalo Sabres could be a fit for the Finnish forward since they are looking for depth at the position.

Buffalo has the third-most salary cap space to work with in the offseason, and if it shows interest in Haula, it would not restrict it from bringing in top-tier free agents at other positions.

Prediction: Haula signs with Buffalo.

               

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

Statistics obtained from Hockey Reference

Contract information obtained from Spotrac