Alex Pietrangelo faces one of the most difficult decisions of the NHL offseason.
The 30-year-old could attempt to cash in on his years of success with the St. Louis Blues with a large contract on the open market.
However, a substantial long-term deal may not be available with the market being impacted by financial constraints.
That could persuade Pietrangelo to remain in St. Louis on a short-term deal before testing the free-agent market in a year or two.
A handful of other free agents will go through a similar situation, while others will leave their current clubs regardless of the potential difficulties in front of them.
Contract Predictions for Free Agents
St. Louis' approach to Pietrangelo's free agency could be the most intriguing storyline when the offseason hits.
The Blues have five defensemen under contract for the 2020-21 season, with Justin Faulk and Colton Parayko each scheduled to make over $5 million per year.
In total, St. Louis is expected to pay eight players more than $5 million in the next campaign, and it may not have a ton of room for another long-term deal with Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O'Reilly locked in until 2024.
If the Western Conference side wants to bring back Pietrangelo, it would make sense to do so on a short-term deal. A one- or two-year contract would not significantly affect St. Louis' future budget and would allow the Canadian to pursue a potentially larger deal in a future offseason than he would receive now.
A deal longer than that would hinder his worth on the market. Teams could be less willing to hand out a long-term contract to a 33- or 34-year-old player because he would be considered out of his prime years.
Pietrangelo's offensive production should be intriguing to any franchise in need of blue-line help, as he produced over 50 points in two of the last three seasons.
With that in mind, his best bet may be to stay in St. Louis for the next year or two before striking a big deal to finish off his career.
Prediction: Pietrangelo signs one-year, $5.5 million deal with St. Louis.
If Pietrangelo and Torey Krug remain with their respective teams, Tyson Barrie would be the most coveted defenseman on the market.
Barrie's one-year stay with the Toronto Maple Leafs did not go as planned, as his offensive totals dropped significantly compared to his final season with the Colorado Avalanche.
The 28-year-old failed to score 10 goals in the regular season for the second time since 2013 and produced his second campaign under 40 points since 2014.
If he returns to a 50-point level next season, Barrie can justify the big-money deal he is expected to fetch on the open market.
With Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner under contract worth more than $10 million per year apiece and not a ton of salary-cap space available, Toronto may not be able to pursue Barrie in the offseason.
Barrie told TSN's Kristen Shilton in May that he is evaluating several factors when it comes to his free-agent decision:
"It's got to be the right fit. I think it has to be a spot where they obviously are in need of someone like myself and [they're] a good team headed in the right direction and a good organization. I think there's a lot of right organizations that tick those boxes, so it'll be a process where you sit down, and we'll just go through everything [that's] important to me."
One of those right fits could be the Winnipeg Jets, who are in need of a top-tier two-way defenseman. Their top scoring defenseman has six goals, and only one player at the position put up more than 40 points.
The Jets need an upgrade at the position to contend with St. Louis, Colorado, Dallas and Nashville in the Central Division, and Barrie could be the perfect mentor for younger defensemen Neal Pionk and Josh Morrissey.
Barrie would come at an expensive price for the Jets, but a potential deal could be well worth it to fix the team's production from the point.
Prediction: Barrie signs four-year, $28 million deal with Winnipeg.
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