NHL Free Agency 2020: Latest Predictions for Taylor Hall, Braden Holtby, More

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJuly 22, 2020

Arizona Coyotes left wing Taylor Hall celebrates his goal against the Dallas Stars during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Dallas, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

The Arizona Coyotes are reportedly making another push to keep Taylor Hall.

The NHL's top pending unrestricted free agent would have plenty of suitors if he hit the market, so it makes sense why the Coyotes would try to retain him.

According to The Athletic's Craig Custance, it "sounds like Coyotes and Taylor Hall have reengaged in contract talks."

Hall's scoring ability is expected to make him the top free agent ahead of defensemen Alex Pietrangelo, Torey Krug and Tyson Barrie.

He experienced a dip in form with the New Jersey Devils and Coyotes this season, producing 52 points over 65 games. Two seasons ago, he put up 93 points in 72 contests en route to winning the Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP.

The lack of high-level production in the offensive zone should be viewed as an exception, not the start of a downward trend.

Hall is 28 and will be coming off the seven-year deal he signed with the Edmonton Oilers in 2013. Since then, he has played for three franchises but has only participated in five postseason games.

Finding a spot where he can play consistent postseason hockey has to be imperative for Hall, who may not have played in a playoff game if the season went on as scheduled. Arizona is matched up with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup qualifiers.

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But Hall and other free agents will face difficulties on the market if salary-cap space shrinks across the board following the revenue loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. That could mean a few teams are taken out of the running for Hall before they can even get involved.

The Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey are projected to have the most cap space, but none of those teams qualified for the playoffs, and the Devils just parted ways with Hall.

If he does not stay in Arizona, Hall could land with the Colorado Avalanche to bolster the young core already in place that is on the brink of Stanley Cup contention.

The Avalanche are projected to have $22.6 million in cap room, and Cale Makar is the only member of their foundation who will be in need of a significant raise—but not until 2021. Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, Erik Johnson and Gabriel Landeskog are all scheduled to make more than $6 million next season.

Hall's addition would advance Colorado's chances of hoisting the Cup and put pressure on the St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights, Dallas Stars and other Western Conference contenders to make moves to counter a free-agent splash.

Prediction: Hall signs with Colorado.

                   

Braden Holtby

Braden Holtby has been a rock between the pipes for the Washington Capitals since 2010, but he could be embarking on his final championship quest with the franchise.

"My focus right now is to win a championship and moving forward is to find the next best place to win a championship with," Holtby said, per NHL.com's Tom Gulitti. "Hopefully it's here. Hopefully everything works out, but you never know. So right now, you live in the moment, and we have an exciting opportunity to have some fun."

The Capitals are in a difficult spot with no increase in the salary cap and Ilya Samsonov impressing in net.

Washington is already scheduled to pay 12 players more than $2 million in base salary next season. Holtby is making $5 million in base salary and has a $6.1 million cap hit this season.

The smart financial decision for Washington would be to keep Samsonov and further his development. The 23-year-old made 22 starts in the regular season. Holtby started on 47 occasions. Samsonov has a better save percentage and goals-against average than Holtby, and he would be the more affordable option.

If Holtby is forced to find a new team for the first time in his career, he should have a handful of options.

Neither of Detroit's goalies had a save percentage over .910, Buffalo only has the 34-year-old Carter Hutton under contract for next season and New Jersey has just one goalie inked for the 2020-21 campaign.

Buffalo might be the most intriguing fit since it has some young pieces in place, a glaring need in net and a good chunk of cap space available.

Prediction: Holtby lands in Buffalo.

                

Robin Lehner

Robin Lehner could challenge Holtby for the title of most coveted goalie on the open market.

However, there is a chance the well-traveled netminder opts to stay with the Vegas Golden Knights and partner Marc-Andre Fleury.

Lehner said recently that he enjoys the environment surrounding the club, per NHL.com's Danny Webster.

"I'm sure we'll have some discussions [with general manager Kelly McCrimmon] after the season and see what happens," Lehner said. "I really like it here. Great team, great organization, great group of players. We'll see what happens. You never know, but it's a very good impression here so far."

If Lehner remained in Vegas, the team would have one of the best goalkeeping tandems in the NHL. But the team is already paying Fleury $6.5 million next season, and Lehner could have a handful of suitors willing to pay him that price.

The 28-year-old Lehner earned $5 million this season and may not be willing to waste a year or two of his prime splitting time in net.

However, Lehner could be looking for stability after playing for four franchises since 2017, and there is a chance he could beat out the 35-year-old Fleury for the starting gig at some point in the next year or two.

Prediction: Lehner remains in Vegas.

                 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90Statistics obtained from Hockey ReferenceContract information obtained from Spotrac.

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