2020 NHL Free Agents: Latest Rumors and Predictions for Notable Names

Jenna CiccotelliContributor IIISeptember 27, 2020

Arizona Coyotes left wing Taylor Hall (91) plays 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

With the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Dallas Stars nearing the end of the Stanley Cup Final—which Tampa could win with a victory Sunday night—it's almost time for the focus to shift to NHL free agency.

The free-agency period officially opens Oct. 9, so with under two weeks until then, here's an updated look at where some of the top free agents could land this offseason.

     

Braden Holtby, G, Washington Capitals

The winner of the 2016 Vezina Trophy is headed to free agency, but The Athletic's Tarik El-Bashir has reported that the Capitals aren't quite ready to give up on the 10-year veteran.

The 2019 Stanley Cup champion is coming off his worst season at what is the worst time as he enters a competitive market, with a 3.11 goals-against average and an .897 save percentage. Meanwhile, Ilya Samsonov posted a 2.55 GAA and .913 save percentage in his rookie season.

"The door is not totally closed, though the Caps anticipate the 31-year-old attracting more in dollars and term than they're willing and/or able to commit," El-Bashir wrote. Washington will continue its relationship with Holtby's agent should a return be in the cards. 

The Edmonton Oilers had a less-than-ideal goaltending situation in Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen this season, and Smith is entering free agency with a .783 save percentage in one start during the playoffs. Koskinen is still signed with the team, but Holtby could easily slot into the starting spot to help give Connor McDavid and the Oilers another push toward success. 

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Torey Krug, D, Boston Bruins

Torey Krug has spent all nine years of his NHL career in Boston, and after signing his first long-term deal four seasons ago, the 29-year-old has been outspoken about his lack of interest in a shorter contract if that's all the Bruins will offer him.

With a $81.5 million salary cap next season and other big-name contracts expiring over the next two seasons, the Bruins cannot afford to pay Krug what other teams will likely offer. One of those teams is reportedly the Vegas Golden Knights.

On his podcast, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman said that while there are "a lot of rumblings" about Alex Pietrangelo heading to Vegas, Krug is in the conversation as well.

"Someone told me today they're wondering if Vegas might take a run, if it's not Pietrangelo, at Torey Krug," he said.

Krug's hometown Detroit Red Wings all but took themselves out of the running for him by trading with the New York Rangers to acquire Marc Staal, so a team like the Vegas Golden Knights is now even more of a contender. Vegas has been linked to Krug this offseason, and a two-way blueliner like him will help them build up a blue line that reportedly isn't their focus heading into the NHL draft. 

"I'm very opposed to that," he said last month, per Amalie Benjamin of NHL.com. "I've bet on myself. I've taken shorter-term deals, less amount of money my whole career now. This is my time in terms of my value at its peak. I have the ability; I'm in a position now where I need to make the most of it."

After a pair of one-year contracts worth $1.4 million and $3.4 million from 2014-16, Krug's four-year contract carried an average payout of $5.25 million per year. The undrafted Michigan State product has scored 67 goals and collected 270 assists since he joined the team in March 2012. 

After watching other defensemen in his position sign multiyear contracts worth millions—like 26-year-old Jacob Trouba, who signed a seven-year deal worth $56 million with the New York Rangers last offseason—Krug will put his loyalty to Boston aside and find somewhere else to play. 

     

Robin Lehner, G, Vegas Golden Knights

With two starting goaltenders in Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas will have to make a move after falling in the Western Conference Final and ending Lehner's stay in Vegas, at least for now. 

An NHL journeyman recently thanks to two one-year contracts and a trade, Lehner settled in for Vegas this postseason, where he compiled a 9-4 record, 1.84 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. However, his situation is complicated by his counterpart.

Despite Fleury's wishes to retire in Vegas, Lehner provides more long-term stability for the Golden Knights, who have "a handshake agreement" with the goaltender for a five-year contract with a $5 million payout annually, per ESPN's Greg Wyshynski. Lehner has denied there is a contract extension, so he should still be considered a hot commodity in free agency. However, he should be staying put.  

Fleury signed a three-year extension in 2018 worth $7 million per season, and he said he has no intentions of leaving Vegas, though it may not be up to him.