NHL Free Agents

NHL Free Agents

Austin Eigen, Contributing Writer

After a very unusual 2019-2020 NHL season, the free agency period began when the 2020-21 season would typically start.  The biggest signing of the offseason,  so far, is former St.

Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.  The Vegas Golden Knights signed Pietrangelo to

a seven year, $61.6 million contract.  Although this puts the Golden Knights over the salary cap, NHL teams are allowed to go ten percent over the salary cap during the offseason, but they have to lower their payroll by the time the season starts.

“I think this is a great idea because it allows teams to go and pick up better players without having to cut players or trade them without a guarantee,” said sophomore Kabir Chatrath.

Alex Pietrangelo has been a top Norris Trophy contender for the past few years.  Pietrangelo was also a key part of the Blues 2019 Stanley Cup win.  He was also the latest defenseman in the NHL to be named team captain.  Pietrangelo is the only defenseman in NHL history to have at least 40 points in each of his first four seasons.

Another big signing is that of former Bruins defenseman Torey Krug.  The St. Louis Blues signed Krug as a replacement for Alex Pietrangelo.  His contract totaled seven years and $45.5 million.  The former Boston defenseman played against the Blues during the 2019 Stanley Cup.  Krug was hated by St. Louis’ fans for his colossal hit on St. Louis center Robert Thomas.  Torey Krug leveled Thomas, leaving Thomas out until the sixth game of that Stanley Cup.  After the signing, Thomas posted a picture of the monster hit with the iconic line from Stepbrothers, “Did we just become best friends???”

Former Devils and Arizona Coyotes star, left winger Taylor Hall, signed a 1 year, $8 million contract with the struggling Buffalo Sabres.  While this is not a long term deal, it is a significant one.  Hall was the 2018 Hart Trophy winner with the Devils totaling 93 points over 76 games, including 39 goals.  He hasn’t been Hart Trophy material since the 2018 season, partially due to an injury that plagued the 2019 season.  Hall only played 33 games after suffering an undiagnosable pain in his knee.  Despite this, he had an impressive 37 points in just 33 games.  However, in 65 games in the 2020 season, he scored a less impressive 52 points.

The largest goalie signing of the 2020 NHL free agency was Robin Lehner.  Robin Lehner resigned from the Vegas Golden Knights, who he spent part of the 2020 season with, after being traded by the Blackhawks.  Lehner has proven that he’s worthy of a five year, $25 million contract.  Since being let go of his second long term team, the Buffalo Sabres, he has played for both the Islanders and the Blackhawks before being traded to the Golden Knights.  This journeyman goalie has found his home in the desert because of his impressive 1.99 goals against average and a .917 save percentage, including four shutouts during 16 postseason games with the Golden Knights.  

Lehner has also been a face of mental health awareness in the NHL.  The goaltender is open about his mental health disorders, including bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and trauma.  After signing his deal with the Golden Knights, he posted a tweet in which he talked about how he has anxiety, sees a psychiatrist, and takes medication for his mental health.  He also thanked the Golden Knights for signing him in the same tweet.  

“I think it is amazing what Lehner has done for the league.  He has taken the first step towards mental health awareness in the NHL,” said sophomore Alex Pelossof.

Perhaps the most dramatic signing of this off season was Henrik Lundqvist.  “The King”  announced that he had played his last game with the Rangers after being the face of the team for the past fifteen years.  He signed a 1 year, $1.5 million deal with the Washington Capitals.  The farthest that The King has ever led the Rangers was the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals, where the Blueshirts lost to the Los Angeles Kings four to one.  He also led them to a Presidents Trophy during the 2014-15 season.  Lundqvist was an all star for 11 straight years and won the Vezina trophy in 2012.  

“It is a shame that, during 15 years with the Rangers, he was never able to win a Stanley Cup,” said sophomore Sean Agin.

One free agent that has yet to be signed is Ilya Kovalchuk.  Kovalchuk spent the 2020 season with three teams: the Los Angeles Kings, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Washington Capitals.  He is a 19 year veteran who was the first pick in 2001 by Atlanta.  He was the first Russian player to go first overall.  Since then, he has had multiple 80+ point seasons.  He won the Maurice Richards Trophy in 2004, which is the award given to the highest goal scorer in a season.

After a bizarre season, NHL teams are already scrambling to rebuild their rosters through free agency for next season.