NHL Power Rankings: Top free agents for 2020 offseason

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The offseason is officially here and the signing period for NHL free agents begins on Friday.

With that in mind we wanted to use this week’s NHL Power Rankings as an opportunity to look at the top unrestricted free agents that are set to hit the open market.

Alex Pietrangelo, the long-time captain of the St. Louis Blues, is the top player available this offseason, followed closely by 2018 NHL MVP Taylor Hall.

Who else makes the list this week of the top NHL free agents?

To the rankings!

1. Alex Pietrangelo. There is always a risk with signing a top free agent that has already celebrated their 30th birthday, but Pietrangelo remains a top-pairing defenseman and can still make a huge impact on any team over the next few years. Shutdown defender and elite scorer from the blue line. [Signed seven-year, $61.6M deal with Golden Knights.]

2. Taylor Hall. He has to have a contender in his sights, right? He may not produce at his MVP level from 2018 again, but he is still one of the league’s best offensive wingers and the closest thing to a game-changing forward on the open market. [Signed one-year, $8 million deal with Sabres]

3. Torey KrugHe is going to command a nice chunk of money, and he will deserve it. He makes a huge impact on the power play, is a big-time point producer from the blue line, and has posted dominant possession numbers throughout his career. [Signed seven-year, $45.5M deal with Blues.]

4. Jacob Markstrom. He may not steal a lot of games, but he will not lose many, either. He has become extremely consistent, durable and one of the most underrated goalies in the league. A major reason for the Canucks taking a step forward this season. [Signed six-year, $36M deal with Flames.]

5. Tyler Toffoli. Given his skillset and possession numbers, Toffoli always seemed like a player that was getting wasted in Los Angeles. We saw a little glimpse of what he is capable of in a more up-tempo system in Vancouver, and it was encouraging (14 points in 17 games, including playoffs). [Signed four-year, $17M deal with Canadiens.]

6. Evgenii Dadonov. Since returning to the NHL three years ago Dadonov has emerged as a very productive top-six forward that is going to give you 25 goals and 50 points. Age is a little concern, but on a three-or four-year deal you might get a really productive player.

7. Mike Hoffman. One of the other big NHL free agents coming out of Florida, Hoffman is a 30-goal winger that is going to give you a lot offensively. The question is how much can he give you when he is not scoring goals, and how much that is worth?

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2020 NHL Free Agency Tracker]

8. Henrik Lundqvist. I don’t know, maybe I’m being overly optimistic here, but I think he some goalie-needy contender is going to sign him and get a very motivated player that still wants to chase a championship. Maybe he’s not a 60-game goalie anymore, but on the right team and behind a better defense than what he had in New York he can still contribute a lot. [Signed one-year, $1.5M deal with Capitals.]

9. T.J. Brodie. Little bit of a decline this season offensively, but his underlying numbers from a possession and scoring chance perspective remained strong. He’s still a top-four defenseman on a good team. [Signed four-year, $20M deal with Maple Leafs.]

10. Kevin Shattenkirk. He was an outstanding fit in Tampa in a complementary role where he did not have to be “the guy” on defense. Maybe he’s not the No. 1 or 2 that Washington and New York thought he was in recent years, but he is definitely a contributor and can be a big part of a championship team. [Signed three-year, $11.7M deal with Ducks.]

11. Craig Smith. He has scored at a 20-goal pace in six of the past seven seasons and consistently posted a shot attempt share of better than 53 percent. Not a superstar, but a really good middle-six player assuming his next contract does not carry too much term. [Signed three-year, $9.3M deal with Bruins.]

12. Tyson Barrie. I don’t know that his one season in Toronto was as bad as the critics will tell you that it was. I do think he is this offseason’s Shattenkirk — player that failed to meet expectations in his previous stop, had his value sink, and will get signed to a cheaper contract and excel in a more appropriate role. [Signed one-years, $3.75M deal with Oilers.]

13. Anton Khudobin. Khudobin has been an outstanding goalie the past two years with the Stars and helped them reach the Stanley Cup Final this postseason. His age, as well as his limited experience as a full-time starter are the two big question marks. [Signed three-year, $10M deal with Stars.]

14. Justin Williams. I hesitate to put him on the list because it seems like another Carolina-or-bust sort of deal, but he is technically an unrestricted free agent and he is still a really good player on both sides of the puck. [Announced his retirement.]

15. Corey Crawford. If he is healthy he can still be a really good player. But health has been a big concern for him in recent years. Combined with his age that makes him a huge wild card. [Signed two-year, $7.8M deal with Devils.]

[NHL 2020 Offseason Trade Tracker]

16. Braden Holtby. How can one of the best goalies of his era be so low? Well, he has not been particularly good the past two seasons and he is probably going to get a significant contract. [Signed two-year, $8.6M deal with Canucks.]

17. Mikael Granlund. For whatever reason he just did not seem to be a fit in Nashville and that trade never really worked out the way they probably hoped it would. He is only 28 so it is possible he bounces back in a new environment with different talent around him.

18. Tyler Ennis. He had a really good bounce-back year offensively between Ottawa and Edmonton and could be a useful depth addition in the right situation. [Signed one-year, $1M deal with Oilers.]

19. Mikko Koivu. His offense looks like it might be gone, but he can still play a good two-way game and bring some strong defensive play to the bottom-six of a contender. [Signed one-year, $1.5M deal with Blue Jackets.]

20. Carl Soderberg. Probably more productive than you realize offensively (he will give you close to 20 goals and 40 points), but he is going to be 35 years old this season. How much longer will he give you that level of offense?

21. Joe Thornton. Would he leave San Jose? He was willing to at the trade deadline, and it might be his only shot at getting the Stanley Cup now. He is a third-or fourth-line center at this point, but he could still bring a lot of value there.

22. Patrick Maroon. Two years, two different teams, two Stanley Cups. Can he make it a personal three-peat somewhere? [Signed two-year, $1.8M deal with Lightning.]

23. Erik Gustafsson. A good power play specialist and someone that can bring some offense to your blue line. Needs to be sheltered in the correct role. [Signed one-year, $3M deal with Flyers.]

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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    Stars sign 41-goal scorer Jason Robertson to 4-year, $31M deal

    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
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    FRISCO, Texas — Jason Robertson signed a four-year, $31 million contract with the Dallas Stars after the young 40-goal scorer missed the first two weeks of training camp.

    The Stars announced the deal after their exhibition game in Denver, only a week before the regular season opener Oct. 13 at Nashville.

    Robertson turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when the left wing had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. His 13 power-play goals led the team. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

    “Jason is an integral part of the present and future of our team and we’re thrilled to have him for the next four years,” general manager Jim Nill said.

    A second-round draft pick (39th overall) by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. The 6-foot-3 California native had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

    “Since he was drafted by our organization, he has worked tirelessly to become a better player every day. His knack for scoring goals and seeing plays develop on the ice are just some of the tremendous assets that he brings to our team,” Nill said. “He is one of the best young players in the NHL, and we look forward to seeing him continue to progress.”

    Robertson had the second-highest point total for a Stars rookie in 2020-21, when he had 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in his 51 games.

    Before the start of this season’s camp, new coach Pete DeBoer said he looked forward to coaching Robertson.

    “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here,” DeBoer said then. “So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

    Robertson will finally be there now.

    Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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    The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

    Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

    John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.

    TORTS REFORM

    Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

    “I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

    Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.

    BIG MO

    The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

    The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

    “He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”

    PLAYOFF ROTATION

    Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

    Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

    “I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

    The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

    “He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

    The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

    “This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”

    LAMBERT ISLAND

    Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

    Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

    “Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”

    MORE NEW VOICES

    The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

    Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

    The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

    Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

    “He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

    Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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    Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

    The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

    Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

    “We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

    Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

    “I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

    Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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    OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

    The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

    Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

    The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

    Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.