While the Florida Panthers received all the attention before free agency opened on July 1 due to their excessive amount of cap space and they fact that they were attracting several of the top free agents on the market, next year’s offseason will look quite a bit different. In fact, it could be the Buffalo Sabres that could be poised to take a similar role next year before free agency opens and could find themselves the team that could lock up some of the top free agents for the 2020-21 season.
The Athletic’s John Vogl (subscription required) writes that while a lot can change in a year, Buffalo has only nine key players under contract for the 2020-21 season along with six restricted free agents. The team is expected to be free of a number of contracts, including Zach Bogosian ($5.14MM), Marco Scandella ($4MM), Vladimir Sobotka ($3.5MM), Conor Sheary ($3MM), Jimmy Vesey ($2.28MM), Matt Hunwick ($2.25MM), Scott Wilson ($1.05MM) and Casey Nelson ($812K). Assuming the salary cap rises by approximately $2MM, the Sabres should have about $29.5MM of projected salary cap, and assuming general manager Jason Botterill can properly persuade them, could add a couple of top free agents.
Who could be available, assuming that some of them don’t re-sign with their teams in the next season? Taylor Hall, Nicklas Backstrom, Brayden Schenn, Chris Kreider, Mike Hoffman, Alex Galchenyuk, Torey Krug, Jake Muzzin, Tyson Barrie, Roman Josi, and Braden Holtby.
- While it’s been assumed for some time that Marcus Johansson would not return to Boston, (he signed with Buffalo earlier today), The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa (subscription required) looked at who might replace the veteran forward this season as the third-line left wing. The problem for Boston is that the team is loaded with a number of right-shot options in Zachary Senyshyn, Karson Kuhlman or Brett Ritchie. However, general manager Don Sweeney suggested it might be best to take the third-line right wing, Danton Heinen, and move him to the left side as he possesses more versatility than the others, which could allow one of the others to move in on the right side. “I think Heinen, depending on what side you play him on,” said Sweeney when asked who could replace Johansson. “Whether it’s Karson or Senyshyn or Brett Ritchie, guys that are right shots, we could play lefty-righty and move Danton over. I think he fits into the same mold of player creative-wise.”
- The Athletic’s Marc Dumont (subscription required) analyzes the video of the Montreal Canadiens newly signed blueliner Ben Chiarot and looks at where he might fit in their lineup. Chiarot, who told reporters that he has discussed with the coaching staff about playing on the second pairing alongside Jeff Petry. However, Dumont suggests that would be a mistake as Chiarot struggles with retrieving pucks in a timely manner, which would not work well with Petry and suggests that Brett Kulak should continue in that role like he did last season. It might be best to play him on the Canadiens’ third pairing, but that seems a waste considering his $3.5MM price tag.