Erik Haula is one of the more intriguing remaining free agents on the open market. He’s not far removed from a 29-goal, 55-point campaign back in 2017-18 and as a center, he plays a position that’s typically in short supply and high demand. However, he’s among those that are still in need of a new contract. It doesn’t appear to be from a lack of interest as Haula’s agent Jay Grossman told Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic (subscription link) that 10-12 teams have shown interest in the 29-year-old.
Haula has dealt with knee injuries in each of the last two seasons which limited him to just 15 games in 2018-19 and 48 this past season between Carolina and Florida. He was actually relatively productive in this abbreviated campaign with 12 goals and 12 assists, a 41-point pace over a full schedule. While that isn’t top-line production, he’d fit as a second pivot for some teams, especially since he’s above average on the draw and can contribute on the power play.
So why is he still unsigned? Haula is running into a similar situation as some of the other notable players still without a deal as the best fits may be with teams that simply don’t have the cap space needed to sign him. Freeing up money to create room is something that in normal times isn’t necessarily that difficult but with so many teams tight to the Upper Limit or operating under a more restrictive budget for next season, there aren’t many opportunities to make a move like that. On top of that, finding the right term is proving to be challenging for quite a few free agents and taking a one-year deal to hit the market again next offseason isn’t a viable strategy for everyone.
Given his talent and the fact that he plays a premium position (which helped him earn the 16th ranking in our Top 50 UFAs), it’s only a matter of time before Haula gets signed. But as many others in his situation have found out, the lack of money in the market is proving to be a significant challenge to overcome.