We already looked at some potential landing spots of the bigger fish available in the free-agent market, including Dougie Hamilton, Taylor Hall, and Frederik Andersen. The Expansion Draft has complicated some scenarios for teams around the league and will continue to promote player movement, trades, and transactions, which will lead teams to dive into free agency to fill voids on their roster. There are still plenty of star-studded free agents who could end up on new teams and we will continue to try to pinpoint which teams these players will end up on.
Zach Hyman – Left Wing
2020-21 Team: Toronto Maple Leafs
Front-Runner: Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have been openly looking for a left-winger to play in their top-six even before re-signing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Hyman has the ability to play up and down in the lineup and has been playing alongside an elite center the past few seasons in Auston Matthews. There are also reports that the Leafs could trade Hyman’s rights after granting him and his agent permission to talk to other teams.
He is seen as a potential fit as a top-line winger for Connor McDavid because of his hard forechecking and ability to retrieve pucks and distribute them to more talented players on his line. Several options are available at the left-wing position on the open market, but not many can provide the all-around game that Hyman brings.
In the Mix: Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks are another team that has reportedly shown interest in the 29-year-old forward. They have been deemed a front runner among others to land him, but they fit in terms of necessity and are not as prominent, with J.T Miller and Tanner Pearson occupying the top to left-wing spots if the team is fully healthy.
The Canucks also need to extend RFA’s Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson and address their defense with Alex Edler and Travis Hamonic hitting free agency. With over $15.1 million in cap space, it will be tough to address all those needs and still have room to add Hyman, considering he is looking at an average annual value in the range of $5 million.
Dark Horse: Calgary Flames
Since the rest of western Canada is in on Hyman, the Flames also decided to jump into the sweepstakes. Calgary is another team reported to be involved and had discussions with Hyman’s camp. They are, however, in a similar boat with the Canucks in that the fit is less of a need and more of a luxury.
The Flames should have just over $20 million in cap space assuming Mark Giordano gets selected in the Expansion Draft and would really be the only major piece the team would need to address leaving extra cap space this year, although Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, and Johnny Gaudreau are all in need of extensions next season.
Gabriel Landeskog – Left Wing
2020-21 Team: Colorado Avalanche
Front-Runner: St. Louis Blues
The Blues could be looking to replace their disgruntled forward in Vladimir Tarasenko, who looks to be bound to join a new team for the upcoming season and what better way to do that than with a player like Landeskog. He brings leadership, skill, and physicality and is also a strong two-way player who fits well with the style of play of the Blues.
With Mike Hoffman and Jaden Schwartz both hitting free agency, the need for scoring and a top-six caliber left-winger to replace them is definitely a match and perhaps reuniting with former teammate Ryan O’Reilly could help persuade Landeskog to sign in St. Louis.
In the Mix: Avalanche
Despite reports that negotiations have soured between Landeskog and the Avalanche organization, there remains a chance that the two sides still strike a deal. The Swedish forward has expressed his frustration publicly and is seeking a deal somewhere in the $9 million – $10 million range per season. Landeskog was drafted by the Avs second overall back in 2011 and has been with the team for his entire career and was also the youngest captain in franchise history.
Unfortunately for Landeskog, Cale Makar needs a major extension and they will also need to address several holes in their lineup this year, including their starting goaltender spot so their $26.1 million in cap space is a very deceiving number. One thing is for sure is that the Avs will have a huge hole to fill if they cannot re-sign their captain and the history between player and organization should help marry the two sides.
Dark Horse: Seattle Kraken
The Kraken are in a prime position to swoop in and get a star power player on their roster after the Avalanche failed to protect Landeskog in the upcoming expansion draft. This means that Seattle will have an opportunity to discuss and negotiate with Landeskog and potentially select him if they can strike a deal.
The biggest asset the Kraken has going for them when it comes to the possibility of signing the Avalanche captain is their cap space and could theoretically pay him whatever he is seeking since they don’t face the same severity of cap crunches that other teams around the league are currently facing. If the relationship between the Avalanche and Landeskog is as damaged as it appears to be, the Kraken could be the biggest beneficiaries.
Keith Yandle – Left Defense
2020-21 Team: Florida Panthers
Front-Runner: Boston Bruins
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the fit between Yandle and the Boston Bruins. Yandle is a Boston native who has a lot of ties to the city and the Bruins are a team looking for a power-play specialist. The Bruins defense is rather young for the most part and bringing in a 15-year veteran to help bring the young blueliners along would help drastically. Yandle, who is mostly known for his offensive abilities, would be able to provide an instant boost to the team’s already potent top power-play unit that blueliner Charlie McAvoy failed to grab hold of.
He was unable to prove he is ready for top power-play time, only putting up eight points on the man advantage last season. On the other hand, Yandle was able to post 18 power-play points last season in Florida despite the turmoil between Yandle and upper management. This looks like a match made in heaven as long as the two sides can make the dollars and cents add up.
In the Mix: New York Rangers
The Rangers are a team poised to take a step forward this season and adding a veteran defenseman to their younger d-core should help the cause. Yandle was bought out of the final two years of his contract by the Panthers, allowing him to become a free agent. He brings 58 games of playoff experience and can slot into the teams’ second power-play unit.
There is some familiarity between Yandle and the Rangers as he played for them previously between the 2014-2016 seasons. The Rangers also have the luxury of possessing just over $23 million in cap space, with only Igor Sheterkin and Pavel Buchnevich among the only notable free agents that need an extension on their current roster, so they should be able to do some shopping in free agency.
Dark Horse: Los Angeles Kings
Like the Rangers, the Kings are another team looking to take a step forward and begin adding pieces to their plethora of young talent. Having already made a trade sending draft picks to acquire Viktor Arvidsson, it is evident that GM Rob Blake is looking to make some major moves. The team does not have much to address in terms of their own free agents and because they’re such a young team, they also have nearly $14.7 in cap space available to them to make improvements.
Yandle can bring offense and defensive depth to the Kings, who do not have much in terms of NHL-ready blueliners. Seattle’s expansion draft selection could play a role in the Kings making a move for Yandle since Seattle could opt to select one of the Kings’ two unprotected left defensemen in Kale Clague or Olli Maatta. The need to replace one of those two blueliners would be prominent and Yandle could easily slide into a similar role. As an added bonus, Yandle wouldn’t have to sacrifice the warm sunny Florida weather if he moved to Hollywood, California.
Finding the Right Fit
Diving into the free-agent market can be a dangerous game and needs to be well thought out. It is easy to get caught up in a bidding war for a player as more teams are interested simply out of fear of losing out and running out of options to fill roles. Both Landeskog and Hyman could be big money players and command big dollar values, so teams interested should tread lightly and be wary of overpaying for an asset. On the other hand, Yandle should be less focused on cashing in on a deal and more focused on landing on a contender that he can win a championship with.
I am a graduate of Seneca Colleges Civil Engineering Technology Program and have turned my obsession for sports into a lifestyle. I cover the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings here on The Hockey Writers but have been a diehard Maple Leafs fan since birth. I love fantasy sports, collecting sports memorabilia and when I’m not watching the Toronto Raptors, Blue Jays, or Pittsburgh Steelers; you can find me playing for my ball hockey team, playing video games, or listening to classic rock with a cold one or a coffee in my hand.