2021 NHL Free Agent Predictions: Saad, Barrie, Suter

Free agency is almost upon us and players will find themselves signed fairly quickly once the dominoes begin to fall. This is the third prediction article as we have already taken a look at six other players’ potential landing spots. We will continue to look at and predict the teams that players like Brandon Saad, Tyson Barrie, and Ryan Suter could end up.

Brandon Saad – Left Wing/Right Wing

2020-21 Team: Colorado Avalanche

Front-Runner – New York Islanders

The Islanders just lost winger Jordan Eberle in the Expansion Draft and will need to find a top-six forward to replace him. Saad and his power-forward style of play would fit seamlessly with the type of hard-nosed hockey the Islanders play. The team has over $17 million in cap space this offseason and is in win-now mode and Saad’s championship pedigree will only help the cause.

Jordan Eberle New York Islanders
Former New York Islanders forward Jordan Eberle (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In the Mix – Nashville Predators

The Predators need some winger help after they lost versatile forward Calle Jarnkrok to the Seattle Kraken and traded away Viktor Arvidsson to the Los Angeles Kings. General manager David Poile has said publically there will be changes this offseason and Saad’s leadership should help right the ship.

Brandon Saad Colorado Avalanche
Brandon Saad had 24 points in 44 games with the Colorado Avalanche last season. (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)

He can be a solid contributor on the power play and would be an upgrade from Luke Kunin and Rocco Grimaldi, who currently occupy a spot in the top-six forward group. Nashville also has a boatload of cap space available to them with only goaltending and forward as positions that need to be addressed and with $28,558,857 available, making a big free-agent signing should not be a concern.

Dark Horse – St. Louis Blues

While the Blues are rumored to be waiting in the weeds to sign free agent winger, Gabriel Landeskog there remains a chance he returns to the Avalanche, meaning the team will need another option. The team already acquired Pavel Buchnevich via trade and will need to sign him to a new deal but also could lose both Jaden Schwartz and Mike Hoffman to free agency.

There are a lot of moving parts here between a potential trade involving Vladimir Tarasenko, the cost of re-signing Buchnevich, and what Hoffman and Schwartz will command on the open market, so Saad and his more physical playstyle could be a legitimate option for the Blues.

Tyson Barrie – Right Defense

2020-21 Team: Edmonton Oilers

Front Runner – Oilers

It seemed highly unlikely that Barrie would return to Edmonton after the season ended; however, the Adam Larsson departure has changed the outlook. The Oilers are now left shorthanded on their right defense, with the hole left by Larsson being selected and signing with the Kraken despite being offered a similar deal to remain in Edmonton. Barrie had a stellar year with the Oilers taking advantage of quarterbacking such a potent power-play unit. He was the highest-scoring defenseman with 48 points last season and second in power-play points with 23.

Tyson Barrie Edmonton Oilers
Tyson Barrie, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

A lot of this will depend on how the Oilers cap situation irons out and what Barrie is asking for, especially with the team re-signing Mike Smith and expected to sign Zach Hyman on an AAV in the ballpark of $5 million. They will be left with around $4 million in remaining cap space if they can’t get rid of contracts to create additional cap space.

In the Mix – Carolina Hurricanes

This is a great fit in terms of the team’s need considering Carolina is not expected to bring back their power-play quarterback right-hand defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Barrie would immediately slide in to replace Hamilton on the teams’ number one power-play unit and be relied upon to produce offensively from the back end. The team already has some great defensive defenseman on their backend, which will allow Barrie to worry more about generating offense than defending.

Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes
Dougie Hamilton is coming off a 6-year deal with an AAV of $5.75 million. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Hurricanes would likely be able to sign Barrie for less than Hamilton will command and get similar production. With just under $30 million in cap space available, they have a lot of room to work with to fit him into the fold. Playing in a quieter market like Carolina would also be an intriguing selling point because of the lack of media attention.

Related: 2021 NHL Free Agent Predictions: Hall, Hamilton, Andersen

Dark Horse – Boston Bruins

This fit coincides with the smaller media market that is not as tasking as the Canadian markets and a fit for power-play quarterback need. Charlie McAvoy struggled to produce on Bostons potent top power-play unit last year and Barrie specializes in that part of the game.

Charlie McAvoy Bruins
Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins, Dec. 2, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Losing Jeremy Lauzon in the expansion draft also creates some need to add a more experienced blueliner, considering all the defensemen on the team’s current roster are under 26 years of age aside from Matt Grzelcyk.

Ryan Suter – Left Defense

2020-21 Team: Minnesota Wild

Front Runner – Avalanche

After being bought out by the Minnesota Wild during the offseason, Suter will hit the free-agent market and look to sign with a Stanley Cup contender. At 36 years of age, he still has some gas left in the tank and would be a welcomed addition as a fourth, fifth, or sixth defenseman on a team looking to make a deep playoff run.

Ryan Suter Minnesota Wild
Ryan Suter had four years remaining on his 13-year deal worth a total of $98 million before he was bought out. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Colorado is a team that could look to add Suter since he will likely take less to go to contender seeing as he is still being paid by the Wild, and Colorado has a lot of holes to fill with not much cap space to do it and would benefit greatly from a bargain contract. The Avalanche currently has Bowen Byram as one of their sixth defenseman and Suter would offer more experience and stability to the teams’ defense corps.

In the Mix – Islanders

The Islanders are another team looking to add a quality defenseman if the deal is right. His stability on the backend and his versatility virtually make him a fit in any organization. As mentioned earlier in this article, the Islanders have cap space on their side, so paying Suter wouldn’t be an issue for them.

“Ryan Suter is a popular man. Possible he makes his decision by Monday. Among interested parties: Boston, Colorado, Dallas, Florida and the Islanders.”

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet

The team will have to re-sign Adam Pelech as part of their top pair but currently have Thomas Hickey, veteran Andy Greene, and Sebastian Aho as the other options to fill out the other two left-defense spots. Suter would be an upgrade on at least two of these players and if he is a team’s third pair blueliner, that is a pretty solid backend.

Dark Horse – Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights fit in terms of being a Cup contender, which already gives them a shot to land the veteran blueliner. The fact that Alec Martinez is a free agent and could get paid more than Vegas is willing to offer increases the odds of landing Suter.

Alec Martinez Vegas Golden Knights
Alec Martinez was acquired by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2019-20 season (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Vegas doesn’t necessarily have any free agents to re-sign except for RFA Nolan Patrick and has just over $5 million in cap space available to them, so getting Suter on a cheap deal would be ideal. The team currently has Nick Holden, Nicolas Hague, and Brayden McNabb as their left defense, so there should be no reason for the team not to want to bring in Suter to upgrade their blueline and provide depth and experience.

Fluid Situation

Free agency is an exciting time with lots of moving parts involved. This year will be all the more interesting because of the effect the expansion draft has played in claiming players from teams, leaving them with holes to fill on their active rosters. Teams will have to be sure to have backup plans because once free agents begin to sign, the field of free agents becomes more limited, which will drive the prices of the remaining players even higher.

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