NHL Rumors: 2020 RFA Class, Goligoski, Strome, More

In today’s NHL Rumors rundown, we look at the 2020 restricted free agency (RFA) class, including Chicago Blackhawks center Dylan Strome. Plus, is Alex Goligoski a trade candidate, and why didn’t the Edmonton Oilers take a chance on Josh Ho-Sang. Also, it should be noted that with the St. Louis Blues in Toronto to face the Maple Leafs, progress could be made on an extension between the Blues and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

Related: NHL Rumors: Senators, Marleau, Byfuglien, More

Which RFAs Will Sign Early?

As has been discussed many times over the past few weeks, there’s a strong feeling around the league that teams, and perhaps players, are looking to avoid lengthy negotiations when it comes to RFAs coming off their entry-level contracts. The prolonged standstills of William Nylander, Mitch Marner, Brock Boeser, Patrik Laine, and Mikko Rantanen, among others, has left a bad taste in many mouths, especially general managers. It’s resulted in players like Samuel Girard, Clayton Keller, Thomas Chabot and Alex DeBrincat signing extensions well in advance of free agency. All were paid well, and now none will have to endure the discomfort that comes with the possibility of missing training camp and the preseason.

These developments have led many to speculate on the 2020 RFA class that still includes Mathew Barzal, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Nico Hischier at the top. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun is reporting that preliminary talks have already begun between those three and the New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets, and New Jersey Devils, respectively. (from ‘As 2020 RFA list dwindles, how did this summer’s drama change the market?,’ The Athletic, 10/04/2019) All three teams have the cap space to get extensions done now, and considering that all three are top-six centers, it’s vital for extensions to be signed as soon as possible.

New York Islanders Mathew Barzal
New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal skates with the puck (Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

LeBrun also points out that other RFAs including Mikhail Sergachev, Vince Dunn, and Jake DeBrusk may have to wait to negotiate until their teams (Tampa Bay Lightning, Blues, and Boston Bruins) figure out what their cap situation looks like. It will certainly be interesting to see how each player’s negotiations play out from now through season’s end.

Blackhawks Turn Attention to Strome

Another pending RFA not mentioned above is Dylan Strome. After the Blackhawks extended DeBrincat last week, they can turn their attention to Strome, and according to NBC Sports Chicago’s
Charlie Roumeliotis, GM Stan Bowman is set to begin discussions with the pending RFA.

“I don’t anticipate negotiating through the press with Dylan either and I think that was a nice thing with Alex, you guys kind of left us alone with that one, so I would suggest to do the same thing,” Bowman joked with the media. “But we have time on that. Certainly that’s the next order of business. Whether we do it now or in a month or in six months, I can’t say at this point, but certainly that’s something we’ll take a look at.”

Stan Bowman

It should be noted that the Strome and DeBrincat negotiations will be different because they’re different players. DeBrincat is a winger, Strome a top-six center. DeBrincat had two full seasons of production under his belt before signing, Strome has only played in 117 games in his career to this point. The latter was great with the Blackhawks after they acquired him from the Arizona Coyotes last season, but it was only 58 games, not exactly a large sample size.

Dylan Strome, Dylan Larkin
Chicago Blackhawks centre Dylan Strome (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Nam Y. Huh)

So there’s certainly reason to think that his extension will come later in the season, if not the offseason. It’s likely beneficial to both team and player as Strome will have longer to increase his earning potential while the team can get a clearer read on who he is. That said, he and the Blackhawks could also decide that it’s better to get a deal done early and have it out of the way.

Will Goligoski Be Traded?

The Athletic’s Craig Morgan recently pointed out that Arizona Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski’s contract converted from a full no-move clause to a modified no-trade clause for the last two years, beginning with 2019-20. (from ‘Coyotes monthly mailbag: You asked, we tried to answer,’ The Athletic, 10/06/2019) Morgan, in a Coyotes mailbag, discussed the potential of the team trading the veteran defenseman. With Goligoski’s modified no-trade clause featuring an eight-team no-trade list, it makes moving him a possibility, however, would a team have interest in him?

Goligoski is a quality NHL blueliner of 800 career games and brings veteran leadership, but he also carries a $5.475-million cap hit, which isn’t cheap for a second or third-pair defenseman. If the Coyotes are willing to retain some salary, it’s likely they can find a suitor. Perhaps the answer will surface as the season progresses. If the Coyotes are out of playoff contention near the trade deadline, it will only strengthen the trade rumors.

Why Didn’t the Oilers Take Chance on Ho-Sang?

When the Islanders placed Josh Ho-Sang on waivers prior to the regular season, it was thought that the Oilers may have interest in him. They’re a team looking for scoring help, could fit him under the salary cap, and Ho-Sang was a teammate of Connor McDavid’s with the Toronto Marlboros. Instead, he went unclaimed, is currently in the American Hockey League, and recently requested a trade. The Edmonton Journal’s Kurt Leavins weighed in why the Oilers didn’t claim Ho-Sang, and his thoughts are intriguing. (from ‘When it comes to the waiver wire Oilers G.M. Ken Holland understands that you shouldn’t buy things just because they’re on sale: 9 Things,’ Edmonton Journal, 10/06/2019)

Josh Ho-Sang - Islanders
Josh Ho-Sang, New York Islanders, September 17, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Leavins points out that the only way Ho-Sang, or any other forward for that matter, helps the Oilers is if he can slot into their top-six. So far in his career Ho-Sang hasn’t shown he can do that at the NHL or AHL levels. Leavins also mentions that for the Oilers to add Ho-Sang, a player would have to be sent down to the AHL. He lists Zack Kassian and Joakim Nygard as specific examples, but believes both are better fits for the Oilers right now.

Related: Ho-Sang Can’t Stick on NHL Roster Despite Talent

The last thing Leavins mentions, and what I find most interesting, is that Oilers GM Ken Holland likely would have asked McDavid his thoughts on Ho-Sang before deciding whether or not to place a claim on him. And because he went unclaimed it seems reasonable to believe that McDavid passed on the possibility of reuniting with his former teammate. At this point, it seems more and more clear that Ho-Sang will have to play in the AHL and build his value before a team takes a shot on him.