Unrestricted Free Agents
Well. It’s not a deep pool. There are centers available but there’s really only one potential Top Two-line center, and he mostly plays Left Wing. He’s also considered to be the best forward available as a UFA. It just doesn’t seem to fit. We’ll stop with the Pronoun game, we’re talking about…
Taylor Hall’s a good player, but since he’s joined the Coyotes, he’s spent the majority of his time on the left-wing, which isn’t something we need right now. Further, he has struggled since his Hart Trophy-winning season where he dragged the Devils to the playoffs.
Since that season, he was been battling injury and he’s been struggling to produce at that same level. Throughout his career, he’s had an issue staying in the lineup. Since he turned pro in the 2010-2011 season, he has played over 70 games only four seasons (Granted, he did play 45 games of the possible 48 games in the 2012-2013 lockout-shortened season), the last time being in 2017-2018 when he won the Hart Trophy.
Hall will likely command an expensive contract and Hall’s agent, Darren Ferris, has a history of being rather combative. Ferris also represents Mitch Marner, who recently had a lengthy, public, and difficult contract negotiation with the Toronto Maple Leafs. A staple of his contract negotiation tactics is threatening the team with the player playing internationally if they don’t receive the contract they want. Ferris also consistently will try to pit the team and the fanbase against one another. It’s baggage the Wild don’t need right now.
Another player that plays both Center and Wing, but has played mostly Wing during his time in Minnesota and now during his time in Nashville. So it’s a similar issue with Taylor Hall. I’d love to have Granlund back with Minnesota, but it’s another issue of, isn’t that Center we need. He’s more considered a Winger. I just don’t see Granny coming back in the upcoming Free Agency period.
Now he’s someone who is mainly a Center! We lost Erik Haula during the Vegas Expansion Draft, and he seemed to rejuvenate his career in the new situation. His first season with Vegas, Haula had 29 goals and 26 assists in 76 games, which is very impressive. His second season, he had a brutal leg injury that only kept him to 15 games played in the season. He then was traded to Carolina, where he spent most of his time between the second and third lines before being traded to Florida where he played mainly second-line center.
Signing Haula I think makes more sense for the Wild than Granlund. Plays center and I think could be a solid role model for our younger centers, like Joel Eriksson Ek, Nico Sturm, Ryan Donato (has played some C/some wing, if he refined his center play, could get in the lineup more frequently). He won’t be your top-line center, but he could reinforce the depth, maybe bump JEE into the second line.
It’s also tough to project what teams are willing to offer players during this upcoming Free Agency period because of how COVID-19 has impacted teams’ ability to spend money. Haula’s current contract was 3yrs in length and $2.75M a year. It’s hard to see him getting much more than that at 29, maybe the same length and $3.25M/per? Really tough to project.
This is my darkhorse signing for Minnesota. I think it works. He can play center, but wouldn’t be that top two line talent we need right now. The angle with Namestnikov is that he’s Russian and has played in North America for some time, could be a bit of a mentor for Kiril Kaprizov, and help him adjust to the new landscape.
I have to imagine he would be a Mid-6 Center. If you add Namestnikov, I’d like to Joel Eriksson Ek to get more minutes. As a theme throughout this FA pool: There isn’t really a Center available that will be your top-6 center. What is there though, Mid-6 Centers that could be a safeguard in the chance that you try to expand the younger center’s roles (JEE for example), and if it doesn’t work, you have more experienced centers that can plugin (I don’t think JEE would struggle though).
Wait. Doesn’t Minnesota have two UFA Centers?
Minnesota Wild’s Two UFA Centers
Alex Galchenyuk and Mikko Koivu are both UFAs in the upcoming pool. Gally is a weird situation. He’s a spark plug, he has so much energy on the ice and on the bench, it looks like he wants to fight for his spot on this roster. And he was solid as our second-line center. Just not at his contract number. Prove it contract makes sense, no more than 2yrs, around $3M.
Mikko Koivu is another option. The CapFinn is wrapping up what could be the final year of his NHL career, and what a shame it would be for it to end like this. He’s seen his playing time and role diminish down to the 4th line, and around the trade deadline he was approached about waiving his NMC, but he denied. It could be inferred that he wanted to wrap up his final year with the only NHL team he has ever played for. Here’s the thing, at his number, it’s a brutal contract. But Mikko Koivu at a league min price, still on the 4th line? I’d be fine with that.
I had mentioned that I can’t see both Mikko Koivu and Eric Staal returning to the team next season, and that still is the case. A buyout could be possible, trade another avenue if the Wild were willing to sell low. It really depends on if Koivu wants to play and if the Wild were willing to offer it to him.
So the UFA market is pretty dry. Is there a chance we see a trade/offer sheet in the RFA market?