Old Faces in New Places: NHL Offseason Free Agency and Trade Summary
By: Shane Bryant
Alex Pietrangelo /NHL.NBCSports.com
With the 2019-2020 season extending much later than usual, NHL teams immediately jump-started the offseason with qualifying offers, trading, and signing unrestricted free agents. Let’s take a look at some of the major moves and the impacts on the former team, the new team, and the moving player.
All positions are based on Yahoo Fantasy Hockey eligibility
Alex Pietrangelo (D - VGK)
After serving as the captain of the Saint Louis Blues and even winning a Stanley Cup with the team in 2018-2019, Pietrangelo signed with the Vegas Golden Knights on a 7 year / $61.6M contract. One of the elite defenseman in the NHL, Pietrangelo could not have landed in a much-better situation. Vegas has been near the top of the league in scoring ever since becoming a franchise in the 2017 season.
Pietrangelo should be part of the first power play unit, and he will benefit from playing with some of the elite goal-scoring forwards on the Knights. He will rack up valuable stats in just about all fantasy categories including goals, assists, power play points, blocked shots, and hits. This move shifts Shea Theodore slightly down in rankings, as the young left-handed shot defenseman may not be asked to shoulder the workload as heavily as he has in past seasons. Pietrangelo is a Top 10 fantasy D-man while Theodore is on the verge of cracking the Top 20.
Taylor Hall (LW - BUF)
Hall was the first-overall pick of the Edmonton Oilers in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, and he has been shipped off to many different teams of late. After spending time on the New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes over the past two seasons, Hall was signed to a one year deal by the Buffalo Sabres. The twenty-eight year old has made it clear that he wants to win, and I would love to see Buffalo end their playoff drought so we can see the dynamic duo of Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall in the postseason.
The Arizona Coyotes struggled to score goals for much of the 2019-2020 season, so Hall should have more opportunities to rack up points on a Sabres team that features a lot of young talent. Hall will most likely slot in as the left-wing on a line with playmaking centerman Jack Eichel, and Hall will undoubtedly be a fixture on the top power play unit. This signing is a boost to both Hall and Eichel. Eichel can be confidently selected in the Top 10 overall, while Hall makes a case to be a Top 30 Forward.
Tyson Barrie (D - EDM)
Spending the first eight seasons of his career with Colorado, Barrie had a down season in terms of point production with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was sharing offensive responsibility with the highly-regarded defenseman Morgan Rielly. Barrie shined when he was able to quarterback the power play in Colorado, and he should have that role to himself on the Oilers.
Being the pointman on the lethal Edmonton power play will be massive for Barrie’s fantasy value, as he will be on the ice often with elite goal scorers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Barrie posted a 14-43-57 season in 2017-2018 in which he also scored 7 power play goals in just 68 games. He could approach that point per game pace once again if he gets ice time with some of the top goal scorers of the Oilers. Barrie is a Top 20 fantasy defenseman, and Morgan Rielly is firmly in the Top 10 now that he has less competition for the power play role in Toronto.
Torey Krug (D - STL)
While it was difficult for Krug to move to a better situation than he had in Boston, he certainly came close to doing so by joining the 2019 Stanley Cup Champion Saint Louis Blues. He will be able to take on an offensive role from the blue line much like he did in Boston for the past seven seasons.
In Boston, Krug hovered around the 50 point mark in full seasons, and he was a solid contributor in the fantasy categories of hits, blocked shots, and power play points. Krug will be expected to fill the shoes vacated by former Blues captain and blueliner Alex Pietrangelo. Like the former captain, Krug will likely quarterback the top power play unit in Saint Louis, which was a formidable unit the past few seasons. Krug is a Top 10 defenseman in fantasy.
Braden Holtby (G - VAN)
One of the biggest goalie names to change teams was former Stanley Cup Champion Braden Holtby. After a disappointing 2019-2020 season in Washington, the veteran goaltender was brought into Vancouver to lead the goaltending tandem with Thatcher Demko. The Canucks are expected to perform well in the North division amongst the rest of the Canadian teams.
Holtby should be viewed as a high-upside, high-reward pick at the goalie position. His save percentage has dipped in recent years, and it is hard to project that he will have better defense in front of him in Vancouver. The North division could feature some high-scoring affairs, and Vancouver has the young talent to tally 4+ goals every night. Holtby could benefit the Wins category, but may be below average in Save% and GAA.
Jakob Markstrom (G - CGY)
The former Vancouver Canuck stayed in Western Canada, but signed with the Calgary Flames. Calgary has struggled to find solid goaltending in recent years and hopes that Markstrom can solve their issues. They may have found their guy, as the goaltender has posted three straight seasons with solid numbers including save percentages better than .912.
Markstrom should have little competition for starts in the condensed season, which will give him plenty of opportunities to rack up wins. Calgary allowed just above 3 goals per game last season, and the Flames even added to their blueline with the acquisition of Christopher Tanev. Markstrom is a goalie who should get plenty of starts and will be playing behind a solid defense.
Matt Murray (G - OTT)
Another Stanley Cup Champion goaltender on the move, Murray was traded from Pittsburgh to Ottawa. He is expected to see the vast majority of starts between the pipes for his new club, but his situation took a massive hit for fantasy.
Instead of the always-competitive Penguins in front of him, Murray will be trying to stop the elite goal-scoring talent in the North division from scoring against his Ottawa Senators. Ottawa enters the modified season with the worst odds to win the North division and figures to lose plenty of games while allowing stars like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Auston Matthews to score in the many matchups between the Canadian clubs. Murray is a goalie who will get plenty of playing time and saves, but he is likely to suffer losses as well.