NHL free agency 2020: Taylor Hall, Alex Pietrangelo headline UFA class

Sporting News

The NHL's 2020 free-agent market doesn't open until next July. Of course, that hasn't stopped pundits from covering the contract negotiations of the top pending unrestricted free agents.

Here's a look at the latest speculation.

Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils

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Winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy in 2018, the 27-year-old left winger will draw plenty of interest if he tests next summer's free-agent market. The Devils' slow start has some observers already pondering the effect it could have upon his contract negotiations.

TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports Hall's agent is expected to meet with general manager Ray Shero within the next couple of weeks. LeBrun said there's almost daily communication between Hall and Shero. So far, there's no indication they're hammering out a new deal.

Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

These long-time members of the Capitals' core were crucial to their 2018 championship run. Re-signing both, however, could be difficult. Cap Friendly indicates the Caps have over $63.5 million invested in 14 players for 2020-21. Backstrom's current annual salary-cap hit is $6.7 million while Holtby's is $6.1 million.

LeBrun reports management has had dialogue with the pair but prefers to see how things unfold throughout the season. If backup goaltender Ilya Samsonov proves himself ready to become an NHL starter, they could part ways with Holtby and re-sign Backstrom.

Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues

Pietrangelo is the top defenseman eligible for UFA status next summer. Ranking among the league's top rearguards, the 29-year-old Blues captain led his club to their first Stanley Cup title last spring.

Having earned an annual average value of $6.5 million on his current contract, Pietrangelo could seek a substantial raise. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the Blues hoped to ink him to a deal comparable to Oliver Ekman-Larsson's $8.25 million annual salary-cap hit with the Arizona Coyotes. Pietrangelo, however, could seek over $9 million annually.

Torey Krug, Boston Bruins

Entering the final season of his contract, the 28-year-old Bruins defenseman earned praise for his two-way performance throughout the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. That silenced the trade speculation dogging him over the past two seasons.

Earlier this month, Krug and the Bruins began contract extension talks. Earning an annual average value of $5.25 million, Krug could earn considerably more on the open market. However, he's expressed his willingness to accept a hometown discount.

Mike Hoffman, Florida Panthers

The 29-year-old winger flourished in his first season with the Panthers, tallying a career-high 36 goals and 70 points in 2018-19. He's tallied six goals and nine points in 12 games this season, though he recently endured a five-game points drought.

There's no indication contract talks have started between Hoffman and general manager Dale Tallon. Another 70-point season will have him pursuing a hefty raise over his current $5.187-million annual cap hit.

Chris Kreider, New York Rangers

Nothing came of the trade speculation that hung over the 28-year-old Kreider throughout the summer. A big, swift-skating forward, the 6'3”, 217-pound left winger exceeded 20 goals and 40 points in four of the last five campaigns.

Kreider could seek well above his $4.625-million annual cap hit on his next contract. So far, there's no indication of contract talks between his representatives and Rangers management. With the Blueshirts still rebuilding, he could be shopped near the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

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