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NHL totally free agency opens tomorrow -- and there are a lot of unknowns

Add this to the list of events the pandemic has actually turned upside down. Usually, hockey's annual craze of signings happens on Canada Day. This year, it's right before Thanksgiving weekend. And there are a few other wrinkles to consider as the marketplace opens Friday at noon ET:

The wage cap is staying the exact same for next season.

Teams prepare for it to increase every year since it's connected to league-wide profits, which had actually kept increasing. However the pandemic slammed the brakes on that, so everyone still has "just" $81.5 million United States to spend on gamers this season.

Clearly, that might hamstring teams who are up against the cap. According to CapFriendly's numbers, Vegas is presently over it. And the teams within $5.5 countless the limitation include the last 4 Stanley Cup champions (Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Washington and Pittsburgh) and the ever-embattled Toronto Maple Leafs.

Money is tight.

The cap tells us how much the league will allow teams to invest in gamers. However it doesn't inform us just how much each team is ready to invest. That's the excellent unknown this year.

A lot of cash was lost when the NHL had to close down for practically 5 months and after that do its entire playoffs without any ticket-buying fans in the structure. Worse, no one knows when the bleeding will stop. Commissioner Gary Bettman revealed throughout the draft that the league and the players' union are targeting Jan. 1 as the start date for the brand-new season and their objective is to play a complete schedule with fans in presence. Judging by the existing increase in infections, that appears like wishful thinking at best.

Even though they're all in that same boat, every team's financial scenario is various. Some are owned by super-rich guys. Others by less-super-rich men. Others by corporations. Each of them have their own different financial investment interests and revenue streams beyond hockey. It's tough to understand who's been hit extra-hard by the pandemic, who's staying afloat and who's possibly doing rather well (given that the crash, a lot of money has been made in the stock market and by specific tech companies).

Having said that, there's a basic air of uncertainty, even fear, in the air. That indicates free representatives could be seeing less long-term, big-money offers -- particularly if they're not elite gamers. This could be the year to do a "bet on yourself" offer for a couple of years, with hope that the cash is flowing once again when you go back on the market. That is, if you even have the choice.

There's an expansion draft turning up.

The Seattle Kraken will join the league for the 2021-22 season. Following the 2021 playoffs, they'll get to poach one player from every team other than Vegas. There are a lot of arcane rules around who the Kraken can and can't choose, however the key point is that each team can secure seven forwards, three defencemen and one goalie, or eight skaters (forwards/defencemen) and one goalie.

The one-goalie guideline specifically could impact the free-agent market due to the fact that there are a lots of great netminders readily available this year (more on that later).

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OK, so that's the environment everyone's operating in. Now let's talk available gamers. When it comes to unrestricted complimentary agents, there are 2 primary men and a group of guys to focus on:

Taylor Hall

Arizona GM Bill Armstrong validated the other day that the gifted winger will be moving on. That suggests Hall is headed for his 3rd team in the last 10 months (Arizona got him from New Jersey last December). That's uncommon for somebody who was the league MVP just two years earlier and will still be on the ideal side of 30 next season.

It's likewise worth keeping in mind that Hall has actually balanced a point a game or better only 4 times in his 10 seasons, and he's missed an average of about 15 games a year with various injuries. Hall has actually invested many of his profession on bad groups (he started in Edmonton) and still been an excellent player, however he could be seen as a gamble for a long-term offer.

Alex Pietrangelo

For those in the market for someone more consistent, the 30-year-old St. Louis defenceman might fit the expense. Pietrangelo captained the Blues to the Cup in 2015 and is the top blue-liner on the free-agent market. He's proficient at both ends of the ice, can log a great deal of minutes and has actually scored in between 13 and 16 objectives in each of the past four seasons. Plus, he shoots right-handed, and great righty defenceman are among the most valued and hard-to-acquire products in the video game.

Pietrangelo and the Blues have actually left the door open for a return, but you seldom see that when a gamer strikes the market. For teams that lose out on him, Boston's Torey Krug and Toronto's Tyson Barrie might be attractive secondary alternatives.

The goalies (many goalies)

Talk about a purchaser's market. Henrik Lundqvist, Braden Holtby, Corey Crawford, Anton Khudobin and Jacob Markstrom are just a few of the recognizable names readily available.

The abundance of good choices for goalie-needy groups need to keep costs down, as need to bigger patterns in the video game. Like with running backs in football, finest practices now dictate that, outside of a handful of super stars (and even then), it's probably reckless to invest heavily in a goalie when a much less expensive guy (or tandem) can do nearly as excellent a job.

The Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning ran counter to this viewpoint by providing Andrei Vasilevskiy a quite heavy work in the routine season and after that playing him for every single minute of the playoffs. But you question if they're delighted about having to pay him $9.5 million a year for the next eight years. Same for Montreal and Carey Price, who's owed $10.5 million per for 6 more years. And Florida, which handed Sergei Bobrovsky a seven-year, $70-million deal last summer and then got bounced in the certifying round by the tandem-employing Islanders. Get a complete rundown on all the goalies for sale in this video by CBC Sports' Rob Pizzo:

There are a lot of big names available this year when complimentary firm officially opens, but Rob Pizzo says a lot of teams may have brand-new goalies when next season begins. 3:56

Quickly ...

Two track world records fell yesterday -- with some aid.World 10,000-metre champ Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda smashed the 15-year-old record at that range by six seconds, and Ethiopia's Letesenbet Gidey sliced almost 5 seconds off the ladies's 5,000 m mark, which had actually stood for 12 years. Impressive stuff, but brand-new technology played a big function. Organizers of the fulfill in Valencia, Spain called it "World Record Day" and did whatever they might to ensure it measured up to the billing. Flashing lights on the track showed runners the rate required to break records, and both Cheptegei and Gidey used the controversial Nike ZoomX Dragonfly spikes that are assisting runners lay waste to the record books at various distances -- some state unjustly.

The Ontario government will permit the OHL to play this season -- if it forbids body-checking.Seems like a non-starter. The provincial minister who oversees sports, Lisa McLeod, said her office is working with the league on a plan to get back on the ice in the middle of the pandemic. The OHL, in addition to the WHL, is wanting to do that in early December. Canada's other major-junior hockey league, the QMJHL, opened its season last weekend but has already faced trouble. Two of its teams -- the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and the Sherbrooke Phoenix -- are now dealing with outbreaksafter playing each other two times, and the Quebec government has actually prohibited sports in "red zones" that include Quebec City and higher Montreal. 2 OHL teams -- the Ottawa 67s and the Mississauga Steelheads -- lie in Ontario-designated "hot zones." Cross-border travel is likewise a concern with 3 OHL groups based in either Michigan or Pennsylvania. Learn more about the lots of barriers dealing with the OHL's prospective return here.

Iga Swiatek made history at the French Open.The Polish teen, who's No. 54 worldwide, became the lowest-ranked women's finalist ever at the Paris Grand Slam event with another dominant win today. She squashed qualifier Nadia Podoroska 6-2, 6-1 and has actually now won all 12 sets she's played while dropping only 23 video games. Swiatek was having an excellent year, reaching the 4th round of the Australian Open and the 3rd round of the U.S. Open, but she 'd never ever made the quarter-finals of a Slam before. Now she'll bet the title Saturday vs. Sofia Kenin. The fourth-seeded American won this year's Aussie Open in her only trip to a Slam quarter-final prior to this week. The males's semis are tomorrow, with No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Rafael Nadal still on course for a showdown in the title match. For that to occur, Djokovic needs to beat No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nadal need to survive No. 12 Diego Schwartzman. Check out more about today's ladies's semis here.

The Women's PGA Championship teed off today.The third of this year's four ladies's golf majors is happening in a residential area of Philadelphia. It's followed by the U.S. Open in December in Houston. Two Canadians are contending today. Brooke Henderson is ranked 4th in the world after nearly winning the last significant (she lost in a playoff at the ANA Inspiration a month earlier). She was tied for 33rd at 1-over through 8 holes at our release time. 98th-ranked Alena Sharp was connected for 16th at even par through 12. Check the live leaderboard here.

And lastly ...

It's always a good day to keep in mind Donovan Bailey's 100-metre triumph at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. It's one of the outright best moments in Canadian sports history. But it practically didn't occur. Bailey had to conquer a pretty major injury, and the fatal Centennial Olympic Park battle happened the morning of the final. Read more about those scares and great deals of other great inside stuff on the race from the individuals who existed -- consisting of Bailey himself -- in this oral history by CBC Sports' Doug Harrison, which includes a terrific video treatment of the race by Steve Tzemis.

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Teams prepare for it to rise every year due to the fact that it's connected to league-wide earnings, which had kept going up. It's likewise worth noting that Hall has averaged a point a video game or better only 4 times in his 10 seasons, and he's missed out on an average of about 15 games a year with assorted injuries. You wonder if they're delighted about having to pay him $9.5 million a year for the next eight years. Swiatek was having an excellent year, reaching the 4th round of the Australian Open and the third round of the U.S. Open, but she 'd never ever made the quarter-finals of a Slam prior to. The fourth-seeded American won this year's Aussie Open in her only trip to a Slam quarter-final prior to this week.