The National Hockey League‘s free agency period begins on Friday, throwing open the door for general managers around the league to improve their rosters by dipping into a big pool of players whose contracts have expired.
Yes, welcome to the NHL’s ‘silly season’.
But this year’s free agency period will be like no other.
The COVID-19 pandemic not only forced the hockey season to pause for a handful of months before the sport came back in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles, it has also impacted the league’s balance sheet.
With no guarantee that fans will return to NHL arenas in 2021 due to coronavirus-related regulations, the salary cap will be stagnant at $81.5 million for at least the next two years.
That’s bad news for unrestricted free agents who are hoping to cash in with a fat new contract, and equally bad news for teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are close to the salary cap ceiling.
The top free agents who are available, such as St. Louis Blues defenceman Alex Pietrangelo and Arizona Coyotes forward Taylor Hall, will still get the amount of money they are looking for.
But for those players who are at the bottom of the free agent list, most of them will be hard pressed to collect the dollar amount they were planning to get before the pandemic turned the hockey world upside down.
That’s not to say that this year’s free agency period won’t be busy.
Remember, this is the NHL’s ‘silly season,’ when GM’s throw caution to the wind with the aim of boosting their team’s fortunes.
Only this time around, it doesn’t appear that teams will shell out the kind of money that we’ve seen in past years.
Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.