The Bull on Ice: NHL offseason and free agency 2020 well underwaycsudhbulletin November 19, 2020 0 COMMENTS
The 2019-20 NHL season is in the books. Photo by Tim Trad for Unsplash.
By Taylor Ogata, Staff Reporter
The 2019-20 National Hockey League season ended on Sept. 28 with the Tampa Bay Lightning hoisting the Stanley Cup after a 2-0 shutout of the Dallas Stars in Game 6 for a 4-2 series victory. It was the second championship in franchise history for the Bolts, who won their first Cup in 2004 with a 4-3 series win over the Calgary Flames.
Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman took home the Conn Smythe Trophy for the most valuable player of the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hedman scored 10 goals during the entire playoffs to make him the third D-man to have that many goals in Stanley Cup Playoff history.
On Oct. 6, the 2020 NHL Entry Draft was held virtually due to concerns over COVID-19. Alexis Lafreniere was chosen first overall by the New York Rangers. Lafreniere was the projected first overall pick based on writers throughout the hockey world. He led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with 77 assists and 112 points for his team in Rimouski, Quebec.
“I think just throwing on a Rangers jersey… it’s pretty amazing,” Lafreniere said. “Growing up, you dream of being drafted in the NHL, and just being able to have an NHL jersey, and especially the New York jersey… it’s unreal for me.”
The Los Angeles Kings had the second overall pick in the draft, and selected center Quinton Byfield with it. Byfield became the highest-selected Black player in NHL history with that pick. He surpassed current San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane (2009, Atlanta Thrashers) and Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones (2013, Nashville Predators), both of whom were chosen fourth overall.
“It means a lot to me, it’s something special.” Byfield said. “Being in the record books for anything is definitely something super special, especially [since] my dad and my mom didn’t play hockey or have too much knowledge about that, so kind of just growing the game together.”
Byfield led his junior hockey team in Sudbury, Ontario with 82 points (32 goals, 50 assists) in 45 games the previous season, which was also good for 14th in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
Down the road in Orange County, the Anaheim Ducks selected defenseman Jamie Drysdale sixth overall. Drysdale was the highest ranked North American defenseman in the draft and the third overall skater behind the aforementioned Lafreniere and Byfield. He came from Erie in the OHL.
Drysdale made a huge impact for Team Canada in the 2020 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championships, scoring three points (one goal, two assists) in seven games during the tournament to help Canada win the gold medal.
Forward Jacob Perreault was the Ducks’ second choice in the first round, selected 27th overall. Perreault came from Sarnia of the OHL and was ranked second on the team with 70 points (39 goals, 31 assists) in 57 games. He is the son of former NHL forward Yanic Perreault, a former third round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1991 who played in 859 career NHL games with six different teams.
Players who were in the final years of their contracts with their respective clubs became free agents on Oct. 9. The Kings and Ducks did not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2020 and were looking for some new personnel.
The Kings so far have only signed defenseman Mark Alt and goaltender Troy Grosenick to one-year, two-way contracts on Oct. 10. The contracts are worth $700,000 at the NHL level. Alt spent the last two seasons as captain of the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League (AHL). Last season, he scored 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 55 games and had a plus-19 rating.
Grosenick played for the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL last season and posted a 20-9-3 record with a 2.29 goals-against average, .920 save percentage and two shutouts in 33 games.
In Anaheim, the Ducks made a splash by signing recent Stanley Cup winning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to a three-year contract. Shattenkirk had eight goals and 26 assists for 34 points in 70 regular season games and 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 25 playoff games for the Lightning en route to their second Stanley Cup.
On the first day of free agency, Anaheim brought back gritty fourth-line center Derek Grant on a three-year contract. The 2020-21 season will be the start of Grant’s third tenure with the Ducks after having played for them in 2017-18, 2018-19 and part of 2019-20. Last season, Grant had 14 goals and six assists for 20 points for the Ducks before being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers. At the time of the trade, he also was tied for fourth in the NHL in shorthanded goals with three and tied for sixth with four shorthanded points (three goals, one assist). Grant was also third on the Ducks in goals at the time he was dealt.
The 2020-21 NHL season is targeted to begin on Jan. 1, but that is subject to change.