Hextall on Hockey: Salary cap crunch will make this year’s NHL free agency like no other

Falling in line with everything else in 2020, this year’s NHL free agency is set to be like no other.

Not because of the franchise-changing free agents on the market, like defencemen Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug, forward Taylor Hall and an overabundance of goalies, from Stanley Cup finalist Anton Khudobin to former Stanley Cup champion Braden Holtby.

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The reason for an unprecedented free agency is because of an uncertain future — more so uncertain price tags on future contracts.

Case in point: the Winnipeg Jets‘ Patrik Laine.

It’s known by now that the Jets are open to trading Laine — not as a salary dump by the Jets, as but trade bait to obtain quality assets to fulfil positional needs.

Read more: Hextall on Hockey — Draft and develop key to Winnipeg Jets’ success

The NHL’s current salary cap of $81.5 million will likely remain as flat as the prairies beyond next season.

With just one year remaining on Laine’s two-year bridge deal that holds a cap hit of $6.75 million, the sniper will only get more expensive.

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That leaves suitors of Laine to ponder how can they afford to squeeze the elite scorer into their payroll.

It’s a problem that can’t be settled by simple math but instead will have to be solved by the movement of assets.

It will be painful for any general manager to give up a quality player for one that will, in one short season, need a long-term deal with millions of dollars attached — meaning Friday may see a salary cap slowdown.

Click to play video 'Hockey Expert Leah Hextall talks day one of the NHL draft' Hockey Expert Leah Hextall talks day one of the NHL draft

Hockey Expert Leah Hextall talks day one of the NHL draft

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