The EliteProspects Rinkside Guide to 2020-21 NCAA Free Agency in the NHL
As the NCAA hockey season winds to a close for some teams, and others prepare for this year's final tournament, NHL interest is picking up for some of the cycle's best free agents. That's right: It's NCAA free agent season.The numbers are what they are. Any given year of NCAA free agency is going to contribute maybe a handful of NHL regulars, and the ceiling isn't especially high for those lucky few.
It's a roster construction mechanism that one could aptly describe as a total crapshoot; it's a little like the draft that way.
You know what, though? It's still well worth the price of admission. Teams are locking players into restricted free agent years, even past the expiry of their entry-level deal (in most cases...) and they're doing it for naught but the cost of the contract. Certainly, it's hard to imagine the Vegas Golden Knights are upset about having a cost-controlled Zach Whitecloud to line their defensive ranks. Brian Burke, found wallets, and so on.
Stop me if you've heard this before, but this year's edition of NCAA free agency is going to be a little different than those of years past. Aside from the cap crunch restricting the NHL's every movement, there's a serious cash crunch limiting the capacity of teams to make even the pithiest of investments. That extends to NCAA free agency, where NHL sources are telling EliteProspects that this year's cycle is sure to be one of the least active ones in recent memory.
My understanding is that the few teams who participate in this year's auction will trade primarily in the currency of AHL deals rather than the standard entry-level deal with playing time guarantees, etc. that circulated previously. It's a buyer's market if there ever was one.
Here are some of the players likely to go to market this year, and what we're hearing about their potential destinations at EliteProspects.
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