Time is running out for Alex Formenton’s season. The NHL’s deadline to sign restricted free agents approaches Thursday at 5 p.m. ET, otherwise that player is ineligible to play this season, and Formenton is the last unsigned free agent in the league.
The Ottawa Senators have seemingly moved on with little intention of negotiating and/or signing Formenton over the months since he failed to sign his qualifying offer.
This led to speculation in league circles that Formenton could face disciplinary action for his potential involvement in Team Canada’s 2018 World Junior Championship squad sexual assault case. That left other clubs wondering: Why didn’t the Senators try to sign him?
Formenton, now 23, is one of the few players on this World Juniors team who has not responded to allegations from members of the media, either directly or through his representative.
It is possible that the findings of the investigation will be released fairly quickly, along with any potential disciplinary action. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported last week that the NHL’s investigation was « substantially complete » and awaiting comments from the London, Ont., police department’s investigation into the case.
[For further background: Hockey Canada reopens investigation into 2018 sexual assault.]
However, with the full extent of the details of the investigation unknown, will a team step in the next day and take a flyer out of Formenton? What Formenton was not a party to the alleged attack?
He’s an undeniably talented player who scored 18 goals and 32 points with the Sens last season, including five shorthanded goals.
A fictional survey of NHL general managers conducted by Daily face-to-face Wednesday revealed that it was probably a bit long given the circumstances surrounding the player. The other 31 teams saw the Boston Bruins vilified in the court of public opinion for signing Mitchell Miller earlier this month, to the point where they were forced to walk away from the deal.
There’s probably only a handful of franchises willing to sign up for that kind of potential criticism this time around, though it’s fair to point out that everyone else on that 2018 World Juniors team went on. to play this season uncritically as the wheels of justice churn.
However, the league canvass on Wednesday revealed some potential tweaks:
> Vegas Golden Knights: The Golden Knights raised eyebrows on Wednesday when they traded defenseman Zach Hayes to Carolina in exchange for future considerations. They were previously maxed out at 50 contracts and moving Hayes around for nothing in return gave them the flexibility to acquire and sign Formenton if needed. General manager Kelly McCrimmon has had a strong decades-long relationship with Newport Sports Group, which represents Formenton and many other players on the Vegas roster. Additionally, the Golden Knights’ drive to win and improve their roster by any means seemingly necessary cannot be ignored. Perhaps the only thing standing in the way is the Golden Knights’ lack of salary cap space. Formenton should probably land a one-year contract around $2.25 million on a like-for-like basis, and Vegas doesn’t have a lot of space, but that can potentially be solved by firing an active player from the list in Ottawa as part of a potential deal.
> Carolina Hurricanes: It’s probably a bigger long shot in Carolina, but they should at least be considered based on what we think their risk profile is. The Hurricanes have an owner who broke standards, and they’ve hired other « draft » type players, like being the first to step in and sign Tony DeAngelo after he was exiled by the Rangers. It worked well. DeAngelo had 51 points in 64 games last season. These two scenarios are far from comparable. But it’s important to point out that Carolina does it a little differently, they play in a market that flies under the radar, and they may be able to withstand any potential scrutiny a little better than most. In addition, they are hungry to win and have a strong organizational culture that exudes leadership.
Formenton is a story to watch over the next 24 hours. The Toronto Maple Leafs fell to the wire with William Nylander on Dec. 1, 2018, but under entirely different circumstances.