Jacob Trouba, Johnny Gaudreau and Nikita Kucherov highlight a strong and deep group of restricted free agents that remain unsigned at the moment. While they will each ultimately cash in and receive substantial contracts for the 2016-17 campaign and likely beyond, their status as restricted free agents has certainly complicated their respective negotiation processes.
Next summer, another quality group of players are set to hit restricted free agency, unless they can agree to terms on a new deal prior to the 2017-18 league year. In a series of posts, Pro Hockey Rumors will profile the top pending 2017 RFAs and examine what kind of contract they could elicit assuming they put up a strong performance during their platform year. Today we continue in the Metro.
Alexander Wennberg (Columbus) – Wennberg was the Blue Jackets first-round pick in 2013, selected 14th overall. He debuted in the NHL during the 2014-15 season and finished with 20 points in 68 contests. He bumped his production up significantly in year two, recording 40 points in 69 games and flashing top-six potential.
Wennberg is more playmaker than goal scorer as his career 4-to-1 assist-to-goal ratio suggests. Washington’s Marcus Johansson posted similar career numbers through the expiration of his ELC with 33 goals and 62 assists in 183 contests; good for a points-per-game rate of 0.52. Johansson would sign a two-year contract worth $4MM total following the 2012-13 campaign.
The career production numbers between the two pivots should look similar given Wennberg tallies 40-plus points in close to a full slate of games in 2016-17 and would therefore be looking at a bridge deal right around the $2MM mark annually. Given Johansson’s second contract will be four years old, inflation could take that figure closer to $2.5MM per year. A longer term would appear unlikely as the Jackets will still have several inflated contracts on the books, including those of Scott Hartnell, Nick Foligno, Jack Johnson and Brandon Dubinsky.
Calvin de Haan (New York Islanders) – Now 25, de Haan is now at the age many defensemen peak in terms of production. Originally the 12th overall selection in the 2009 draft, de Haan has already established himself as one of the Islanders best defenders and will once again fill a spot in the club’s top-four. If he can stay healthy for a full slate of games and perhaps contribute a touch more in the offensive end, de Haan could set himself up for a nice raise on the $1.97MM AAV his current contract calls for.
Teammate Travis Hamonic, drafted by the Islanders in the second-round in 2008, is a bit more prolific offensively but should help us gauge de Haan’s potential value as a top-four defender. Upon the expiration of his ELC, Hamonic signed a seven-year, $27MM deal with an AAV of $3.857MM. By that time, Hamonic was already averaging better than 22 minutes of ice time and 0.33 points-per-game. If the two parties explore a long-term arrangement, it’s likely de Haan can point to Hamonic’s deal as a comparable.
Mika Zibanejad (New York Rangers) – As part of their overall team commitment to get younger and quicker this summer, the Rangers acquired the 23-year-old pivot from Ottawa in exchange for fellow center, Derick Brassard. Zibanejad, the Senators first-round pick in 2011, sixth overall, has steadily improved his offensive production since debuting as a regular during the strike-shortened 2012-13 campaign. Last season was Zibanejad’s best, with the Swede compiling 21 goals and 51 points in 81 contests.
A player with a similar pedigree, former high first-round choice and relatively consistent point-producer, Nazem Kadri, inked a six-year extension worth $27MM in April and that deal should serve as a reasonable target for Zibanejad. Kadri has averaged 0.59 points-per-game over the three seasons prior to his extension – 134 points in 227 games. Zibanejad, meanwhile, has averaged 0.57 points-per-contest the last three years – 130 points in 230 games.
Zibanejad is entering the final season of the two-year bridge deal he signed with Ottawa, paying the five-year veteran $2.625MM per season. A repeat of his 2015-16 performance this upcoming season should give Zibanejad a good chance to match the level of Kadri’s extension. But, if Kadri takes the next step in his development and makes a push for the 60-point threshold, he could see his value escalate to $5MM and up per season.