The World Cup of Hockey poses a unique opportunity for unsigned RFAs and UFAs to showcase their talent before training camp. Players will be on the world stage facing off against top-level talent, and good performances would go a long way to improving a player’s stock. Below are the RFAs and UFAs set to play in the World Cup of Hockey:
Tobias Rieder (RFA)
Tobias Rieder headlines Team Europe’s forward group this summer and expects to play a large role in the team’s offense. Rieder and the Coyotes remain far apart on a new contract, with the forward’s camp insinuating to the KHL as a viable alternative. Rieder managed to score 14G and 23A in 82 games for the Coyotes in just his second season with the club. The German forward could benefit from a strong performance this summer, and skating with notable playmakers such as Kopitar, Hossa, and Gaborik can only help.
Johnny Gaudreau (RFA)
Johhny Gaudreau will join Team North America this summer. The centerman led the Flames in scoring last season with 30G and 48A in 79 games. While he currently remains unsigned, the Flames and Gaudreau are confident a deal will come to fruition. Johnny Hockey has an opportunity to prove that he is worth a long term contract this summer by holding his own amongst other Team North America stars Nathan MacKinnon and Connor MacDavid.
Sean Monahan (RFA)
Monahan will join his teammate Gaudreau on Team North America this summer, and it is fitting because Monahan finished second in team scoring behind Gaudreau with 27G and 36A in 81 games. Should both Monahan and Gaudreau shine in the tourney, it is likely that they get tandem long-term deals to solidify the Flames’ core.
[Update: Monahan sighed a 7-year, $44.625MM (6.375MM AAV) contract with the Flames]
Jacob Trouba (RFA)
Jacob Trouba will be anchoring Team North America’s defense this summer while looking for a new deal with the Winnipeg Jets. The steady young defenseman scored 6G and 15A in 81 games for Winnipeg, but more importantly played first line minutes averaging the second most even strength playing time. Trouba represents the Jets’ future on defense, but the team already has over $22M tied up in four defensemen. Winnipeg may push for a shorter bridge deal to lessen the cap hit.
Christian Ehrhoff (UFA)
Christian Ehrhoff is slated to play defense for Team Europe this summer, and strong play could create buzz for the 34 year old unrestricted free agent. The German defenseman split last season with the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks, putting up 2G and 10A in 48 games. Ehrhoff has fallen precipitously since signing a 10-year deal with the Sabres in 2011-12, and was relegated to the press box during Chicago’s first round playoff loss last year. Ehrhoff hopes to impress NHL scouts enough to garner another contract, but he’ll have to significantly raise his game.
Dennis Seidenberg (UFA)
Dennis Seidenberg, another UFA German defenseman, will join Ehrhoff on Team Europe’s blueline. And like Ehrhoff, Seidenberg is hoping that a strong performance parlays into an NHL contract. The 35 year old defenseman scored 1G and 11A in 61 games for the Bruins last season. The free agent market is flooded with veteran defensemen of Seiderberg’s ilk, so he’ll value any chance to separate himself from the numerous other available players.
Nikita Kucherov (RFA)
Much has been written about Nikita Kucherov this summer. The Lightning’s leading scorer—30G and 36 P in 77 games—remains an unsigned RFA while the team looks for ways to make room under the cap. Tampa currently has $6.5M in cap space to sign Kucherov and Nikita Nesterov, but it also has to prepare for next year when Drouin, Palat, Johnson, and Bishop all require new contracts. If Kucherov lights it up this summer, the Lightning will have no choice but bite the bullet and find a way to alleviate the cap crunch.
Dmitry Orlov (RFA)
Dmitry Orlov highlights a thin Team Russia blueline this summer while still in contract talks with the Washington Capitals. Talks are amicable, reports CSN Mid-Atlantic, and that both sides chose to forgo arbitration bodes well for a deal. Orlov scored 8G and 21A in 82 games for the Capitals last season, but remains a bottom-pairing defenseman. A good performance this summer could boost both his salary numbers and his playing time.
Rasmus Ristolainen (RFA)
Rasmus Ristolainen will be manning Team Finland’s defense this summer, and the young defenseman looks to build on a productive season. The Finn led all Buffalo Sabres defenseman in scoring with 9G and 32A in 82 games, and led all players in ice time averaging over 25 minutes a game. A strong performance this summer will go a long way in showing that this season was not a fluke. Ristolainen is poised to become a top-pairing defenseman in the NHL someday, and he is hoping to parlay that potential into a favorable contract.