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 finish with the Central Division and move to the Metro.
Ryan Johansen (Nashville) – In Ryan Johansen, the Predators finally have that elusive #1 center they have lacked since the organization’s inception nearly two decades ago. In a rare “hockey trade” that benefited both parties, Nashville acquired Johansen from Columbus in exchange for Seth Jones, a potential franchise defenseman and something the Blue Jackets have sorely needed.
Johansen has tallied at least 60 points in each of the last three seasons and scored a career-best 71 as a 22-year-old during the 2014-15 campaign. On the downside, his goal scoring output has decreased from a career-high 33 in 2013-14 to 26 the following season and to just 14 in 2015-16. That’s likely the direct result of a shooting percentage of just 7.6%, a figure which was more than five points below the combined shooting percentage the two previous seasons. Simply converting shots at his normal rate would have resulted in a 24 – 25 goal campaign.
The Predators have done a marvelous job of locking up their core pieces to bargain long-term deals. Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi, Craig Smith and Mattias Ekholm have all recently inked extensions with Nashville at AAVs below what each player could have received on the open market. The trade-off for higher salaries during RFA years is cost-certainty and buying out free agent years below market value. Expect Nashville to employ the same strategy with Johansen.
Sean Monahan and Nathan MacKinnon have each established themselves as 60-point producers and received extensions with an AAV in excess of $6MM. Aleksander Barkov, coming off a career-best 59-point season, signed a six-year, $35.4MM deal with Florida. All three, however, were coming off their ELCs while Johansen is entering the final season of his second contract. That means any long-term deal would buy out more free agent seasons and typically that tends to be more expensive. Based on the comparable deals and his proximity to free agency, a long-term contract for Johansen could well approach or even reach $7MM annually.
Colton Parayko (St. Louis) – Parayko came out of nowhere to earn a regular job on the Blues blue line and posted a solid scoring line of 9-24=33 in 79 contests as a rookie. He boasts a hard shot from the point and tremendous size at 6-foot-6 and 226 pounds. Currently, Parayko is skating in the World Cup as a member of Team North America, flashing his abilities on the international stage.
With only a single season of NHL experience, gauging Parayko’s potential value is difficult. However, if he approximates his 2015-16 production levels this upcoming season, the four-year, $19.5MM contract awarded to Sami Vatanen by the Ducks could prove to be a reasonable comparable.
Vatanen posted campaigns of 37 and 38 points in 2014-15 and 2015-16 respectively before inking his current deal. Like Parayko, Vatanen is also a right-handed defenseman, which is more difficult to find than their counterparts on the left side.
St. Louis could counter with Ryan Ellis as a comparable. Ellis signed a five-year, $12.5MM contract in October of 2014 following a 27-point campaign with the Predators. But most would argue Ellis is worth more than that AAV and consequently Parayko would be too. It’s also possible the Blues would prefer to go with a bridge contract with a lower AAV than Parayko would be able to get on a long-term deal.
Teuvo Teravainen (Carolina) – The Hurricanes took advantage of Chicago’s salary cap woes and in exchange for agreeing to take on the final season of Bryan Bickell’s $4MM-a-year-deal, were rewarded with the skilled Teravainen. Much was expected from the young Finn following the 2014-15 postseason that saw Teravainen record 10 points in 18 games as the Hawks won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons. While a 35-point campaign as a 21-year-old is solid, Teravainen’s skill suggests there is even more scoring potential.
It makes sense to stick with the Hurricanes when looking for a comparable since doing so offers insight to how the club values their RFAs. Earlier this summer, Carolina agreed to a six-year, $24MM extension with Swedish center Victor Rask. Rask was coming off a breakout campaign which saw the 23-year-old pivot post career-highs in both goals (21) and assists (27). More importantly, his first NHL season mirrored Teravainen’s in terms of production as Rask netted 11 goals and 33 points in 80 games for the Canes in 2014-15. If Teravainen follows the same path and boosts his offensive production into the 45-point range, a contract similar to that of Rask’s would seem a safe bet.