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 the negotiation process.
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 start in the Pacific Division.
Anthony Duclair (Arizona) – “The Duke” is coming off a solid rookie season, scoring 20 goals and posting 44 points in 81 games for the Coyotes. Arizona acquired Duclair and a couple of draft picks from the New York Rangers at the 2015 deadline in the Keith Yandle deal. Duclair, considered a first-round talent in his draft year, tumbled into the third-round following an injury-shortened 2014-15 campaign in the QMJHL.
Another 20+ goal campaign could propel Duclair’s earning potential into the $4MM range annually. Mike Hoffman, who has scored 27 and 29 goals respectively the last two seasons, inked a four-year deal with an AAV of more than $5MM per season. On the heels of back-to-back 21-goal campaigns, Chris Kreider also landed a four-year pact, his worth $18.5MM in total. Kreider was coming off his second contract, Hoffman his ELC. Based on experience, Hoffman would be the better comparable but the goal-scoring numbers are likely to match up better with Kreider. Either way, if Duclair can match or exceed his 2015-16 production this season, a $4MM+ AAV on a new contract would be realistic.
Sam Bennett (Calgary) – Bennett, the fourth overall selection in the 2014 entry draft, posted an 18-18=36 scoring line as a rookie with the Flames in 2015-16, while playing the entire campaign as a 19-year-old. Along with the aforementioned Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, Bennett is part of a strong nucleus of young talent the Flames are counting on to lead the club into Stanley Cup contention.
Assuming an uptick in performance given Bennett now has a full year of NHL experience under his belt, it will be interesting to see how the Flames handle his restricted free agency. They’ve already locked up Monahan to a rich long-term extension and seem to want to do the same for Gaudreau. If they elect to go the same route with Bennett, he’ll likely need to do much better than 36 points to earn a contract in the same ballpark as Monahan’s.
Instead, perhaps a two-year bridge deal similar to the one Kevin Hayes received this summer makes more sense for the two sides. Hayes, who has tallied 81 points in 158 NHL games, inked a two-year pact worth $2.6MM per. That deal might be a fair comparable for Bennett assuming a 40 – 50-point output in 2016-17. A bridge deal also allows Bennett to further prove he can be a top-line player in the league.
Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton) – There was thought that perhaps the Oilers rushed Draisaitl to the NHL and possibly hindered his long term development based on the German pivot’s dreadful rookie year. After being chosen third in the 2014 draft, Draisaitl debuted in the NHL, appearing in 37 games during the 2014-15 campaign and scoring just 9 points and finishing with a -17 plus-minus rating.
Thankfully for Edmonton, Draisaitl demonstrated his career trajectory is firmly pointed upwards after an impressive sophomore season in which he tallied 51 points in 72 contests and improved his plus-minus rating to a -2. If he should continue to show that level of improvement, Draisaitl could land in the same territory as Monahan and Nathan MacKinnon each did coming off their ELCs; namely in the range of $6MM annually. Monahan is coming off back-to-back 60-point campaigns while MacKinnon sandwiched a mediocre second season (38 points in 64 games) between a 63-point debut and a 2015-16 almost identical to Draisaitl’s in terms of production (52 points in 72 games). If Draisaitl can produce in the neighborhood of 60 – 65 points in his platform year, $6MM annually may well be within reach.
Tyler Toffoli (Los Angeles) – Toffoli has improved steadily over his three full NHL seasons, seeing his goal totals increase from 12 his rookie season to 23 in year two and finally to a team-leading 31 last season with the Kings. He also led the league in plus-minus rating with a +35.
Toffoli won’t turn 25 until late in the 2016-17 campaign suggesting he has several more prime years remaining. He is entering the final season of a two-year deal with an AAV of $3.25MM and should be in line for a lucrative long-term pact. Two recent extensions signed by RFA-eligible players that could set the bar for a Toffoli deal are the contracts inked within the last several months by Filip Forsberg (six years with an AAV of $6MM per) and Mike Hoffman (four years with an AAV of $5.1875MM). If Toffoli produces season scoring totals in 2016-17 similar to those of this past campaign, he should be able to command something between what Hoffman and Forsberg are earning on each of their respective deals.