It’s been an unusual off-season in the NHL, with seven high profile Restricted Free Agents (RFAs) remaining a week into training camp. Compared to last off-season, when teams moved quickly to sign or trade players to avoid the threat of offer sheets.
In a series of tweets, TSN’s Bob McKenzie sent out the latest in negotiations from across the league.
Anaheim Ducks – Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell – The Ducks are using Morgan Rielly and Seth Jones as comparable contracts, while Lindholm’s camp is pointing to Aaron Ekblad’s $7.5MM AAV. McKenzie clarifies that Lindholm isn’t asking for $7.5MM, more in the $6MM-plus range. McKenzie hasn’t been able to determine the range of numbers from the Rakell negotiations yet.
Arizona Coyotes – Tobias Rieder – The two sides are less than $500K apart. Rieder is currently looking for two years at $2.5MM per season, while the Coyotes aren’t budging on their offer of two years in the low $2MM range. Rieder does have KHL offers to consider, or McKenzie suggests he could ask for a trade or hold out.
Buffalo Sabres – Rasmus Ristolainen – The Sabres and Ristolainen are in the same situation as the Ducks and Lindholm, according to McKenzie. The two sides are at least $1MM apart, with each side standing firm with their comparables.
Calgary Flames – Johnny Gaudreau – This is likely the most fascinating case, as Gaudreau isn’t technically an RFA because he falls under the 10.2(c) CBA clause. Because Gaudreau hasn’t accrued three years experience, he isn’t eligible for an offer sheet and therefore has basically no power, other than holding out. McKenzie believes the Flames want Gaudreau to sign in the same range as Sean Monahan (six-years, $6.375MM per) and no higher than captain Mark Giordano ($6.75MM per), while Gauderau is looking for more than $8MM per season. The two sides have not negotiated recently, according to McKenzie, who called the situation “bit of a Cold War”.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Nikita Kucherov – If not Gaudreau, then Kucherov is definitely the most complex RFA situation due to the Lightning’s cap issues. While Kucherov has a long list of comparable contracts in the six-year, $36MM range, that’s not possible in the Lightning’s current state. They’ll need to move someone to accommodate another $6MM; McKenzie believes Ben Bishop will be traded sometime this season, but expects he’ll start the season in Tampa.
Winnipeg Jets – Jacob Trouba – There has been plenty of digital ink spilled on Trouba’s trade request, but the only new information from McKenzie was that Trouba is not interested in signing an offer sheet, because the Jets would not be allowed to trade him for a calendar year, should they match. That defeats the purpose of wanting to be traded.
It is still early in the season, but there is a firm deadline coming up: December 1st. Should an RFA not be signed by then, then he will be ineligible to play for the remainder of the season.
This is likely only a consideration for Trouba, with the Jets’ habit of slow-playing trade requests and waiting out poor trade offers.