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.
Shayne Gostisbehere (Philadelphia): Gostisbehere exploded upon the scene in 2015-16, netting 17 goals and 46 points – in just 64 games – to lead all rookies in those categories. The former Union College defenseman quickly became one of the league’s most exciting blue liners and earned a spot on the Team North America entry in the World Cup.
The agents for this year’s top remaining unsigned RFA defenders – Hampus Lindholm and Rasmus Ristolainen – are pointing to the recently-signed and massive extension signed by Aaron Ekblad as the target. Ekblad of course inked an eight-year, $60MM deal with Florida and while Lindholm and Ristolainen are probably not at the level the Panthers blue liner is, they will still likely pocket something in the vicinity of $6MM annually when they finally sign.
Chances are Gostisbehere is also going to use the Ekblad deal as a comparable. Ekblad hasn’t produced offense at the same rate as Gostisbehere (0.72 PPG for “The Ghost” versus 0.47 PPG for Ekblad) but is a former #1 overall pick and projects as a perennial Norris Trophy candidate.
It’s likely the Lindholm and Ristolainen deals will actually serve as a better framework for a new contract for Gostisbehere. Assuming they each get something close to $6MM per, it’s fair to guess the Flyers young blue liner will also land in the same neighborhood.
Brian Dumoulin (Pittsburgh): Dumoulin tallied just 16 points in 79 contests and failed to net a single goal in 2015-16. Ordinarily those numbers wouldn’t be reflective of a guy who is going to cash in but Dumoulin showed in the postseason he has more to offer the Penguins. In 24 playoff games, Dumoulin scored two goals and eight points while averaging 21:31 of ice time per game. If he can carry over that level of play into the 2016-17 regular season, Dumoulin will surely be rewarded handsomely on his next contract.
A similar comparable could be Dmitry Orlov, who eventually signed a one-year deal with Washington worth $2.57MM. Orlov has clearly been a superior offensive producer, averaging 0.30 PPG during his career while Dumoulin has averaged just 0.19. But at 25, Dumoulin is just entering his prime and as we saw in the playoffs, he is capable of producing more offense in the right role. Currently he is listed opposite Kris Letang on the Penguins top blue line pair which could result in a higher point total for Dumoulin.
Even if Dumoulin doesn’t produce much offensively, there is still plenty of value in a steady and reliable performer on the back end. If both team and player elect for a one or two-year bridge deal, an AAV close to $2.5MM would seem fair. A long-term deal buying out free agent years could take the price up north of $3MM annually.