If you navigate to the restricted free agent page on CapFriendly, only five names remain unsigned for the upcoming season. Two of them are New York Islanders players–Anatoly Golyshev and Kieffer Bellows–who are both already in training camp even though the team has not officially announced new contracts. The other three, Elias Pettersson, Brady Tkachuk and Quinn Hughes, are having their own kind of training camp in Michigan. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reports that the three are now skating together as they continue to wait out their contract negotiations.
Pettersson joined Hughes there as the Vancouver Canucks deal directly with representative Pat Brisson on new deals for the young stars. As recently as Tuesday, the super-agent told Rick Dhaliwal of CHEK TV that he and the club were speaking every other day, working to get deals done as soon as possible. But it’s now a couple of days into camp and the two most important players on the Vancouver roster are not even in the country.
In Ottawa, things are moving forward without Tkachuk, the team’s best forward and likely their next captain. GM Pierre Dorion once again told reporters including Wayne Scanlan of Sportsnet that the negotiations were “productive and positive,” but the 22-year-old is now missing from camp in an all-important year for the Senators. The team is looking to turn the corner on their rebuild and Tkachuk is the player that needs to lead them there.
A week ago, Justin Bourne of Sportsnet wrote a column detailing his viewpoint on missing the start of training camp. He makes the case that the early part of the season is the most crucial, because of the trust it builds between the coaching staff and roster. While neither Vancouver nor Ottawa have rookie head coaches trying to get the respect of the room, they are both teams that are by no means guaranteed a playoff spot or even a competitive season. Any disruption to the start of the year could cascade throughout the entire schedule.
For now though, all the players can do is train on their own and wait for a resolution. Thomas Drance of The Athletic writes that it will have to be Pettersson that signs before Hughes, because of the latter’s status as a 10.2(c) RFA that cannot be signed to an offer sheet. If they signed them in the reverse, it would open a window for another team to swoop in and offer something to Pettersson that would be difficult to match under the Canucks’ current cap situation.
At this point, there are no more comparables to be signed, as these are the three pillars left standing. The only real pressure point coming now is the start of the regular season, certainly not something either side wants to wait for.