Defending Stanley Cup champion Patrick Maroon tells NHL.com’s Lou Korac that “it’s tough right now” for veterans to find a contract. Given the meager increase of the salary cap and the immense number of restricted free agents still unsigned, there has been a considerable break in unrestricted free agent signings over the past week or two. 14 of PHR’s Top 50 Unrestricted Free Agents still remain available, including Maroon, with little chatter pertaining to any of them. Maroon at least offers a glimmer of hope for his own situation, also informing Korac that he has had discussions with GM Doug Armstrong about a return to his hometown St. Louis Blues, saying that they’ve “had good conversations.” However, the Blues still have four RFA’s to sign, including three potential arbitration cases in Joel Edmundson, Oskar Sundqvist, and Ville Husso. Maroon will also be looking for fair value from St. Louis after taking a hometown discount last summer and becoming a key contributor for the team down the stretch and in the postseason. An extension won’t come easy for either side, but both parties and fans would surely like to see Maroon back in town next season. He and other unsigned veterans may just have to wait a while longer for offers to finally come through.
- On the off chance that RFA Mikko Rantanen and the Colorado Avalanche cannot come to terms on an extension this summer, his KHL rights holder is preparing their pursuit. However, it’s not exactly a Godfather offer. Sport Express’ Igor Eronko reports that Ak Bars Kazan is willing to offer Rantanen a one-year, $4MM contract. While Eronko notes the lower tax rate in Russia and lack of escrow concerns, it’s still a very underwhelming number for a 22-year-old star forward coming off back-to-back 80+ point seasons. The Avalanche would be happy to top that salary, even taking the differences in tax and escrow into consideration. Rantanen is well within his right to be seeking a long-term contract with an AAV of $10MM+ or at least a bridge deal in the $8MM range, so Ak Bars’ offer is unlikely to move the needle toward a return to Europe.
- Chicago Blackhawks prospect Jake Ryczek will have to prove himself in the AHL before earning an entry-level contract. The 21-year-old defenseman has signed a one-year deal with Chicago’s affiliate, the Rockford Ice Hogs, the team announced. Ryczek was a 2016 seventh-round pick, expected to be a long-term project developing at Providence College. Instead, Ryczek left the Friars midway through his freshman year and joined the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads. The problem now is that Ryczek has aged out of the junior level with just a year and half of QMJHL experience and is still a raw prospect. Rather than use a limited roster spot to sign an unproven commodity, the Blackhawks will see what he can do in the AHL for the time being. Ryczek remains Chicago’s exclusive property until June 1st of next year.
- The first overall pick in the CHL Import Draft has signed. Finnish defenseman Kasper Puutio, taken at No. 1 by the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos in June, has officially joined the team. Puutio began turning heads this past season when he was called up to the top level of Finland’s junior ranks at the age of 16 and performed well to boot. Draft source Future Considerations ranks Puutio as the No. 67 prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft in their early initial rankings, but some have called him a first-round caliber player, and that was before he joined the Canadian junior ranks. If he can continue to grow and produce in the more competitive WHL as a very young prospect, he could easily climb into the top 31 picks next year. Either way, the Broncos hope that they can take advantage of his puck-moving ability and competent defensive game for several years to come.