With training camps fast approaching, many Restricted Free Agents (RFA) have yet to sign contracts with their respective clubs. Last year, forward William Nylander sat out for part of the season, as he failed to negotiate a new contract.
Hold outs during contract negotiations are nothing out of the ordinary in the world of professional sport. However, over thirty RFAs have yet to sign contracts.
So what is the current state of the RFA market?
Mitch Marner (RW), Toronto Maple Leafs
Perhaps the most notable RFA left unsigned is Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner. The winger had a breakout season, amassing 26 goals and 68 assists in 82 games. He became one of the key pieces amongst the Maple Leafs’ forward group.
Contract negotiations are currently still ongoing for Marner and it does not look like an agreement will be reached soon. Marner reportedly wants a five year deal similar to the one that Auston Matthews secured during the regular season.
One must question the credibility of these sources when looking into these rumors. However, a final contract is far from ratified. His agent revealed plans for training in Switzerland which could suggest that Marner will be holding out.
Brayden Point (C), Tampa Bay Lightning
Another notable RFA without a contract is Tampa Bay Lightning forward, Brayden Point. Like Marner, Point saw a drastic increase in overall production last season.
In 79 games Point managed to set a career-high in goals and assists, totaling 41 and 51 respectively. Whilst this did come at a time when scoring across the league was elevated and within a stacked team, one cannot argue against Point’s talent.
There has not been a great deal in regards to an impending deal for the forward, but speculation has arisen amongst fans and the media.
It was first reported that Point’s agent (whom he shares with Sebastian Aho) declined an offer sheet from the Montreal Canadiens. Many speculated that this was because the forward wanted to remain with the Lightning.
More recently, Point’s teammate Anthony Cirelli spoke out in regards to Point’s contract, stating he believed the center would re-sign with the Lightning. Whether this happens before training camp or not is a different matter.
Brock Boeser (RW), Vancouver Canucks
As a vital part of the young corp of players the Vancouver Canucks have under its belt, Brock Boeser is clearly an RFA worth keeping tabs on. The winger saw substantial success last year, recording 26 goals and 30 assists in 69 games for the club.
Unlike the lack of information surrounding Point, Boeser has been discussed more frequently. Speculation has placed the contract asking price for the forward at a four year, $7 million AAV price tag. While this has not been agreed upon, developments will be followed closely.
Charlie McAvoy (D) and Brandon Carlo (D), Boston Bruins
In discussing one Boston Bruins defenseman, you must discuss the other. Especially when both are seeing similar situations arise regarding contract negotiations.
It cannot be disputed that Charlie McAvoy clearly had better statistics overall last season. In 72 games Brandon Carlo managed to amass 2 goals and 8 assists. Whereas McAvoy amassed 7 goals and 21 assists in 54 games (20 less than his blue line counterpart).
There are significant advantages and disadvantages to re-signing either player. First, Boston’s cap situation is relatively tight and therefore, roster moves will have to be made to accommodate both players. Player health can also be called into question with McAvoy as he missed extensive time during the season through injury.
However, both players are currently on a level playing field as contract negotiations have stalled in each case, meaning that finalized contracts may not be imminent.
Patrik Laine (RW), Winnipeg Jets
When one thinks of the Winnipeg Jets, one of the first players that come to mind is Patrik Laine. The winger put up relatively solid numbers, amassing 30 goals and 20 assists in 82 appearances for the club. One thing that was not favorable for Laine was the fact he ended the regular season with a plus-minus statistic of minus-24.
Many of the RFAs have received qualifying offers or are in negotiations with their respective clubs. However, recent news has shown that contract negotiations between Laine and the Jets have been far from stellar.
While there is potential for an offer sheet to emerge, the Jets currently have over $16 million in cap space, so any offer could be easily matched.
Mikko Rantanen (RW), Colorado Avalanche
Another notable player that is currently without a contract is Colorado Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen. Rantanen had a breakout season last year for the club – an emerging pattern amongst the current RFA corp – amassing 31 goals and 56 assists in 74 games.
Point totals saw a league-wide increase last season, and Rantanen’s numbers easily slot into this. He was a vital piece within the offense for the Avalanche and despite the fact many fans have called for the winger’s return, a contract has yet to be fully negotiated.
Like Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner, Rantanen’s actions during the offseason suggest that he may opt to sit out during part of the regular season. This is due to the fact that it was reported that Rantanen has been exercising his options and may begin training with Norwegian GET League side Storhamar.
Other notable players
There has been significantly more news surrounding the latter player (Werenski) than the former. It has been widely speculated that Werenski is looking to sign a three year, $5 or $6 million AAV contract. This would be a relatively solid deal for the defenseman, who put up 11 goals and 33 assists in 82 games.
Very little has been reported on the current state of affairs within contract negotiations between the Philadelphia Flyers and Konecny and Provorov. With only three weeks until training camps get underway, these are two contracts that could go the distance into the regular season.
Jesse Puljujarvi has managed to secure a contract this offseason – though not within the NHL. The player signed a 1-year contract with Finnish team Oulun Karpat. The contract does have an out clause that will allow Puljujarvi to return to the NHL by December 1st should he reach a deal with the Edmonton Oilers.
Overall, the RFA market is like none other than the NHL has previously experienced and maybe a glimpse into the contract negotiation paths of future players in the league.
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