With the 2019-20 season in a state of limbo as of present day. Many things people are forgetting about are the impending RFA class of 2020. With the seasons schedule on pause, the off season is quickly looking like its going to be a huge spectacle. Lets take a look at the top 10 Restricted Free Agents in Hockey!
Kicking off this list is arguably the biggest RFA on the market. Since the 2017-18 season, Barzal has been one of the most dominant young play-makers in the league. The 16th overall pick in the 2015 draft had a spectacular rookie season leading his team with 85 points in 82 games. In 234 career NHL games, Barzal already has 207 points and has a Calder Memorial trophy under his belt.
Now comes the big question, what is he going to make in his next contract. Its clear that Islanders General Manager Lou Lamirello has to commit long term to Barzal, but given the current financial situation there may be some moves needed to ensure that. With Jean-Gabriel Pageau acquired at the deadline and making $5 million dollars in his next contract (6 years/$30 million), we would most likely see Barzal with a higher cap hit, but a shorter term.
Contract Prediction: 4 years, $26 million ($6.5 million per season)
I was tempted to go with Dylan Strome for the Blackhawks initially, but with the season Kubalik is having, its hard not to look at his numbers. 30 goals, 18 points for 46 points in 68 games as a rookie. He isn’t quite Artemi Panarin levels for the Blackhawks yet, but he is definitely an asset that Chicago needs to lock up.
This could get tricky for Stan Bowman to do. For one, many are not aware about Brent Seabrooks status with the team. After season ending shoulder surgery Seabrook could be placed on Long Term Injured Reserve for the rest of his career. Chicago also needs to decide what their situation in goal will be given Corey Crawford‘s potential departure from the windy city. As far as Kubalik’s next deal in hockey, I see a short term bridge deal in the works being done. I see the Blackhawks doing a short 2-3 bridge deal at a rather manageable number.
Contract Prediction: 3 years, $10.5 Million ($3.5 million per season)
An interesting choice to select, but Dunn is a solid defense-man on a very solid defensive team in the St. Louis Blues. At Just 23 years old, he has played in 224 NHL games as well as 20 playoff games. Oh he also won a Stanley Cup recently so there’s that too.
Dunn is an interesting name because hes one of the few RFA defense-men that are up for renewal this year, (Travis Dermott and Mikhail Sergachev among others). With the way that the St. Louis blue-line is looking going forward with many of their players aging and potentially losing captain Alex Pietrangelo in the off season. Dunn is in a really good position to step up on the back end. I expect Dunn to be the top left shot defense-man on St Louis next season, but given the circumstances I can see Doug Armstrong perhaps giving him a short term bridge deal but with a high salary.
Contract prediction: 3 years, $16 million ($4 million per season)
Jake Debrusk is an interesting player to say the least. Many tend to criticize the Bruins for not going with Barzal with either of their 1st round selections in the 2015 draft, but Debrusk has been a solid piece for their success. With 42 and 43 point seasons in his first two seasons, he was on pace to hit that same mark if not higher until the seasons suspension of play.
The Bruins are in more of a comfortable scenario with re-signing Debrusk now that David Backes‘ contract has been removed from their salary cap, however the task is still difficult given Torey Krug needing a contract extension. At 23 I see Debrusk taking a smaller amount than many restricted free agents in his class, given the Bruins being in a prime position to contend for the Stanley Cup for another couple of seasons.
Contract Prediction: 3 years, $7.5 million ($2.5 million per year)
Sam Reinhart is an interesting contract to discuss. Jack Eichel‘s right hand man has been one of the more underrated play-makers in the game. Reinhart has hit the 50 point mark twice in 6 seasons and notching 65 points in the 2018-19 season. Reinhart’s scoring abilities are also very underrated as well, when it comes to even strength goals, he has scored 107 goals during 5 on 5 play out of 109 goals scored in his career to date. That’s 98% of his goals coming from normal play. (just a neat little statistic)
However there’s the question: What should hi next contract be? Given the rocky road that the Buffalo Sabres have been on this season and for the last few years (no playoff series in almost a decade) the time could be running thin on many players tenures in Buffalo. Having already signed a bridge deal back before the season started in 2018, the demand has to be much higher from his representatives.
Contract Prediction: 5 years, $26.5 million ($5.3 per year)
Detroit has had one of the worst seasons on record. Perhaps they are eager to get to planning the future sooner rather than later. Although they have the best odds at winning the draft lottery and drafting Alexis Lafreniere, it takes more than one player to make a team. Such is the case with Tyler Bertuzzi.
Aside from Dylan Larkin, Bertuzzi is the second highest scorer on the red Wings with 47 and 48 points in the past two seasons. He brings a lot of upside to the team with significant speed and some much needed skill to an aging red wings squad. Given that the rebuild is going to take a while for hockey town to get back onto its feet, I see Bertuzzi being an integral part of the offensive core for years to come along with Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha.
Contract Prediction: 4 years, $17.2 Million ($4.2 per season)
Max Domi is one player whos worth I find the most difficult to gauge. He was always a 40-50 point scorer until last year where he hit 72 points over 82 games in his Canadiens debut. His numbers reverted back to normal pace this season with just 44 points in 71 games. Granted the Montreal Canadiens have had a down season this year and their overall record dipped hard with 31-31-9 over a 71 game stretch.
The key here is the term that GM Marc Bergevin is willing to give out. Given the fact that the Domi for Alex Galchenyuk swap works out more for Montreal than Arizona, I expect Bergevin to give out a long term deal to Domi similar to the deal he gave to Jonathan Drouin.
Contract Prediction: 6 years, $34.2 million ($5.7 million per season)
Dubois is kind of the black sheep of his draft class. The 3rd overall pick in 2016, may not have the offensive force of an Auston Matthews or a Patrik Laine. However, he is still a very underrated part of a young solid Columbus Blue Jackets team. He currently leads the team in point with 49 points (18 goals, 31 assists) in 70 games.
With his contract due for a renewal, I expect that money will not be an issue due to the fact that Columbus has a lot of cap flexibility . There would still be a lot of work to do with other RFA’s such as Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins. I feel a deal within the 4 year range works well for Dubois. When the salary cap is raised in the coming years, we could see a potential raise in Dubois salary.
Contract Prediction: 5 years, $30 million ($6 million per season)
Cirelli marks the next player on the Tampa Bay Lightning that is due for a deserved raise for his contributions. If there is anything that Steve Yzerman‘s tenure in Tampa has taught me, its that there are always surprises in the later rounds of the draft. The NHL draft for the Lightning over the last few years has gifted them players like Brayden Point in 2014 as an example.
At just 22 years old he is quickly turning into the next top 6 center in Tampa Bay. He was being used as the teams 1st line center when Steven Stamkos went down with an injury in March. Since then he has scored 44 points in 68 games this season. That puts him on pace for achieving 53 point pace over an 82 game stretch.
Unfortunately given the circumstances, this puts Tampa in a corner. The current season suspension hard on a team poised to win the Stanley Cup. It also forces them to look towards the future if a season does not resume. With Many of the teams contract extensions kicking in next season such as Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s $9.5 million cap hit, it will be hard to see a situation where Cirelli is fairly compensated. This in my opinion is destined to be a bridge deal with a smaller cap hit than $3 million. This could be the case until either the cap goes up or several contracts are moved and or expired.
Contract Prediction: 2 years, $5 million dollars ($2.5 million per season)
This one is by far the most unexpected as well as the most challenging to gauge. Ryan Strome for many years was labeled as a bust. The former 5th overall pick of the New York Islanders in 2011 has had a rocky NHL Career. He was a consistent 30 + point player, including a 50 point season in 2015 with the Islanders. He was then traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Jordan Eberle. After just 2 points in 18 games, Strome was traded to the New York Rangers for Ryan Spooner in 2019.
It was a move that changed Strome’s Career for the better. In two seasons with the Rangers, he scored a total of 92 points (36 goals, 56 assists) in 133 games. His current season shows him with 59 points in 70 games. (on pace 69 points over 82 games at his scoring rate.)
Now here is the tricky part, what is he going to make next season? Right now he is finishing a 2 year deal paying him $6.2 million dollars. Strome’s sudden resurgence demands a pay raise but it is all about what the Rangers are willing to pay. Strome will be 27 come next season and will become a UFA for the first time. New York does have some cap space but, will be hit hard after buying out Kevin Shattenkirk‘s deal slapping them with a $6,083,333 recapture penalty. I suggest a contract both fair in term and in salary that will fit the teams current #2 center.
Contract Prediction: 4 years, $20.8 million ($5.2 million per season)
These are of course all predictions and these are all subject to change. Are there any restricted free agents I missed? Do these players deserve more term? More money? We shall see in due time.
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