The UFA market got off to a hot start this summer, with players such as Matt Duchene, Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin, among others, going early.
But it’s the RFA market that people are most excited about. Of the class that remains unsigned, there are three players who had 87 points or more, a pair of franchise-changing defensemen and a goaltender who rose to stardom overnight. Many of the players are moving on from entry-level deals, but some are looking for a pay upgrade after proving themselves.
Because of the Montreal Canadiens’ attempted wrangling of Sebastian Aho, offer sheets are something for teams to keep an eye on. While Aho’s deal was the only offer sheet signed, Brayden Point reportedly declined one from the Canadiens and others could be on the horizon. With that in mind, here’s a look at an existing RFA target for each team as summer continues to sizzle in the NHL:
The Ducks are set for 2019-20, with every roster player signed for the upcoming season. Only two RFAs remain, but forwards Justin Kloos and Chase De Leo played just one game each last year and don’t factor into any decisions.
Same goes for Arizona, a team with a meager $178,099 in cap space.
Defenseman Charlie McAvoy is going to get a hefty raise on his post-entry-level contract, especially after leading the team with an average ice time of 22:10. Expect somewhere in the $7.5-million range on a long-term deal.
Center Evan Rodrigues finished with a career-high 29 points in 74 games, but it wasn’t a huge improvement from his 25 points in 48 games the year prior. The Sabres can keep him for $2.4 million.
The Flames have a couple of big RFAs this summer, including Sam Bennett and David Rittich, but left winger Matthew Tkachuk is easily the most important. He’s coming off a 34-goal, 87-point season and should get a long-term deal with a cap hit that could be upwards of $8 million.
The Hurricanes don’t need to worry about negotiating with Sebastian Aho now, making winger Brock McGinn the next target. He’s coming off a down offensive season but has good value around the $2.5-million mark.
GM Stan Bowman has already said Brendan Perlini will be brought back after scoring 12 goals and 15 points in 46 games with the Hawks. Look for a $2 million AAV.
The Avs have six RFAs to worry about, but winger Mikko Rantanen is the top priority. Coming off a career-high 87-point campaign, some projections see him signing an eight-year deal worth $9.5-million per year.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Zach Werenski is one of the best defensemen in Blue Jackets history and the team has the cap room to sign him to a long-term deal. Make it happen, Jarmo Kekalainen.
Dallas locked up Esa Lindell after his standout performance this season, leaving few big-name RFAs. One to watch? Jason Dickinson, who filed for arbitration with the Stars.
Detroit Red Wings
No roster players have to worry about their contracts, but defenseman Joe Hicketts, who skated in 16 games with the Red Wings across the past two seasons, should get something near the league minimum.
Winger Jesse Puljujarvi’s NHL career has been a disappointment and it doesn’t look like he’ll end up in Edmonton next season. But he still has value and might be able to play a significant role elsewhere, but he won’t get more than $1.5 million AAV.
The Panthers got their star goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky, but they don’t have a backup lined up for next season. Samuel Montembeault should be able to fill that role after an 11-game run last season and shouldn’t command much more than $1 million.
Los Angeles Kings
Forward Adrian Kempe saw his production dip from 37 points to 28 in 2018-19. He did have a great scoring stretch in February but consistency is an issue. He’s still worth at least $2 million.
Forward Ryan Donato had an offensive explosion in Minnesota, posting 16 points in 22 games to finish off the season after a rough stretch with the Bruins. But he doesn’t have an extensive history to earn a big deal, either. A bridge deal at $2 million would be good for both sides.
Artturi Lehkonen has nice value at both wings and has improved steadily in the first few years of his career. Montreal should be able to snag him for $3 million per season over two years.
Center Colton Sissons finished with 30 points in 75 regular season games but was a non-factor in the playoffs. On a team that doesn’t score often, signing him at $2.5 million-$3 million is a worthy investment.
New Jersey Devils
Will Butcher is an important member of New Jersey’s blueline and might even get a chance to play with P.K. Subban. He’s still trying to prove his true worth, but the Devils would be smart to sign him long term at a cap-friendly value of around $4.5 million.
New York Islanders
Left winger Anthony Beauvillier dipped from 36 points to 28 points this season but still had 18 goals to show for it. He’s already put up 20 in his career and that should be achievable for years to come, but as a depth forward, he won’t get much more than $2.5 million.
New York Rangers
Defenseman Jacob Trouba is coming off of a career-best 50-point season and the Rangers traded some key assets to acquire him. Trouba should command more than $7 million, and he’s worth it.
Fourteen players currently on the roster will be free agents next summer, but Colin White is the only one the Sens need to worry about right now. He had a respectable 41 points last season and should challenge for 50 this season. A bridge deal might be the best move.
Winger Travis Konecny has scored 24 goals in the past two seasons and fell just short of 50 points in both. Philly should get him long-term while they can – and at a team-friendly rate – before he breaks out.
Defenseman Marcus Pettersson was a nice pickup back in December and factors in as a top-four defender for years to come. Anything under $2.5 million is a steal.
San Jose Sharks
With Timo Meier locked up, winger Kevin Labanc is the next big-ticket item in California. Labanc exploded for 17 goals and 56 points and continues to improve.
St. Louis Blues
Few were more important to their team this year than goalie Jordan Binnington, who helped the Blues rise from the ashes to win the Stanley Cup. It might be in everyone’s best interest for both sides to point to Matt Murray’s contract and copy it.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Brayden Point is due a monster raise, and Tampa Bay is going to have to pay up to keep him on the roster. They’ll have to make some space to pay the $9 million-plus it’s going to take to keep him there.
Toronto Maple Leafs
No RFA was talked about as much as Mitch Marner this season. Will he get an offer sheet? Will he get $11 million? He’s certainly important to the Leafs and is capable of great offensive feats, but Toronto will have to do some salary cap gymnastics to make it work.
Sign Brock Boeser for seven years and $7 million per season. Just do it.
Vegas Golden Knights
William Karlsson is signed, Nikita Gusev isn’t expected to return and the Golden Knights need a backup goalie, so Malcolm Subban is an interesting option. He filed for player-elected arbitration. Expect a deal to get done.
Washington lost a few key forwards this summer but Jakub Vrana will make up for that. He had a 20-point increase to 47 this season and it would be reasonable to expect him to eclipse 50 this year.
They don’t need to worry about Trouba, but forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor will both command big bucks. Even in a disappointing season, Laine finished with 30 goals and will look to sign long term in the $7 million area. Expect Connor to command the same.
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