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NHL Free Agency: Top RFAs Still on the Market in the Middle of August

The NHL off-season is deep into August and there are still some key restricted free agents out there without contracts. Let's take a look at the best youngsters still available.
Jason Robertson

The free agent market has been open for over a month now, folks. And there are still a number of good young players who remain unsigned.

While the UFAs tend to grab most of the headlines when the market opens due to their ability to sign anywhere, the RFA crop is just as interesting this season, with an intriguing number of future stars still searching for deals with their respective teams as the dog days tick on by.

Who will stay and who will go? That's the question.

So, let's take a look at the best RFAs still on the market after arbitration hearings wrapped up. 

Jason Robertson - Dallas Stars 
2021-22 Stat Line: 74 GP, 41 goals, 38 assists, 79 points, 18:01 TOI
2021-22 Cap Hit: $795,000

Just sign him. It's not that complicated. Don't make it complicated.

Jason Robertson is good. Very good. He's a homegrown star who works his butt off and does the one thing (score goals) that pretty much the entirety of the Stars' roster cannot.

That's pretty much all there is to say, really.

Robertson has done nothing but rack up fantastic numbers alongside minimal supporting talent since entering the NHL as a 20-year-old. He should be rewarded for that. Preferably, with a shiny new contract. 

Jake Oettinger - Dallas Stars 
2021-22 Stat Line: 48 GP, 30-15-1, .914 save percentage, 1 SO
2021-22 Cap Hit: $925,000

Hey, so, the Dallas Stars still haven't signed their franchise goalie yet.

Why aren't we talking about this?

After stabilizing the Stars' crease throughout the regular season in 2021-22, Oettinger became the one and only reason Dallas managed to put up anything even remotely close to a fight in their first-round playoff series versus the Calgary Flames in May, going on a run for the ages that nearly bounced the Pacific Division winners from the postseason before it even really began.

In the seven games it took for the far superior Flames to knock off the Stars, Oettinger shut things down to the tune of an absurd .954 save percentage, facing a total of 285 total shots -- averaging out to 41 shots per game -- and stopping 272 of them.

His teammates, on the other hand, fired just 195 total pucks at the opposing net throughout the series, nearly 100 fewer than they surrendered and, when looking at the heat maps, doing so from far worse angles, too.

And still, Oettinger somehow kept the Stars in it until overtime of Game 7. That's sorcery.

It's highly unlikely that GM Jim Nill looked at the 23-year-old who just gave his team the most consistent goaltending it's received since the days of Marty Turco and thought he was unworthy of an extension.

Oettinger will likely get a new deal soon. But with just upwards of $10 million in cap space to work with, and the previous entry on this list in need of an extension of his own as well, the Stars might have to shift some things around in order to make it happen. 

Noah Dobson - New York Islanders 
2021-22 Stat Line: 80 GP, 13 goals, 38 assists, 51 points, 21:28 TOI
2021-22 Cap Hit: $894,167

There's a good chance that Dobson has already signed his extension with the Islanders and they never told us about it. Lou Lamoriello loves to keep his business private until, quite literally, the last day of the offseason, thereby forcing fans and media members (like me!) alike to spend the entire summer in suspense.

There's no way Dobson doesn't get a shiny new contract before puck-drop. Not after the year he had. Racking up 13 goals and 51 points as a defenseman playing an Islanders system designed specifically to neutralize opposing offense in lieu of fostering any of their own, Dobson showed just how deadly he can be even when prevented from running wild.

Given his lack of arbitration rights and limited sample size at the NHL level, a bridge deal seems likely for the 22-year-old, keeping the Isles' cap somewhat open for the immediate future.

I wonder if there was a 115-point scorer they could have spent it on...

Kirby Dach - Montreal Canadiens 
2021-22 Stat Line: 70 GP, 9 goals, 17 assists, 26 points, 18:03 TOI
2021-22 Cap Hit: $925,000

Dach, the third overall pick in the 2019 draft and still a budding star, now joins a Canadiens organization currently doing everything to stockpile talent this summer in the hopes of erasing a disastrous 2021-22 season.

That, on the surface, should give him some leverage.

But Dach is a work in progress, still. The 21-year-old scored just nine goals and 26 points in 70 games for the Blackhawks last season and has clearly struggled to establish himself at the NHL level to this point.

The potential is what is so tantalizing here, at the end of the day, as Dach has a tremendous skillset and is precisely the type of player to take a major leap after a strong offseason of training and some guidance from Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis.

Rasmus Sandin - Toronto Maple Leafs 
2021-22 Stat Line: 51 GP, 5 goals, 11 assists, 16 points, 16:58 TOI
2021-22 Cap Hit: $894,167

Given how he plays in the center of the hockey world, it's somewhat surprising that Rasmus Sandin's stalled contract negotiation has slid under the radar to this point. It's doubtful the situation will stay under wraps if Sandin remains unsigned heading into training camp. But, for now, the 22-year-old is staging something of a holdout late into the summer months that hasn't gained the media traction his camp might have wanted. 

Here's the thing: On the surface, Sandin has made a decent little argument for himself to earn a slight bump in pay -- slight being the operative word. He's a former first-round pick, has produced well in his (albeit limited) usage thus far, and is clearly locked in as a key piece of the Leafs' future. 

On the flip side, Sandin has just 88 games of NHL experience under his belt to this point, has barely ever played higher than the Leafs' third pair, got caved in during the very brief time he did, and has battled injuries for two out of his three seasons in the big leagues. 

No matter his potential, Leafs management has every reason to be cautious with Sandin's future, and that includes not breaking the bank to keep him while his rights still remain with the club. 

From all reports, Sandin is unhappy with the lack of readily available playing time he's facing ahead of next season. The logjam on the Leafs' left side is due to the club re-signing Mark Giordano to arguably the best contract in the league. And if Sandin's camp truly expected the Leafs to choose keeping a lineup spot vacant exclusively for their unproven client over signing a former Norris winner for $800,000 per year, then they're not operating rationally. 

Sandin will get a deal done one way or another. The CBA is structured to ensure it. But things might get hairy before both sides find common ground. 

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