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NHL Free Agency: Top RFAs Still on the Market

Let's take a look at the best RFAs still on the market as NHL training camps inch closer by the day.
Jason Robertson

Training camps are mere weeks from opening, 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 offseason comes to a close.

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 as the calendar flips into September. 

Jason Robertson - Dallas Stars
2021-22 Stat Line: 74 GP, 41 goals, 38 assists, 79 points, 18:01 TOI
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. 

Rasmus Sandin - Toronto Maple Leafs
2021-22 Stat Line: 51 GP, 5 goals, 11 assists, 16 points, 16:57 TOI

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 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.

Sean Durzi - Los Angeles Kings 
2021-22 Stat Line: 64 GP, 3 goals, 24 assists, 27 points, 19:35 TOI

There are a few ways to read into why Durzi doesn't have a new contract yet -- the most plausible of which being that the Kings only have $1.5 million in cap space right now and Durzi, along with the next member of this list, will almost certainly cost more.

I mean, the guy scored at roughly a half-point-per-game pace while averaging nearly 20 minutes in nightly ice time for a playoff team with a deep blueline to begin with. How can you argue he doesn't deserve, at the very least, that $1.5 million on his own, with Durzi being capable of commanding even more than that based on his usage rate, production, and make-up as a puck-moving right-shot D.

Players of that ilk are increasingly difficult to find. The Kings should probably make it a priority to get him signed ahead of training camp, or risk messing with what looks like a winning formula heading into next season. 

Nicolas Hague - Vegas Golden Knights
2021-22 Stat Line: 52 GP, 4 goals, 10 assists, 14 points, 18:39 TOI

Ok, it's not a complete shock as to why Hague isn't signed yet.

Deciphering Vegas' cap situation these days requires a Ph.D. in quantum physics and an adept knowledge of tax fraud. The club is constantly toying with whichever CBA loophole grants them the most financial relief, and with Robin Lehner set to miss the entire 2022-23 season, their LTIR pool is about to balloon to a truly stunning total.

The Golden Knights simply cannot sign Hague right now even if they wanted to. Not until they place Lehner and Shea Weber's ghost contract on LTIR and open up roughly $12 million in wiggle room for themselves. And when they do, Hague needs to be a priority. The youngster is an important player, coming off a season in which he logged nearly 19 minutes per night as a 23-year-old.

Once Vegas sorts through their books, Hague isn't going anywhere. 

Ryan McLeod - Edmonton Oilers 
71 GP, 9 goals, 12 assists, 21 points, 12:45 TOI

Cap space. The Oilers have none of it. In fact, they have a negative amount, with CapFriendly currently listing them as $6,781,333 over the cap with just 11 forwards signed. 

That's why Ryan McLeod remains without an extension. Even when the Oilers are eligible to put Mike Smith and Oskar Klefbom's deals on LTIR, they'll still be over the $82.5 million threshold, meaning that GM Ken Holland will need to move some money out in order to sign his lone remaining RFA. 

And it's not like McLeod should be an afterthought, either. The 22-year-old has managed to make the most of his paltry 12:45 of nightly ice time by racking up 21 points in 71 games. McLeod is a rare developmental success story outside of the first round for the Oilers, with the club taking him 40th overall in the 2018 draft and guiding him all the way to the NHL. 

McLeod should be a priority for Holland & co. And a few extra dollars shouldn't stand between them and a promising young forward. 

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