Media-generated NHL trade and free agent rumors remain scarce, so let’s take a look at the status of this summer’s notable unsigned restricted free agents.
Derek Stepan, New York Rangers: Barring a last-minute settlement, he and the Rangers head to salary arbitration today. He’s seeking a one-year deal worth $7.25 million. They’re offering $5.2 million. The outcome will have a significant effect upon the Blueshirts’ cap space for 2015-16. It also raises the possibility Stepan could be traded if his arbitration award proves too expensive for management’s tastes.
**UPDATE** The Rangers re-signed Stepan to a six-year, $39 million contract. The annual cap hit is $6.5 million.
Alex Galchenyuk, Montreal Canadiens: Galchenyuk’s contract talks are on hold as both sides take a break in the discussions. Though negotiations are expected to begin again soon, it could take until mid-September for the two sides to get a deal done. It’s possible a rival club could force the issue with an offer sheet. However, most teams have already invested what they intend to spend this summer, making an offer sheet to Galchenyuk unlikely. A trade is also a possibility if negotiations remain stalled heading into training camp, but unlikely. Galchenyuk lacks arbitration rights, meaning his only leverage is staging a contract holdout when the season begins.
Brock Nelson, New York Islanders: The man with one of the coolest names in hockey (c’mon, admit it!) still isn’t under contract. Over the past month, there’s been no news at all regarding his contract talks. Like Galchenyuk, he’s coming off an entry-level contract, lacks arbitration rights and has limited leverage. He could be an offer-sheet candidate but, with the NHL’s spending-frenzy period (late-June to early-July) over, it’s an unlikely possibility. And no, the Isles won’t trade him if negotiations stall.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers: The 2013 Calder Trophy winner is in the same boat as Galchenyuk and Nelson. It’s been nearly a month since GM Dale Tallon claimed they were “very close” to getting a deal done. Have talks hit a snag? Is Tallon taking his time? Whatever the reason, don’t expect Huberdeau to receive an offer sheet or to become trade bait. He’ll likely be under contract before training camp opens in September.
Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs: His arbitration hearing is slated for July 31. No word yet as to what the two sides are seeking, though that info will likely be revealed at some point this week before the hearing. His previous contract paid him an AAV (average annual value) of $2.9 million. The Leafs took Bernier to arbitration, meaning they can’t walk away from whatever the arbiter awards him. I’m guessing they’ll settle around $3.75 million.
Colin Wilson, Nashville Predators: His arbitration hearing is slated for July 28. He’s seeking $4.25 million, the Preds have offered $3 million. My guess is they settle around $3.5 million annually.
**UPDATE** Wilson was re-signed to a four-year, $15.75 million contract, earning an average cap hit of $3.9375 million.
Marcus Johansson, Washington Capitals: Johansson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for July 29. The Capitals have just over $4.2 million in cap space, which could be around Johansson’s asking price. If his award is over $4 million, he could become a trade candidate. As his average cap hit on his previous contract was $2 million, I think it comes in around $3.5 million.
Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators: Hoffman’s arbitration hearing is on July 30. The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren speculates he could receive between $3 – $3.5 million from an arbiter. Warren also notes the Senators could explore trade options next season for Hoffman, who tallied 27 goals in 2014-15, if they see “enough promise in left-wing prospects Matt Puempel, Shane Prince and Nick Paul.” However, Warren also admits that’s getting way ahead of ourselves.
Carl Hagelin, Anaheim Ducks: We haven’t heard much about Hagelin since he was shipped to the Ducks by the Rangers in a cost-cutting deal during the 2015 NHL Draft. He didn’t file for arbitration. Earlier this month, it was reported Hagelin was believed seeking between $3-$3.5 million annually. Given the Ducks’ considerable cap space, don’t expect him to get an offer sheet.
Marcus Kruger, Chicago Blackhawks: Kruger hopes to sign a long-term extension with the Blackhawks, so don’t expect him to entertain any offer sheets from rival clubs. He’s willing to wait until the ‘Hawks clear sufficient cap space to sign him. They only have around $231K in cap space and Kruger will likely seek over $2 million per season. That means another salary-dumping trade by the Blackhawks. Wingers Bryan Bickell ($4 million) and Kris Versteeg ($2.2 million) remain the likely candidates. Kruger could be waiting until September before ‘Hawks management sorts this out.
Jakub Silverberg, Anaheim Ducks: Like Hagelin, there’s been very little news on the status of his contract talks with the Ducks. Earlier this month, it was reported the two sides were talking contract extension. At some point, Silfverberg will be re-signed. The Ducks have plenty of cap space and plenty of time to get a deal done.