NHL Free Agents Update – August 21, 2016
Updates on the remaining notable NHL restricted and unrestricted free agents.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
SPORTSNET: Following the Calgary Flames signing of restricted free agent center Sean Monahan on Thursday, Luke Fox reviewed the status of the remaining notable unsigned RFAs. Regarding Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov, Fox observes the last update from general manager Steve Yzerman on July 27 expressing confidence in getting Kucherov under contract before the start of the season. Fox wouldn’t be surprised if the winger gets a long-term extension comparable to Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and Nashville’s Filip Forsberg.
Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau reportedly doesn’t wish to negotiate during his participation in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. Flames GM Brad Treliving maintains the winger will be taken care of, while team president Brian Burke recently said he believed Monahan and Gaudreau would be re-signed before the World Cup.
Fox believes a short-term bridge contract makes sense for Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba. Buffalo Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said negotiations are ongoing with blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen. Sabres GM Tim Murray recently said talks were progressing with forward Zemgus Girgensons. The Anaheim Ducks have just over $9 million to re-sign rearguard Hampus Lindholm and forward Rickard Rakell.
Ottawa Senators GM PIerre Dorion admits contract talks with defenseman Cody Ceci are taking longer than expected but remains confident of getting Ceci under contract in the next few weeks. Limited salary-cap space ($3.4 million) could make the Washington Capitals hesitant to re-sign blueliner Dmitri Orlov to a long-term deal. Fox notes Dallas Morning News columnist Mike Heika believes the Stars will re-sign winger Valeri Nichushkin to a one-year contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect all of these RFAs will be re-signed before the start of the season. Kucherov will get a long-term deal worth around $6 million per season. That will bite deeply into the Lightning’s remaining cap space and could bring about a salary-dumping deal before the start of the season.
I expect Gaudreau will be re-signed before the World Cup begins, likely to a seven- or eight-year deal worth between $6.5-$7 million annually. Lindholm could also get a long-term extension, perhaps a five-year, $25 million deal. That could result in the Ducks clearing some cap space by shipping out a blueliner such as Cam Fowler.
As for the rest, I wouldn’t be surprised if most end up with two- or three-year bridge contracts.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
On August 18, prior to Jimmy Vesey signing with the New York Rangers, Fox observed UFA defenseman Kris Russell has attracted some interest from the “Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and Vancouver Canucks” earlier this summer. Regarding the Leafs, they reportedly had no interest in Russell and never made him an offer.
The Canucks and New Jersey Devils were reportedly believed kicking the tires on winger Jiri Hudler. Earlier this month there was a report Hudler was close to signing a deal and the Canucks could be in the mix. There’s nothing new to report on forward Brandon Pirri,
Defenseman James Wisniewski recently signed a professional tryout contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Devils were rumored to be linked to blueliner Kyle Quincey. Nothing new regarding a report last month claiming goalie Jhonas Enroth was close to signing with the Leafs. The Devils are taking a “wait-and-see” approach with forward Patrik Elias, who is recovering from off-season knee surgery. There’s nothing new to report on defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and forward Dominic Moore.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some of the clubs that lost out on Vesey could take a look at Hudler or Pirri. Russell is apparently waiting for a few teams to free up some cap space. If Elias is good to go, I expect the Devils will bring him back for one more season. Some of the players on this list could find themselves following Wisniewski’s lead and signing PTO contracts.