Thoughts on Recent NHL Offseason News
We’re in the dog days of the NHL offseason. Still, there’s been a few headlines of note. Here’s my take on some of the more noteworthy.
UNSIGNED RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
Several notable restricted free agents remain unsigned.The Anaheim Ducks have yet to re-sign forward Rickard Rakell and defenseman Hampus Lindholm. In Buffalo, the Sabres still haven’t inked blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen.
Young Calgary Flames star forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan haven’t put pen to paper yet on new contracts. The Tampa Bay Lightning have yet to re-up sniper Nikita Kucherov, and in Winnipeg, the Jets must re-sign defenseman Jacob Trouba.
Apart from being restricted free agents, what these players have in comment is they’re coming off their entry-level contracts. That means they don’t have much leverage in contract negotiations with their respective teams if their general managers decide to play hard ball.
Their free-agent status aside, there are likely different reasons why these players aren’t under contract yet.
It’s possible all five could be forced to sign bridge contracts of two or three years in length for much less than market value. It’s also likely their teams want to lock them up to long-term deals but for less money.
The emergence of Gaudreau and Kucherov into full-fledged scoring stars also makes it difficult for their teams to get them inked to cost-effective contracts. Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks are a budget team that prefers not to spend too close to the salary-cap ceiling.
There’s a chance a rival club with lots of salary-cap space could jump in with an offer sheet for one of these young players, but that’s a tactic rarely seen. It also takes two to tango, so if the players aren’t willing to entertain offers from rival clubs, it’s pointless for a rival club to pursue that option.
Considering the lack of leverage these players have, none of them are likely to stage a lengthy holdout to get what they want. Expect them all to be under contract when the curtain rises on 2016-17.
THE LAS VEGAS…?
Since the NHL awarded the city of Las Vegas an expansion franchise in June, the club still hasn’t revealed its name or jersey. That’s because majority owner Bill Foley still hasn’t settled on a name yet.
It was believed Foley wanted to call the club the Black Knights, after his investment company, but apparently that’s off the table. “Knights” was considered a possibility, but the Canadian rights to that name are owned by the OHL’s London Knights. “Silver Knights” has been reportedly kicked around. Meanwhile, “Outlaws” was the favorite in a poll of a local paper.
It’s expected the franchise will unveil the name and jersey between now and mid-September.
LITTLE BUZZ FOR THE WORLD CUP OF HOCKEY
The 2016 World Cup of Hockey is slated to begin on September 17, but with the tournament only weeks away, there’s seemingly little buzz about it among hockey fans.
Maybe it’s because it’s mid-summer. After all, it’s difficult to get excited over a hockey tournament involving the world’s best players when we’re soaking up the sunshine. Maybe, like me, some of you are more absorbed in following baseball or CFL football. Perhaps your focus is on the upcoming NFL season. Maybe some of you are engrossed in the Summer Olympics.
Whatever the reason, the World Cup of Hockey certainly doesn’t seem to be garnering much attention. That coud change when the calendar flips to September.
It’ll be interesting to see just how much interest the tournament garners in Canada, the United States and Europe.
The NHL is obviously betting that a successful World Cup of Hockey will give them a good reason to avoid future participation in the Winter Olympics.
But if it turns into a flop, or enjoys only marginal success, the league will face a decision. It’ll either have to consider staging another World Cup, continue its Winter Olympics participation, or simply limit it to allowing available players participate in the annual World Championships.
A NOTE ON NHL SALARY ARBITRATION.
Another summer of NHL salary arbitration is completed, and once again, every player who filed for arbitration, or was taken to arbitration by their team, re-signed with their clubs.
Players being awarded a new contract via arbitration doesn’t happen often. The most recent was last summer, when Ottawa Senators winger Mike Hoffman received a one-year, $2-million deal.
A team rejecting an arbiter’s decision remains increasingly rare. To my knowledge, the last time that happened was in 2010, when the cap-strapped Chicago Blackhawks walked away from a one-year, $2.75 million award for goaltender Antti Niemi.
It’s now apparent that teams and players see arbitration as merely a means to set a time limit on contract talks. While there’s some brinksmanship, almost all these deals end up being resolved without the need of an arbiter.
To sum up, don’t expect a notable NHL star to become an unrestricted free agent because an NHL team rejects an arbiter’s award. That’s not happening anymore.