NHL Rumor Mill – July 26, 2018

by | Jul 26, 2018 | Rumors | 49 comments

A look at five restricted free agents whose contract talks could drag on throughout the summer in your NHL rumor mill.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Jared Clinton recently listed Detroit’s Dylan Larkin, Toronto’s William Nylander, Vegas’ Shea Theodore, Buffalo’s Sam Reinhart and Calgary’s Noah Hanifin as five notable restricted free agents whose contract negotiations could drag on throughout the offseason. All are coming off entry-level contracts and lack arbitration rights.

Clinton doubts Larkin’s negotiations with the Red Wings will become contentious, speculating he’ll get something in the $6-million range annually and suggests the Wings might be best served by making it a six-year deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press recently reported the Wings are working on a long-term deal for Larkin, perhaps five or six years in length. Wouldn’t surprise me if he’s re-signed within the next two or three weeks. 

Will the Toronto Maple Leafs sign William Nylander to a bridge deal or a long-term contract? (Photo via NHL Images)

With the Leafs facing Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner needing big raises by next summer as well as the need to re-sign or replace defenseman Jake Gardiner next July, Clinton suggests a short-term bridge deal might be best for Nylander and the Leafs. Given his point production (122 in 163 games), Clinton points to Jack Eichel, Leon Draisaitl and Mikko Rantanen among those who posted similar numbers in their second and third NHL seasons. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was  some speculation suggesting the Leafs trade Nylander for a top-pairing defenseman but I think they see him as a long-term part of their future. A bridge deal doesn’t seem fair for a guy coming off back-to-back 61-point performances but the cap issues raised by re-signing Matthews and Marner might not leave the Leafs much choice unless they shed some salary before next summer. 

Clinton feels Theodore “seems ripe for the kind of long-term, mid-range deal that other high-scoring, minute-munching blueliners have earned in recent years”, pointing to Kris Letang, Alex Edler and Marc-Edouard Vlasic as comparables at the same point in their careers. If that’s what Theodore is expected to become, Clinton argues the Golden Knights should lock him up now rather than having him cost much more later on.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights can afford to pay Theodore a lucrative long-term deal but they could prefer seeing how he performs over the next couple of years before investing in a lengthy deal. I’m expecting he’ll get a bridge contract.

Reinhart’s struggles last season could affect his next contract. He had a disappointing first half but netted 20 goals and 39 points in his final 44 games. Finding the right value and proper term could make this a tough negotiation.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reinhart was mentioned as a trade candidate at one point last season but that chatter largely dried up since midseason. The Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington recently speculated Reinhart and his agent could seek something along the lines of the six-year deal ($4.85 million annually) recently signed by Calgary’s Elias Lindholm. While the Sabres have plenty of cap space to re-sign Reinhart to that type of deal, it might be best to go the bridge route with the promise he’ll earn bigger bucks on a lengthier deal if he plays up to expectations. 

Clinton feels Hanifin, recently traded by Carolina to the Flames, could be in line for more than a bridge deal. His numbers in his first 239 games compare favorable alongside Columbus’ Seth Jones during the same period in the latter’s career. “Jones went on to sign a six-year, $32.4-million deal, which carries a $5.4 million cap hit” coming out of his entry-level contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Clinton also points out Hanifin hasn’t yet shown himself as defensively capable as Jones. They also have to ensure sufficient cap space next summer for Matthew Tkachuk, as well as Sam Bennett and Mike Smith, though it remains to be seen if the latter two have a future in Calgary beyond 2019. This one could go either way. A bridge deal would be sensible in the short term but getting him under a reasonable long-term deal could save them money down the road. 



  1. Draistl, Eichel and Rantanen were all point per game players. Nylander is not a comparable. Nikolaj Ehlers is an almost duplicate of Nylander. 7 yr× 6-6.5 million for Nylander is what he will get. Media likes to create controversy by saying Nylanders so good he needs 10mil/year so the Leafs need to blow up their team.

    And Hanifin is not Seth Jones! That’s ridiculous! Hanifin has been very sheltered starting two thirds of his shifts in the offensive zone. It’s hard to look bad as a defensemen when you’re only on the ice in a role like that. Before claiming he’s in the same strata as Jones maybe he could start say 50% of his shifts in his own zone. At least that way be might learn the name of his own goalie!

    • Ehlers deal was a fair bit under market value, so while it’s a comparable, I don’t think Nylander signs for the same cap percentage. I think Ehlers basically ended up being discounted by signing a year early. Had he waited until now to sign, after another 60 point season, he would get more.

      Forsberg, Barkov, Saad, Pastranak all signed for six years between ~8.1-8.9% of the cap.

      Mackinnon, Monahan, Landeskog, RNH signed for 7 years, all between ~8.63-9.33% of the cap

      The comparables for 8 years are tougher because you have Shiefle at a massive underpayment at 8.39%, while you have Tarasenko, Draistl, and Kuznetsov between 10.27% – 11.33%.

      As much as it would be nice just to point to Sheiefle and say you need to get less than that, it’s not happening on an 8 year deal. But I don’t think he has the leverage to push himself into that 10+%.

      I think a reasonable expectation would look like:

      6 years – ~ 8.5% ~ $6.75M
      7 years – ~ 9% ~ $7.15M
      8 Years – ~ 9.5% ~$7.55M

      The 8 year deal is the hardest to compare because the guys who have signed an 8 year deal out of the ELC are typically all considered more valuable than Nylander. The only winger was Tarasenko, and he put up 37 goals in the regular season, and 6 in 6 playoff games before signing. Goal scoring still comes at a premium.
      So I think the better estimate would be that the increase from 6 to 7 years would be the same increase going to an 8th year.

      Personally I think it’s likely a 6-7 year deal that gets done. Nylander is interesting because he is probably the most likely of the big 3 in Toronto to get a bridge deal. I think it gets done long term, but I could see Nylander wanting to prove he is closer to that upper tier, and I could see the Leafs wanting to save ~$1.5-2M in the short term to get past the toughest part of their future cap crunch.

      I think if the Leafs can make the numbers work to get all 3 signed with no bridge deals, all to 7+ years, it will actually make their cap situation much easier going forward, as they will have their core signed for the long term, with guys like Marleau & Horton coming off in 2 years, and the cap continuing to rise, they should be pretty comfortable. They just need to get past that tight year in 2019-2020

    • Draisaitl scored 2 goals & 9 points in 37 games in his rookie season playing under 13 mins a night barely seeing 2nd line PP time, 19 goals & 51 points in his sophomore season playing 18:04 a game as McDavid’s RW, 1st line minutes seeing 1st unit PP time.

      Eichel scored 24 goals & 56 points in 81 games in his rookie season playing 19:07 a game seeing 1st line ice time & 1st unit PP time, 24 goals & 57 points in 61 games in his sophomore season playing 19:55 1st line ice time & 1st unit PP time.

      Rantanen scored 20 goals & 38 points in his rookie season playing 18:03 seeing 1st line minutes & 1st unit PP time, 29 goals & 84 points in 81 games playing 18:58 seeing 1st line ice time & 1st unit PP time.

      Nylander scored 22 goals & 61 points in 81 games playing 16:01 3rd line ice time & 2nd line PP time, 20 goals & 61 points in 82 games in his sophomore season playing 16:41 2nd line ice time & 2nd line PP time.

      The only thing that separates Nylander from any of these players really in their 1st 2 years in the NHL is Nylander hasn’t been given anywhere near the same quality of ice time nor opportunity as any of them yet in his career but has outscored all of them except for Rantanen n who he is tied with at 122.

      I bridge Nylander for 2 years at around 5 mil & then see where we are at with all other issues in play next summer when eligible to extended Nylander long-term yet again, perhaps even waiting until both years have been served before extending if more clarity of Cap issues are clear or the need at D is more defined.

      Expansion is also only 2 years away & that has to be at least considered.

      • leon was actually Center and Hall was his LW that year

      • Bob you are correct, Draisaitl did C Hall & Purcell in his sophomore season. I was off by a year, it was the 2016-17 season he played most of the year as McDavid’s RW. He did still see what was essentially 1st line ice time & PP time as McDavid went down after 45 games.

  2. KD… regardless of long term plans on WW…. best to bridge

    This will set stage when negotiating on Mathews/Marner

    The key is the deal with AM and MM

    Bridge for 3 then sign 8…. total 14 years including ELC years…. then if play has been falling off you can cut them loose at 32

    If extend after ELC , for 8…. then Leafs get them for 11 years and have a player pushing for another 8 year extension when they are touching 30 and will carry heavy numbers into late 30’s … or they could walk as UFAs at 29/30…. this decision is much more difficult to make at 29/30 than at 26/27

    Yes under this proposal they will get locked in for 8 (in 3 years) at a higher AAV…. but not that much higher… and worth the benefit listed above

    …. if any plan s to trade WW…. bridge contract allows same flex to receiving team …. better worth in negotiating a trade

    BTW …. my guess is Theo’s mgt team is waiting to see what deal comes to William Karlsson

    • 3yr bridge deals you toss around like they can be forced to sign cheap. Thats risky to say the least thinking a player leaves money on the table & will be loyal for 8yrs after. Dreaming bro

      • Hi Gordie

        I never said they’d be cheap by any stretch … I just built my argument on the premise that bridging (for the team) is better in the long run

        The bridge deal will not be cheap

      • Here’s a scenario Id love to see, wont happen but imagine if it did :

        Arizona makes 50 million over 7 years offer sheet to Marner which he signs.
        Leafs match offer and resign Marner.

        With the Leafs now crushing cap ceiling Arizona makes 70 million 7 years offer sheet to Austin Matthews which he signs.
        Leafs have no cap room to match and Matthews goes to Arizona and Leafs get 4 first round picks as compensation.

        Marner- gets term and dollars
        Matthews – breaks bank, gets term, dollars and gets to go home.
        Arizona- Gets stud young homegrown player for max term.
        Leafs- keep Marner and obtain 4 first round picks. Picks wil be late first rounders as Matthews arrival improves Coyotes immensely.

        Imagine the aftermath if that happened? It wont, but wow!!!

      • ron jull

        are you for real? the leafs would be thrilled to only have to pay matthews $10 million and marner just $7.1 million. your proposal doesn’t break the bank it helps them.

    • I feel like I am the only guy that thinks this “Marner is so much better than Nylander stuff” is silly. Look at their stats last year, take away the Powerplay points and Nylander is actually better.. Consider Nylander played quite a bit on the 4th line, yes he played on Matthews’ wing but AM missed 20 games. Marner was given prime power play time all year long. As hot as Marner’s finish was he had 8 more points than Nylander at years end. Also, Nylander faced the teams top line every night yes Nylander finished plus 20, Marner finished -1. Nylander had 8 GWGs to Marner’s 2. I think they are both awesome but enough with lumping Marner with AM. I would give them both 6.5 to 7 but that’s almost Gaudreau money and they haven’t done it long enough.

      • More realistic contracts than the bridge deals galore. Still money & assets needed to help the D. I like Marner & Willie other than not impressed with their D & not worth the superstar $$$’s. 6-6.5m each

      • At least Marner scored and gave effort in playoffs, Nylander looks terrible in playoffs

      • Marner point per game in playoffs. Purse holder Nylander looks like a soft mink coat

      • I think the argument has to go beyond simple stats, but to your point, Marner spent half the year on the 4th line.
        While watching the Leafs Marner looks like the better, faster, grittier player. That the simple eye test, but if comparing both I give the nod to MM for sure

    • A 3 year bridge is too long, you pass leverage to the player. The player is 1 year from UFA status with arbitration rights. The team needs to maintain more leverage than that, 2-year bridge max. You don’t want to go into negotiating a long-term deal with 1 year to UFA status.

      • Striker

        Sound logic… they (players) would elevate leverage somewhat being 1 yr from UFA

        However, I’m still with bridge logic on all 3…. 3 EL + 2 Bridge + 8 …. 13 years …. decision on another 8 at 30 years (WW and MM) and 31 (AM)

        …. doing 8 now … they can walk at 27 & 28respectively or demand 8 year that Leafs sign (at high AAV) that has a risk of major overpaying when that are 33,34,35

        …. Bridge 2 years …. 🙂

      • Stiker: A 3-year bridge to Nylander would leave him 2 years from UFA, not 1, and makes sense. Nylander only played 22 games (under 40) burning the first year of his ELC (2015/2016) and won’t be 27 until May 2023.

      • Stop using common sense!! It has no place here.

      • Pengy.

        That’s exactly how I would strive to deal with all contracts if able using what leverage I have to achieve such.

        If a player played hardball coming out of their ELC I would force them to like Win did to Trouba. Coming out of that deal if I want that player locked up long term I strive to do so even compensating on their bridge deal lapsed if necessary. Similiar to what TB did with Kucherov although he did sign a 3-year bridge deal as you originally suggested.

        Negotiations were never contentious with Kucherov though & I think both knew exactly what the plan was when that deal was signed. Take this bridge deal & we will make it up to you on the long-term extension when we can renegotiate the season before it expires.

        I like your math for 3 reasons. You sign the player up long term for 2 more years this way, control cap space in the short term 2 years of the bridge & don’t lose the player potentially at 26 or 27.

    • I am not as much a fan of the idea of bridging as the default strategy to increase the amount of player control.

      I know some advocate for it, but there are two main problems.

      The players where it’s worth trying to get maximum control, are usually the types who have put themselves in a position where a bridge deal isn’t even really on the table. Guys like McDavid or Eichel were never bridge candidates to start with.

      Also, bridging allows the next RFA negotiation to involve arbitration. This can increase the risk significantly, as a player can more easily force themselves to early UFA status instead, giving them more control over their asking price.

      This coupled with the fact that bridge deals no longer seem to offer the same types of comparative discounts as they once did, and younger star players being more established out of their ELC deals than they used to be, and it just starts making more sense to try and get value now. You are no longer getting 30%+ discounts by signing to a bridge, it’s more in the 15-20% at best.

      Players also don’t get 8 years often out of the ELC. There aren’t that many who have signed those types of deals, most get 6-7 years. It helps mitigate the risk of signing a player too long when the deal expires when they are 27 instead of 29. I would also rather try and deal a 25-26 year old player with a couple years left on a 2nd contract than a 27-28 year old with a year or two left on a 3rd contract. Chances are my ability to recoup assets would be better with the former.

      I think another benefit of having players enter their final year at 26 or so, will be that many of the deals signed now will fall into the new CBA, where I think it’s likely the max term will be coming down. If that is the case, and say the max term on these deals becomes 6 years, it won’t be as hard at all to figure out a price as you will be buying most of their prime with maybe a year or two at the beginning of a decline, instead of half of the contract with the player declining.

      • Very good points, Danny. In addition, the next CBA will almost certainly limit the signing bonus % of the overall compensation and prevent the “Buyout proof” contracts.

    • Who is WW?

      • That’s the problem when someone uses initials – one typo and everyone is scratching their heads. I believe he was referring to WN – William Nylander? Better to spell them out and it’s not like anyone is going to have substantial extra time on their hands by using initials or things like B4 for “before” – we speak English for the most part – not Bingo!

      • WW = Wee Willy = William Nylander

      • Hi Yzerfan (nice call name)

        Sorry … I type with one fat finger on iPhone screen and have bad eyes so I use initials often

        WW is what I meant … I was using the initials of his nickname (Wee Willy) coined I believe by Joe Bowen … Leaf play by play guy

        So WW ( Wee Willy) is WN (William Nylander)

        Sorry about that

  3. Nylander was garbage in the playoffs, looked soft as mink fur and lacking in effort. Never give big money to a guy unless he’s a playoff scorer. In other news I hope to God that Buffalo trades Reinhart, the guy is terrible! Slowest player I’ve ever seen, even Dave Andrychuk looks like an Olympic speed skater compared to him, it’s funny because Rienharts Dad could skate like the wind…sign him 2 years then trade him.

    P.S yes I know Eichel received big money without being a playoff scorer, I’m not worried about him or his deal, but Nylander and his Brother are lacking in heart

    • Matt, Nylander was far from terrible in this current playoff. He was also the best Leaf forward in last year’s playoff vs Washington. Washington’s defense gave Nylander tons of space as they had trouble with his speed and puck handling skills. Boston played a great series against the AM\Nylander line, give Boston full marks for shutting them down and also key, they are both very young. Many young stars get shut down against very experienced defenders in the playoffs. There is a reason Chara has been one of the top defenders in the NHL for years.

      Regarding his heart, I have no idea where you get that from.

      Regarding MM, agreed he has more upside then Nylander. This is mostly due to the differences in their hockey IQ. MM has unbelievable skills and can see the game like few others. I would bet he sees the game in slow motion.

    • I think you could argue Matthews didn’t do much either but they had Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand draped all over them.. Once again they draw top line assignements..
      I know what you are saying but they said the same thing about Marian Hossa early in his career. Nylander is an effortless skater so at times looks like he isn’t trying but he is…He has 40 goal potential written all over him

      • Aka AM’s line soft as butter on D

      • Gordie, wtf are you talking about. AM is already an outstanding 2-way centre, have a look at his plus/minus – unbelievable for a second year centre as well on a team that isn’t a strong defensive unit. Nylander and Hyman are also very strong on both ends of the ice.

      • Looking at a singe playoff round is a great way to completely incorrectly value any player.

        Nylander wasn’t great against Boston, but he was their best forward the previous year against Washington (where MM struggled a lot).

        Matthews was the Leafs next best forward in the series after Marner. He had more scoring chances and clean looks than any forward, but just didn’t finish at his normal rates. He wasn’t at his absolute best, but he was far from bad in the playoffs. Matthews, who has been a career 15% shooter, scored 1 goal on 27 shots. That’s not something you want to bank on.

        The flip side is a few good shifts and some puck luck made Plekanec into a hero. However, for the most part he was just getting steam rolled.

        I would agree that in Marner has established himself as the more dangerous looking player of him and Nylander, I wouldn’t be so quick to write off Nylander. His start to his career puts him in some pretty elite company. If he continues to improve at a similar rate to those other players, he will prove to be a very effective piece for the Leafs long term.

      • It’s not just the points with Matthews and nylander, you’re obviously a leaf fan. Matthews and nylander looked bad in the series they were scared to get physical at all which caused them to give away the puck and never win puck battles. Matthews might overcome the softness but nylander is just that type of player

    • Matthews was a no show in playoffs as well

    • how soft is he again? I can’t seem to remember

      • Just made my day. Haha.

  4. Matthews will pull a Tavares and run home to the land of sand the first chance he gets. Lots of cash and zero pressure playing in Arizona.
    Of course Leaf fans will want to believe only Tavares would want to go home to play…..

    • Ron, this statement can be made about every player in every sport. It means absolutely nothing.

  5. Spector, could you please explain the LTIR and the start of the season. If the Wings sign Larkin to 6 million, that would put them over the cap by about 3.5 million. I know they are allowed to go over the cap during the summer by 10%, but I believe on the 1st day of the season they have to be at the cap or under the cap. They then, can place Franzen and possible Zetteberg on LTIR allowing them to go over the cap. To get under the cap, the will need to either make trades or demote someone to the AHL, which I do not believe they have anyone on the current roster, minus Rasmussen or Zadina, which would not have to pass thru waivers. Please let me know how this works, because I am no lawyer and of the CBA

    • You’re correct that they must be cap compliant by the opening day of the regular-season schedule. So they’ll have to free up sufficient cap space if they ink Larkin to a new deal paying him $6 million annually. Cap Friendly has the breakdown. https://www.capfriendly.com/ltir-faq

  6. The older Nylander needs to sit the younger one down and teach him how to play in the NHL.

  7. NJ and Colorado have ample cap space and no big hitter RFA’s still to be signed. I could see Franzen and sweetener or Nyquist if he can be convinced to waive NTC and send him for prospects or picks.

  8. Nylander and Marner will get the same deal mark my words … they each will get 6.5-7 million each year I’d say 6 years and Matthews will get a little more then Tavares I’d say 12.5 a year for 8 years

    • Why would Matthews get the same as McDavid? Their stats and individual awards aren’t even close to comparable. I understand the whole cap % argument, but Matthews should fall somewhere between Eichel and McDavid, likely capped at Tavares’ $11M/year.

      I agree that Nylander and Marner should both fall in that $6.5-$7M range on a longer term deal. Nylander may be bridged for 2-3 years to keep the short term cap hit down.

      • AM @$11m is overkill
        Done nothing to command that

    • I hope the Leafs pay that kind of money because they’ll never win unless they can afford some D. Those three would be around 26 million not much for the rest of the team. Their Goalie will demand 8 or 9 and who can argue he has been their best player. Toronto better hope the cap keeps going up not sure it will because if it ever goes down look out. Tavares another 11 that’s 37 for four not sure any other team is close to that.

  9. I’m a Hanafin fan (a Hanafan?) but I wouldn’t trade Seth Jones for two Hanafins.

    Might not even trade him for three Hanafins.

    Jones is a MUCH better player.

    • Wherenski did you get that notion? Sorry, I’ve been Jonesing for some defence talk. Don’t Murray I won’t go on forever, no need to Prout. Relax and take a nap in your Ham(on)ic. I don’t Noah better defenceman than Hanifin, even if saying that gets me sent to the Kulak.

      Yeah, no, but Jones is better.

      • I’m cheesy in nature but regardless. 5 Stars! 😂