NHL Rumor Mill – September 22, 2018
Recent updates on the status of the four remaining unsigned RFAs in your NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Luke Fox and Jared Clinton recently updated the status of Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander, Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore, Anaheim Ducks winger Nick Ritchie and New Jersey Devils forward Miles Wood. The four are the final remaining unsigned restricted free agents.
Nylander is the biggest name on the list. Fox notes the young Swede’s initial ask was $8 million per season while Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas would apparently settle for something comparable to the $6 million annual average value of Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers.
Nylander remains in Sweden while Dubas remains patient. Fox believes the longer this goes the greater likelihood they’ll agree to a bridge deal. With Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner due for next contracts next summer, Larkin notes the Leafs must tread carefully, as Nylander’s new contract could set the parameters for negotiations with the other two.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The longer this standoff continues the more speculation could arise suggesting the Leafs consider trading Nylander. Dubas has said he doesn’t intend to go that route.
Given Nylander has no leverage other than to not report, the Leafs GM can afford to be patient, especially if the team isn’t significantly hurt by his absence. If this standoff drags into the regular season, however, it will raise questions over Nylander’s long-term future with the Leafs, especially if he ends up settling for a bridge contract.
The recent re-signings of Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey and Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse have have not affected Theodore’s negotiations with the Golden Knights. Fox cites John Shannon’s Sept. 17 tweet indicating the two sides remains no closer to an agreement. Clinton suggests St. Louis Blues’ defenseman Colton Parayko’s contract ($5.5-million AAV for five years) could be along the lines of what the Theodore camp is seeking.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Golden Knights have over $9.4 million in projected salary-cap space, giving them more than enough room to re-sign Theodore to a Parayko-style deal. However, I think they’d prefer something comparable to Morrissey or Nurse because of his limited body of work.
Theodore still has considerable potential but only had parts of two NHL seasons on his resume before joining the Golden Knights. GM George McPhee might prefer evaluating his development over the next two years before committing to a more lucrative deal.
Fox also cites reports indicating a lack of progress in talks between the Ducks and Ritchie. He feels a short-term contract is Ritchie’s best bet, while Clinton believes the Ducks want to see more than they have out of the winger before investing long term.
Fox and Clinton both noted reports indicating talks toward a short-term deal between the Devils and Wood broke down following the start of training camp. So far, there’s no indication they’ve picked up.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ritchie and Wood have potential to become better NHL players. However, they aren’t as valuable to their respective teams as Nylander and Theodore are to theirs, which is the only real leverage the latter two have.