NHL Rumor Mill – March 25, 2024

NHL Rumor Mill – March 25, 2024

A look at some of this summer’s notable restricted free agents in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently listed the latest rumors and reports regarding this summer’s top-12 restricted free agents.

The Vancouver Canucks recently offered an eight-year, $52-million contract extension ($6.5 million average annual value) to Filip Hronek. However, the 26-year-old defenseman’s camp rejected that proposal. Fox believes the Canucks want to keep Hronek’s salary below Quinn Hughes’ $7.85 million AAV but the blueline could try to push it into the $7 million range.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hronek is completing a three-year deal with an AAV of $4.4 million. He’s enjoying a career-high performance in his contract year with 45 points in 71 games. Hronek has arbitration rights and is a year away from UFA eligibility. It could cost the Canucks between $7 million and $7.5 million annually to keep him in the fold.

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider (NHL Images).

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider is completing his entry-level contract. Fox doubted that Wings general manager Steve Yzerman would attempt to lowball the 23-year-old blueliner. He speculated Seider could get an eight-year deal worth $8.6 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seider is the Wings’ best defenseman and a key piece of their rebuilding roster, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2021-22. He’s yet to reach his playing prime. A long-term deal at $8.6 million AAV could become a bargain over time.

The Buffalo Sabres trading Casey Mittelstadt to the Colorado Avalanche earlier this month was based on the belief they would be unable to re-sign him to a long-term extension. Following the trade, the 25-year-old center pointed out how much the Avalanche wanted him by giving up defenseman Bowen Byram in return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mittelstadt seems to be settling in well as the Avalanche’s second-line center. A strong performance over the rest of the regular season and in the 2024 playoffs will ensure he’ll get a lucrative long-term extension.

While Fox thinks Seider will get a long-term deal from the Wings, he believes Lucas Raymond could end up with a short-term contract. Like Seider, he’s completing his entry-level deal. Fox pointed out that Yzerman signed Alex DeBrincat last summer to a four-year contract averaging $7.875 million per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how Yzerman handles Raymond’s contract situation. The 21-year-old winger leads the Wings in scoring with career highs in goals (24), assists (36) and points (60), but he has had bouts of inconsistency in his short NHL career.

Fox wondered if the Carolina Hurricanes will attempt to sign Seth Jarvis to a bridge deal coming out of his entry-level contract or bet big that the 22-year-old winger will break out and sign him to a long-term deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After struggling at times during his sophomore campaign, Jarvis has played well this season for the Hurricanes, sitting third in scoring with a career-high 57 points. I’d say bet big and lock him up long-term. A bridge deal could make him more expensive to sign down the road.

Despite Thomas Harley’s 40-point performance this season, Fox speculates that Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill could sign the 22-year-old defenseman to a bridge deal coming out of his entry-level contract. He noted that Nill did the same with winger Jason Robertson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Harley will get a bridge deal. This is his first full season after splitting the past two seasons between the Stars and their AHL affiliate.

Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman refused to comment on an early March report claiming contract extension talks had begun. However, he didn’t deny the report.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Swayman signed an affordable one-year deal last summer due to the Bruins’ limited cap space for this season. He’s going to get a big raise over his $3.475 million and will likely take over as their full-time starter next season. There’s already speculation that his goalie partner Linus Ullmark could be traded during the offseason.

Fox noted the emergence of Quinton Byfield this season leaves Los Angeles Kings GM Rob Blake facing a big decision. He could sign the 20-year-old forward to a bridge deal or attempt to ink him to a long-term contract. Fox suggested the latter might come in between $6.5 and $7 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: On the one hand, it’s tough to justify a lucrative long-term deal based on one good year. On the other, it’ll cost a lot more than $7 million to sign Byfield coming off a bridge deal if he continues to improve as projected. He’s steadily improved with each season.

Hurricanes winger Martin Necas is completing a two-year bridge deal worth $3 million annually and has arbitration rights. The 25-year-old forward is in a position to justify a significant raise.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Necas has surfaced in trade rumors over the past two seasons. He might end up getting that raise from another club.

Turning to the remaining players on Fox’s list, Matty Beniers’ struggles in his sophomore season could see the 2023 Calder Trophy winner getting a short-term bridge deal from the Seattle Kraken.

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Sean Durzi will seek a lucrative offer coming off his bridge contract. He’s on pace for a career-best performance.

The Buffalo Sabres could try to sign Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to a mid-term deal. He’s performed well this season but it’s a small sample size to justify a long-term contract.