Ah, yes, it’s that time of year again.
Ah, yes, it’s that time of year again.
The flip of the calendar to September comes with a surge of NHL players returning to their playing cities for the final run-up to training camp. While most teams won’t require them to officially report for medicals until Sept. 21, it’s basically back to school time right now.
At least for those with a contract.
The absence of those still without one grows more conspicuous the closer camps get.
The list of restricted free agents that played in the NHL last season and remain unsigned currently totals 10, after the Canadiens signed Kirby Dach to a four-year extension Wednesday. Most of them will likely finalize a new deal in the next week or two. These aren’t all situations dripping with acrimony – far from it, in fact.
But sometimes players with very few collectively bargained rights negotiating their second NHL contracts need to sit out days during training camp and even the regular season to create the pressure point needed to find compromise.
With that mind, here’s a closer look at the Unsigned 10:
Jason Robertson LW, Dallas Stars
2021-22 stats: 41 goals, 38 assists, 79 points in 74 games
When you top the 40-goal mark in your platform season and average a hair under a point-per-game across your first 128 NHL games, you’ve got leverage. And you’re going to get PAID. The biggest question hanging over Robertson’s next deal is what kind of term the sides opt for. If they do a bridge contract, he has a case to eclipse Elias Pettersson ($7.35-million AAV, three years). On a six-year term or longer, the number probably gets somewhere into the Mikko Rantanen/Mitch Marner range – between $9.25-million and $10.9-million. Very few players have had a better first two NHL seasons than Robertson over the last decade.
Alex Formenton, LW, Ottawa Senators
2021-22 stats: 18 goals, 14 assists, 32 points in 79 games
Formenton represents the last piece of outstanding business following a busy summer in Ottawa. The Senators have consistently opted for long-term deals with their young talent, but may end up going shorter in this case. They’ve got more deals coming down the pike to consider and plan for. Formenton is coming off his first full NHL season and scored 18 goals without tallying one on the power play. He projects as a third-liner on a team that’s added depth at the wing.
Rasmus Sandin, LD, Toronto Maple Leafs
2021-22 stats: 5 goals, 11 assists, 16 points in 51 games
Beyond the value of the next contract, there’s the added layer of concern about opportunity from the player’s side of this negotiation. Minutes could be tough to come by on a left side that already features Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and Mark Giordano. Teammate Timothy Liljegren signed a two-year extension carrying a $1.4-million AAV in June – establishing a comparable for what Sandin might command on a short-term deal.
Sean Durzi, RD, Los Angeles Kings
2021-22 stats: 3 goals, 24 assists, 27 points in 64 games
Durzi is coming off a breakthrough campaign where he played nearly 20 minutes per night. However, those 64 games with the Kings were his first in the NHL. That sample size makes gauging his value a little less certain, which might result in a shorter-term extension ultimately making the most sense for both sides.
Mikey Anderson, LD, Los Angeles Kings
2021-22 stats: 2 goals, 6 assists, 8 points in 57 games
Anderson was another regular contributor on L.A.’s blueline last season with the third-most minutes per game played among that crew. His counting stats don’t jump off the page, but he’s got two full NHL seasons under his belt. The Kings have about $4-million in available cap space to get him and Durzi signed.
Nicolas Hague, LD, Vegas Golden Knights
2021-22 stats: 4 goals, 10 assists, 14 points in 52 games
This negotiation will likely benefit from more clarity in the marketplace. Deals for the other unsigned RFA defencemen should help push the sides towards common ground. Hague averaged more than 18 minutes per game last season and figures to be a useful piece for the cap-conscious Golden Knights.
Ryan McLeod, C, Edmonton Oilers
2021-22 stats: 9 goals, 12 assists, 21 points in 71 games
The Oilers need to guard their cap space carefully, so every dollar matters in a negotiation like this one. McLeod found his footing as a fourth-line centre last season and saw a bump in role during the playoffs while Leon Draisaitl was hurting. His next contract will likely fall somewhere between last year’s cap hit – $834,167 – and $975,000.
Barrett Hayton, C, Arizona Coyotes
2021-22 stats: 10 goals, 14 assists, 24 points in 60 games
This isn’t a question of cap space. The Coyotes are projected to spend less money on players than every other team in the league. Hayton is still getting his legs under him as a full-time NHLer, but should see plenty of minutes on a rebuilding outfit. Once he gets his signature on a contract, that is.
Adam Ruzicka, C, Calgary Flames
2021-22 stats: 5 goals, 5 assists, 10 points in 28 games
An in-betweener still looking to establish himself as a regular NHLer. He’ll be in competition to earn a job with the Flames, but needs to sign a contract in time to formally join that competition.
Cayden Primeau, G, Montreal Canadiens
2021-22 stats: .868 save percentage, 1-7-1 record in 12 appearances
Playing behind the cellar-dwelling Canadiens last season didn’t leave Primeau with strong platform numbers to negotiate off of. He’s put up a career .909 save percentage across 80 AHL appearances and projects to see time in both leagues again this coming year with Jake Allen and Samuel Montembeault ahead of him on the organization’s depth chart. This deal should be relatively straightforward.