Rumor Roundup: The latest on unsigned RFAs

Justin Schultz of the Edmonton Oilers. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Justin Schultz of the Edmonton Oilers. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Entering the final full week of August, a number of restricted free agents remain unsigned. With NHL training camps opening on Sept. 18 sufficient time remains to get those players under contract, but so far there’s little indication they’re any closer to new deals.

The most notable is Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen. The 22-year-old enjoyed a breakout performance last season, leading the Jackets in goals (33) and points (63). But his contract talks have become contentious.  

Management’s offer of a two-year bridge deal was initially considered by Johansen to be a “slap in the face.” Though his camp eventually expressed a willingness to accept a two-year offer, money now appears to be the sticking point. The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports the Jackets are believed to be offering up $3.5 million to $4 million annually, while Johansen’s side is seeking upwards of $7 million per season.

Cap space seems to be holding up new contracts for Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug and right winger Reilly Smith. The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa reports the Bruins’ cap-overage penalties (nearly $4.75 million) makes it difficult to re-sign Krug and Smith without exploring salary-dumping trade options.

Shinzawa believes the pair will have to accept one-year deals, making them eligible for RFA status next summer. They’ll be joining fellow RFAs-to-be Dougie Hamilton, Jordan Caron, Justin Florek and Niklas Svedberg, while David Krejci, Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid, Carl Soderberg, Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Matt Bartkowski will be eligible for unrestricted free agency.

The Bruins are currently $800,000 above this season’s $69 million cap. They’ll receive cap relief when the season begins by placing concussed center Marc Savard ($4.027 million) on long-term injured reserve. However, it won’t leave enough room to ink Krug (whose average annual salary last season was $1.7 million) and Smith ($900,000 last season) to significant raises and still leave sufficient cap room for other moves during the season.

Lately there’s been no word on the Edmonton Oilers’ negotiations with defenseman Justin Schultz. Last month the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples speculated the Oilers would prefer to lock up the 24-year-old blueliner to a long-term deal worth $4.5-$5 million per season. Schultz, however, could gamble on a short-term deal in hopes of garnering a more expensive deal in a year or two.

Earlier this month the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo reported Wild GM Chuck Fletcher remained hopeful of re-signing winger Nino Niederreiter and goaltender Darcy Kuemper before the start of training camp. Russo guesses Niederreiter will eventually sign a two- to four-year deal in late-August or early-September.

Reaching an agreement with Kuemper, however, could prove difficult. The 24-year-old goalie has played only 32 NHL games and it won’t be easy to find a comparable player upon which either side can use as a basis for a new contract.

Josh Cooper of The Tennessean reports Nashville Predators GM David Poile remains hopeful of re-signing blueliner Ryan Ellis before training camp opens. Ellis is coming off a three-year entry-level deal worth a total of $4.5 million. Cooper cites money as the sticking point, though there’s no indication how much has been discussed.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford tweeted that Jaden Schwartz’s agent claimed there’s nothing new to report on contract talks with the Blues. Schwartz, 22, earned an average annual salary last season of $1.1 million.

Finally, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser isn’t concerned about his contract status. DeKeyser told The Detroit News’ Gregg Krupa he was confident a new deal would be in place before training camp opens. The Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James reported contract talks progressed in recent days and a deal was “in the pipeline.”

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.