Leon Draisaitl. Image by: Getty Images
Colton Parayko was one of the most notable RFAs still without a contract, but he and the Blues came to terms on a deal Thursday. So who are the big names still yet to sign this summer?
It came down to the wire, but the St. Louis Blues and Colton Parayko managed to get a long-term deal in place before the scheduled arbitration hearing on Thursday. The two parties managed to ink a contract that is great for both sides, too.
Parayko, who was seeking a one-year deal worth $4.85 million through arbitration, signed on for five years at $5.5 million per season. For St. Louis, the pact still allows them $3 million-plus in breathing room under the salary cap and ensures that Parayko, who has future No. 1 defender written all over him, is locked up well into the future. As for Parayko, the deal pays him more than he would have earned had he gone to arbitration, allows him to avoid contract distractions for another five seasons and, at the end of the deal, the 24-year-old stands to be a seasoned veteran with plenty of tread left on the tires as he heads into free agency. If he wants to cash in big time on the open market come 2022-23, he’s in line to do so, be it with St. Louis or otherwise.
Parayko’s contract isn’t the only news on the restricted free agent front, however, as two more potential cases were settled before the two sides entered their arbitration hearing.
The first involved the Nashville Predators and goaltender Marek Mazanec. It may not have been one of the major cases, but Mazanec, who has bounced up and down from the AHL to the NHL over the past three seasons, signed a deal that will see him earn $650,000, while getting $100,000 in the AHL, according to Arizona Sports’ Craig Morgan. The second came between the Ottawa Senators and Ryan Dzingel, who were set for a hearing Friday but Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the two sides managed to avoid arbitration with a two-year deal worth $1.8 million per season.
Not every team has been so lucky to avoid arbitration, though. Thursday marked an arbitration hearing for Tomas Tatar and the Detroit Red Wings, as the two sides failed to come to terms following weeks of discussion and back and forth over term and dollars. Tatar entered the hearing asking for a one-year deal worth $5.3 million, while the team sought a one-year contract at $4.1 million, reported Friedman. However, there’s an end in sight for Tatar and the Red Wings. The arbitrator has 48 hours following the hearing to come to a determination on a contract for the winger, so that contract is set to be in place in short order.
But Parayko and Tatar, and to a lesser extent Mazanec and Dzingel, having their contracts finalized or heard by an arbitrator only means a small piece of the RFA puzzle this off-season is complete. A number of notable RFAs remain without contracts, and here are the 10 to keep an eye on as the off-season continues:
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
Draisaitl began to show that he was NHL ready during the 2015-16 campaign, but he really broke out this past season. His ice time leapt by nearly a minute per game and Draisaitl’s production went through the roof. In 82 games, he managed 29 goals and 77 points, formed a formidable unit with Connor McDavid and Patrick Maroon and turned up his game as the Oilers entered the playoffs. Draisaitl’s six goals and 16 points were both team highs in Edmonton’s 13-game playoff run, making it evident he could be set to center his own line this coming season, giving the Oilers an incredible one-two punch down the middle.
This will boil down to money. Draisaitl could be worth a boatload on his new deal, especially after McDavid signed an eight-year, $100-million contract. Draisaitl won’t command near the same amount, but don’t be surprised if he enters the $8-million range on a new deal. Edmonton has nearly $17 million to work with this summer.
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
Pastrnak has managed to produce consistently no matter what role he’s been given in Boston. In his first two campaigns, he averaged 14 minutes per game, yet still scored 25 goals and 53 points in 97 games. And, given a top-line role this past season, Pastrnak proved he’s the future go-to guy up front for the Bruins. In 75 games, he lit the lamp 34 times and registered 70 points.
What is Pastrnak worth, though? Well, he’s produced at a rate similar to the other top stars in Boston, so it seems reasonable he could command near the $6-million mark per year on his new deal. The trouble for Pastrnak is that he has no real bargaining chips. He’s locked in as an RFA, particularly as one without arbitration rights. Boston would be wise to get this one done, though, and with roughly $13 million in cap space, they have the money.
Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild
It took a few years, but Granlund finally broke out of his shell and proved himself as a top scorer for the Wild. He had floated around the 40-point mark over the past three seasons, never scoring more than 13 goals during that period, but went off for 26 goals and 69 points in 81 games this past season.
Minnesota has to be careful here, though. Granlund’s shooting percentage this past season was 14.7 percent. The three years prior he averaged eight percent. It’s worth taking note of that gap. The Wild still have time to hammer out a deal, but will want to get something done that allows them to also take care of RFAs Nino Niederreiter and Marcus Foligno. The $15.8 million in cap space may make that tough. If no deal is reached by Aug. 4, the Wild and Granlund will head to arbitration.
Ryan Johansen, Nashville Predators
When the Predators acquired Johansen, flipping Seth Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets in return, the hope was they were landing a future No. 1 center. It certainly seems they have at this point. Johansen was absolutely dynamite this past season, putting up 14 goals and 61 points in 82 games while centering Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg to create one of the best lines in the league.
Johansen will command a sizeable raise on the $4 million he earned on his past three-year deal, though. It wouldn’t be all too surprising to see him become the highest paid forward in the Predators’ lineup, and $7.5 million per year doesn’t seem all that far fetched. Nashville has to worry about deals for Viktor Arvidsson and Austin Watson, too, and have $18.8 million with which to work.
Viktor Arvidsson, Nashville Predators
From an eight-goal, 16-point season as a rookie to a 31-goal, 61-point explosion as a sophomore. Is there a second-year player who had as great an impact, in both the regular season and playoffs, as Arvidsson? The tricky thing with Arvidsson is knowing if last season was a flash in the pan or the real deal. All the underlying numbers would suggest he’s a safe bet to repeat the feat, or at least put up similar totals, but the Predators might be hesitant to throw out big money after one great season.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Nashville is seeking a two-year deal worth $2.75-million per season for Arvidsson through arbitration. Arvidsson wants one year at $4.5 million. The hearing is set for July 22, so time is running out to get a deal done without a hearing.
Alexander Wennberg, Columbus Blue Jackets
On a league-wide scale, he may fly under the radar, especially given Columbus’ blueline talent and scorers up front such as Nick Foligno, Cam Atkinson and the recently acquired Artemi Panarin, but Wennberg finished second in scoring for the Blue Jackets this past season with a career-best 13 goals and 59 points. He also leapt from middle of the lineup minutes to a spot in the top-six. He’s got future top-line center written all over him, if he’s not there already.
The question, however, is how much the Blue Jackets pay him. Columbus has all the power — Wennberg has no arbitration rights — and it’s hard to see them signing a big-money deal just yet. Maybe a long-term contract with a $5.5-million cap hit gets it done.
Nino Niederreiter, Minnesota Wild
Niederreiter, like Granlund, has arbitration rights and that means we could be looking at another hearing for the Wild, this one taking place Aug. 3, the day before Granlund’s hearing, should it get that far.
The difficult thing with Niederreiter is how to value his production. He has consistently been a 20-goal scorer over the past three seasons — his 25 tallies this past season were his most yet — and he set a career-mark with 57 points in 2016-17. That said, he doesn’t play in the top six and has averaged little more than 15 minutes of ice time across the past three campaigns. Add in the cap constraints that the Wild have to pay attention to and Niederreiter may be getting set for a short-term bridge deal.
Conor Sheary, Pittsburgh Penguins
Sheary has had a dream start to his NHL career. In his rookie year, he got into 44 games with the Penguins, scored seven goals and 10 points in the regular season and then turned it on in the playoffs, netting another four goals and 10 points en route to the Stanley Cup. He followed that up with a 23-goal, 53-point campaign while primarily skating alongside Sidney Crosby, of all people, this past season. Oh, and then he added another Stanley Cup.
This is one that could be headed to arbitration, though. Sheary is set for a hearing on Aug. 4, and Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said earlier this off-season that he’s prepared to take both Sheary and defenseman Brian Dumoulin, set for a hearing on July 24, to arbitration if need be.
Bo Horvat, Vancouver Canucks
He’s future captain material for the Canucks, their all-star representative this past season and, with 20 goals and 52 points, he was the team’s highest scorer in 2016-17. In three seasons, he has grown from a fourth- to second-line center, as his ice time has risen from little more than 12 minutes to 18 minutes per night. All this is to say that Horvat deserves to get paid.
It would make sense for Vancouver to use their roughly $8.8 million in cap space and go long-term with Horvat, even if it means a slight overpayment in the next year or two. There will be considerable value in a deal that locks up Horvat at $5.5 million or so in three or four years’ time.
Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers
The Rangers are putting a lot of stock in Zibanejad. How much? Well, this summer, New York shipped top-line center Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes, which clears the way for Zibanejad to step into a first-line role as early as this coming campaign. Matter of fact, he may not have a choice but to take on that role ahead of the likes of Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller and free agent signee David Desharnais. And with $7.6 million, it’s unlikely the Rangers do anything big to add another center.
When he was healthy, Zibanejad was plenty effective for the Rangers, notching .66 points per game, but the key there is when healthy. He only skated in 56 games. There may be a bargain to be had in signing Zibanejad long-term now and hoping he further develops, but if no long-term deal can be reached, the two sides are set for arbitration on July 25.
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