Alexander Radulov denied his agent asked for an eight-year extension from the Canadiens, but a five-year deal at $6 million or more might get him to stick around Montreal.
In his first season back in the NHL since 2012, Montreal Canadiens right winger Alexander Radulov is enjoying a solid campaign. With 48 points in 67 games, the 30-year-old is second in team scoring and power-play points (16). On pace for 55 points, Radulov will be in line for a substantial raise over this season's one-year, $5.75-million contract.
According to a report last Thursday from Tony Marinaro of Montreal's TSN 690, the Radulov camp sought an eight-year deal for their client. Later that evening, TSN's Pierre LeBrun expressed doubt that the winger will get that much from Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin.
LeBrun's colleague Bob McKenzie followed up with a Friday appearance on TSN 690 to suggest that could simply be a negotiation start point from Radulov's agent. He added that it wasn't surprising they would start at the top end.
Later that day, Radulov told reporters there wasn't any truth to the story.
“It's not even close,” he said. “I don't know where that came from.”
Assuming Radulov's representatives pitched an eight-year offer to the Habs, they certainly won't get it from Bergevin.
The problem is Radulov's age. If he was in mid-to-late twenties, perhaps he'd be worth such a lengthy deal. However, NHL GMs aren't keen to invest eight years in a player who turns 31 this July.
At best, Radulov might land a five-year contract from the Canadiens or another NHL club. It could be worth an annual average value between $6 -$7 million.
The Canadiens have over $51 million invested in 16 players for 2017-18. Depending on who they lose in the expansion draft and how much the salary cap rises after this season, they should have a little more cap room to work with.
In addition to Radulov, Bergevin must re-sign or replace UFAs such as Andrei Markov, Dwight King, Brian Flynn and Steve Ott. Center Alex Galchenyuk and defensemen Nathan Beaulieu and Nikita Nesterov are restricted free agents with arbitration rights.
Should Bergevin re-sign Radulov, he must ensure he doesn't overpay the winger. Not just because he doesn't want to be stuck with an aging, overpaid asset. He must also ensure he's got sufficient cap room to re-sign superstar goaltender Carey Price and captain Max Pacioretty within the next two years.
KINGS' CAP CRUNCH
Los Angeles Kings left winger Tanner Pearson is enjoying a career-best performance this season. The 24-year-old's been a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for the Kings, sitting second in goals (22) and third in points (41).
A restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer, Pearson is completing a two-year, $2.8-million contract. Given this season's production, the Los Angeles Times' Kevin Baxter believes the winger will be in line for a big raise over his current $1.4-million annual cap hit.
Like Pearson, right winger Tyler Toffoli is also an RFA eligible for arbitration this summer. Completing a two-year, $6.5-million deal, he's in line for a large pay bump. Injuries hampered his performance this season, limiting him to 29 points in 53 games. Over the previous two seasons, however, he tallied 49 and 58 points respectively.
Baxter observes the Kings don't have a lot of cap space to work with for 2017-18. With over $59 million tied up in 16 players, he believes they'll have to shed a high-priced veteran such as former captain Dustin Brown ($5.875-million annually) or winger Marian Gaborik ($4.875 million).
Easier said than done. Brown and Gaborik are both in their thirties and their best seasons are behind them. Brown has five seasons remaining on his contract and Gaborik has four.
Unless GM Dean Lombardi is willing to pick up part of their salaries and include a sweetener such as a high draft pick or top prospect in the deal, he probably won't find any takers for either guy. Lombardi could buy one of them out, but that would mean Brown's buyout will be on their books for 10 seasons and Gaborik for eight.
The Kings aren't the only club carrying limited cap room with key players to re-sign. The Tampa Bay Lightning have over $55 million committed to 13 players. Sportsnet's Mike Johnston believes that will hamper efforts to re-sign key players such as forwards Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat and address their pressing need to add a top-four defenseman.
Johnson, 26, and the 25-year-old Palat are restricted free agents with arbitration rights earning an annual cap hit of $3.33 million on their current contracts. Each could seek well over $5-million per season on their next contracts.
Drouin, 21, is completing his entry-level deal. With 44 points in 62 games, he's blossoming into a skilled offensive forward.
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is a shrewd negotiator, getting stars such as Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov to accept less than market value to re-sign with the Lightning. He'll likely try to do the same with Johnson and Palat. Given Drouin's lack of arbitration rights, Yzerman could ink him to an affordable short-term deal with the promise of bigger riches down the road.
If Johnson or Palat insist on big raises and long-term deals, however, Yzerman could be forced by cap constraints to perhaps trade one of them. Given his need to bolster his blue-line depth, perhaps Johnson or Palat could be dangled as trade bait for a skilled defenseman.
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.).
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