I’m sure this gets said every year, but this summer’s bevy of restricted free agents looks to be one of the deepest and most star-studded in a long time.
After all, when was the last time we saw four 80-point players under the age of 24 all hit restricted free agency in the same summer? Just to show how deep this year’s pool is, there are 15 RFAs who have scored at least 20 goals.
It’s insane how much money is going to be spent on these players this off-season, and of course, that’s going to impact those of you in cap leagues.
Below are 10 of the most interesting RFAs. I didn’t want to simply list the players with the most points (Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, Matthew Tkachuk and a few others), so I’m going to look at players that had less than 60 points and less than 20 wins for goalies.
10. Robby Fabbri
I think Fabbri’s contract negotiations are going to be very interesting because I don’t believe it will be with the Blues. Fabbri hasn’t developed the way many fantasy general managers had hoped. You can blame it on injuries, but he’s been surpassed by better and healthier players. He’s having trouble holding down a regular spot in the lineup as it is, and there’s a couple of young players in the Blues farm system just itching to take Fabbri’s spot. It may be better for the Blues to trade him this offseason if there is still a little bit of interest.
9. Alex Nedeljkovic
While much of the attention in Carolina has been focused on re-signing Curtis McElhinney and Petr Mrazek, it’s Nedeljkovic that has me most intrigued. The 23-year-old has been getting better every year in the AHL, and has put up good numbers for two straight AHL playoffs. He was also excellent at the World Juniors a few years back. However, if Carolina doesn’t re-sign both McElhinney and Mrazek, then Nedeljkovic will have a chance to be the team’s backup or in a timeshare situation.
No one seems to know what Columbus is going to do this offseason with their goaltending, maybe not even the Columbus brass. Who is going to replace Sergei Bobrovsky? Do they sign a veteran netminder such as Robin Lehner? Do they bring in one of their prized young netminders, such as Elvis Merzlikins or Veini Vehvilainen, and give him the starting reins? Or do they go a season and see what they have in the 25-year-old Korpisalo? Korpisalo hasn’t been great in the NHL so far, but he’s the one the coaching staff knows.
Duclair may be getting a bigger contract than he normally would just because of where he finished the season. The Sens have $37-million in cap space, so they will be desperate for a couple of overpaid players to bring them to the cap floor. And Duclair played well for the Sens after the trade from Columbus, netting eight goals and 14 points in 21 games while playing just 13:12 a night and seeing second power-play duties. He has played with four teams in two years, which suggests a bit of a problem there, but he may have wound up with the right team when it comes to contract negotiations.
Once Kapanen signs his contract, he should send a fruit basket to William Nylander. As Nylander sat out the first couple of months of the season negotiating his contract, Kapanen was moved to the Auston Matthews’ line and excelled, with 19 points in 28 games. Then Nylander signed, and soon after, Kapanen was bumped down and finished with 44 points. Still, that first couple of months will earn him some extra money this summer and proves that he can play with elite players.
5. Kevin Labanc
It’s almost a good thing that the Sharks have a lot of older players who are unrestricted free agents this year, because that cap space is going to be needed to sign the team’s young guys. With 56 points, Labanc had a great campaign, but it really took off once he lined up next to Joe Thornton, who may not be back next year. Labanc has a good chance for even more ice time and power-play time next year if all the veterans leave, but will his contract reflect that potential uptick in points from the extra ice time?
4. Jacob Trouba
Trouba had one of those “great-in-a-contract-year” seasons that fantasy GMs need to be wary of. His 50 points easily destroyed his previous best of 33, and his 162 shots, 58 PIM, 112 hits, 171 blocked shots and 18 power-play points were all the best or second-best of his six years in the league. By appearing in all 82 games, it’s also only the second time he’s played in more than 65 games. He’s going to want to get paid like a number one defenseman, and there’s already been much written about a potential trade involving the Jets defenseman.
Vegas is going to be a fun team to watch this summer. After signing players such as Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny, the Golden Knights don’t have a lot of cap space left. According to Cap Friendly, they are already over next year’s potential cap of $83 million and they still need to re-sign (or find replacements for) Brandon Pirri, Nikita Gusev, Deryk Engelland and Malcolm Subban. Plus, they need to re-sign Karlsson, who crashed down to earth in a big way this season. Still, considering where he was two years ago, 24 goals and 56 points are amazing. Regardless, considering he doesn’t contribute much in other categories, anything north of $6 million would make him almost undraftable in cap leagues.
2. Brock Boeser
If there’s one thing Vancouver has done right, even if it’s by coincidence, is to have the majority of their contracts come up at the same time. This gives the team a ton of flexibility to do what they want, so money should be no object when it comes to signing Boeser. The Canucks have about $30 million in cap space, and only four players are currently signed for more than two years. Boeser’s deal will be interesting as he’s battled injuries in both of his full-time seasons in the league, and his goals-per-game and points-per-game were both down.
1. Patrik Laine
Something a little worrisome when you look at Laine’s first three seasons in the league is that his points-per-game mark has gone down every season so far. That wouldn’t be too bad if it were small decreases or he was 30 years old. However, we expect him to be improving. There’s been lots of talk already about Laine’s contract in reference to bridge deal vs a long-term deal, but this contract will have a major impact on many fantasy general managers, many of whom are hoping Laine could win the Rocket Richard trophy some day.