There have yet to be any developments with the RFA contracts for the players we have profiled with one week left until the NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 21. In Part 4 of our look at pending RFAs, we will explore the top five. It’s fair to say that the order could be argued with, but I don’t think anyone could disagree that these players belong in the top five.
As always, click on a player's link for his stats, presented by Frozen Tools.
5 – Brayden Point
You could say that Point’s point totals are inflated from playing over 67% of the time with Nikita Kucherov at ES and I would agree. His IPP of 65.7 is low for a player with 92 points; add a 21.5% shooting percentage, and it will be difficult for him to meet or exceed his point total next season. Having said that, there is no reason to believe that he won’t play with Kucherov for much of next season, since without him, Point struggled in the four game playoff series (he was only with Kucherov at ES about 38% of the time).
In order for Tampa Bay to sign Point, they will have to make some other moves, and it will prove interesting to see what they do. I’m not high on Point, fantasy-wise long-term as there are a few more variables in his output than just his own abilities. I do think he is a safe 70-point player, without Kucherov or even on another team, but there is some real risk of reversion with his production, and Tampa Bay could sell high in the short term. Evolving Wild (EW) have him projected to sign a five year deal at $8.25 million AAV.
4 – Matthew Tkachuk
I wanted to hate Matthew Tkachuk when he was drafted #6 overall in 2015 by Calgary. I convinced myself to follow through on that for his first two seasons, but have come to appreciate him as a player after last season. He is a very good winger who is improving each year and could be a 100-point player one day if not by next season. In an earlier column, I had touched on how Tkachuk had 41 ES points at home and only 12 on the road and still had close to an 80-point year and how he has the potential for more points on the road.
He is not so much a shooter (207 SOG in 2018-2019) but an opportunist, as most of his goals come from in front of the net between the faceoff circles. There will more than likely be some reversion with his high shooting success of 16.4% but he will probably settle into 12-15% as long as he enjoys PP1 and first-line minutes. EW has him projected to sign a six-year deal at $8 million AAV, but now that Jeff Skinner has signed for $9 million AAV, this number seems low.
#3 Sebastian Aho
Last season was the first time Aho was a true center in the NHL after the Hurricanes traded Elias Lindholm to Calgary (and part of the reason Carolina made that deal). Aho flourished as Carolina would have hoped, with over a point per game in 82 GP and 12 points in 15 playoff games. He increased his shots per game from 2.56 to 2.96 and hit 30 goals for the first time in his career. As he becomes more proficient (48.6%) in the faceoff circle, his OZ starts should decrease from 58.37%. This might not help his stats fantasy-wise, but will help Carolina overall. EW have him projected to sign an eight-year contract at $10 million AAV.
#2 Mikko Rantanen
Rantanen had 65 points in his first 42 games, a pace of 129 points. He and the rest of Colorado faded a little, and with Rantanen battling injury, he only managed 22 points in the last 32 games. He was lined up with Nathan Mackinnon and Gabriel Landeskog over 69% of the time at ES, and these three should be together for at least the next two seasons until Landeskog is a UFA.
While Rantanen is dependent on MacKinnon to a fairly large extent, he would still drive play and be very successful without him or on another team as his IPP of 73.1 attests to. Having MacKinnon and Landeskog alongside him might be the difference between a 100-point season and 80 to 85-point seasons in the future. EW have him projected to sign an eight year deal at $10.1 million AAV but Colorado will have to be cognizant of re-signing a few of their own RFAs and UFAs in the next few seasons. If Rantanen gets this type of money and term, MacKinnon should fire his agent (but what a deal GM Joe Sakic negotiated!)
#1 Mitch Marner
Marner established career highs in goals, assists and points while playing three minutes more per game in all situations. He had a torrid first half of the season with 55 points in 41 games for a pace of 110 points, so we know the potential for that kind of output is there. He increased his shot output by close to 0.5/g and he has been very consistent in his three seasons at around 11% shooting. He had John Tavares with him over 82% of the time at ES and another year together should only help both of them.
The sky is the limit for Marner and it would not be surprising to see him get 120 points in the near future. He’s a dynamic player who drives opportunities almost every time he is on the ice. EW have him projected to sign an eight year contract at $9.8 million AAV, but the Leafs will be challenged to keep that number much lower than the 11.634 million AAV they gave to Auston Matthews, albeit for only five seasons.
After compiling the top 20 RFAs over the past few weeks, I’m still of the mind that there is a very slim chance of any offer sheets being signed. However, if it does happen, I believe that Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson are the most likely of the bunch. If you’re in a pool that includes a salary cap, these contracts will have a huge effect on your team going into next season, especially front-end-loaded contracts for salary-only leagues like my own. The days of waiting for the big UFA payday for players is long gone.
Any suggestions for future columns, please feel free to let me know at @gampbler15.