Top 10 Interesting RFAs
This is probably the worst year to be a restricted free agent, but is maybe the best time to own those RFAs in fantasy leagues that has a salary cap.
Before the shutdown, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the NHL cap could rise from $81.5 million this year to $84 million to $88.2 million next season. However, COVID-19 has changed that. The news that the cap is potentially going to flatline next year at $81.5 million could put a lot of teams in cap trouble.
The top UFAs should get paid since there will still be a bidding war, but having $2.5 to $6.7 million less to spend per team will impact the RFA class. The RFAs don't have the same leverage as the UFAs, and many young players will be forced to take less money than if the cap did go up.
The decisions the NHL teams make will also impact your cap leagues. Last week, we looked at the top 10 interesting UFAs. This week, let's concentrate on the top 10 interesting RFAs for this offseason.
10. Ryan Strome
The Rangers have a few restricted free agents this season (Strome, Brendan Lemieux, Tony DeAngelo and Alexander Georgiev), and about $14 million to spend. However, for the 2021-22 season, the team has $45.6 million in cap space, as large contracts such as Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal and Brendan Smith come off the books. I expect the Rangers to sign some of these RFAs to one-year contracts and then worry next summer about the longer-term cap hits when there's more cap space to play with. Considering he put up almost a 70-point clip while playing on the top line with Artemi Panarin, Strome should see a significant pay increase. It's not always easy to find players that can complement elite athletes, so expect Strome to cash in somewhat.
9. Max Domi
Last season, Domi was one of the great surprises, scoring 28 goals and 72 points to go along with 80 PIM, a plus-20 and 203 shots. It looked like he was going to be in line for a massive contract, at least double the $3.15 million cap hit he currently has. Then the 2019-20 season began, and Domi saw a decrease in almost every category. In the end, he finished with an 82-game pace of 20 goals, 51 points, 40 PIM, minus-three, and 207 shots. There have already been rumours that he could be traded, but how comfortable would any team be in giving Domi a big-money contract?
8. Dylan Strome
Last year, Strome had an excellent three-quarters of a season in Chicago, with 51 points in 58 games while playing on the top line with Patrick Kane and Alex Debrincat. This year, Strome was one of the biggest disappointments, with only 38 points in 58 games (a 54-point pace). The Hawks are always tight to the cap, so this isn't as simple as giving him a few million a year. Strome is in an excellent spot when it comes to linemates, but he may be almost forced to sign a Kevin Labanc-type contract if he wants to keep that usage, and hope he can cash in next year on a better deal.
I decided to lump these two together since they both play for the Penguins. Murray may have the inside track (considering he has two Stanley Cup rings), but he is often injured. Jarry doesn't have as much experience, but is only a year younger and put up better numbers than Murray in almost every category this season. Murray made $3.75 million this season, while Jarry was at $675,000. If you're Pittsburgh management, are you comfortable giving either of these guys a long-term deal? I could see both getting shorter-term deals and then the team choosing to go with whoever is better over the next season or two.
6. Kevin Labanc
After scoring 56 points a season ago, Labanc bet on himself with a one-year, $1-million contract that was immediately ridiculed by everyone. The most common comment was that the contract must have come with a handshake agreement that would see Lebanc get taken care of this summer. Then Labanc, along with the rest of the Sharks, had an awful season. With 33 points in 70 games (a 39-point pace), he certainly lived up to that contract, but he may have cost himself more money in the long run.
5. Sam Reinhart
No one should be more upset than Reinhart at the Sabres firing general manager Jason Botterill in June. After all, Botterill is the guy who gave Jeff Skinner an incredulous eight-year contract for $9 million a year just one year ago. That's the kind of GM you want when it's time to negotiate your contract. With three straight 50-point seasons and a 65-point campaign under his belt, Reinhart could make a case for a contract not too far off from Skinner's. The Sabres have $34.5 million in cap space next season, and the new GM will be looking to make an impact, but what kind of impact? Is he going to start taking a hard stance on these contracts, or will he want to lock up Reinhart long-term?
A couple of seasons ago, Dubois posted 61 points in his sophomore season. However, many were curious if this was a byproduct of playing with Artemi Panarin. After Panarin left last summer, Dubois didn't miss a beat, with 49 points in 70 games (a 57-point pace over 82 games). The 22-year-old is the future of the franchise, and the Jackets would be wise to sign him long-term now. The issue is cap space, as the team has only $6.4 million available to spend this offseason, and also need to re-sign Josh Anderson and another couple of RFAs.
Sergachev is one of the few defensemen that can help you in shots, hits, power-play points and blocked shots while still notching 10-plus goals and 40-plus points. Throw in some PIM and a positive plus/minus, and he's able to contribute in almost every fantasy category. Plus, he just turned 22 years old. As for more good news, he'll probably sign a cheap deal for the next couple of seasons, as Tampa has only $5.3 million in cap space for next year, but only three defensemen and 10 forwards signed for next season. There's no cap space for a large deal, so expect a small bridge deal.
Many might expect DeAngelo to cash in big this offseason after putting up 53 points, which was fourth among NHL defensemen. His 19 power-play points were tied for ninth among dmen. However, does this guarantee that DeAngelo would even be the main offensive player for the Rangers in two or three years? Adam Fox put up 42 points as a rookie without the benefit of top power-play time. The Rangers also have top defensemen prospects in Nils Lundkvist and K'Andre Miller. DeAngelo made $925,000 last year, and should see a significant bump for next year, but I'm not sure if he's going to cash in the way Thomas Chabot did in Ottawa last year.
Chicago is an interesting case for next year for a couple of reasons. First, the Blackhawks' have only $7.3 million to play with for next season, but also need to sign two goalies and Strome. Money will be tight in Chicago yet again. Kubalik had an excellent, and surprising, rookie season, notching 30 goals and 46 points in 68 games (including 24 goals and 36 points in his final 41 games). Will the Hawks want to give him a longer-term deal based on one great half-season? Probably not, but they don't want to give him a one-year contract only to see him continue to impress next season and command even more money next summer.
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