Top 10 most interesting NHL restricted free agents… (and as a bonus we add 10 more)
Even though hockey playoffs are about to begin for many fantasy leagues, it’s never too early to look ahead to the offseason.
This is especially true in cap leagues and restricted free agents. Your roster that is $5 million below your league’s salary cap could be $10 million above with a couple of signings. Even worse is when the teams and players make you wait for it. Remember last year when we went into the season with Hampus Lindholm, Jacob Trouba and Rickard Rakell unsigned. Nikita Kucherov signed the day before the season started. Johnny Gaudreau two days before. It messed up many fantasy teams that didn’t budget enough money.
This year’s crop might all sign before October but it might be wise to start accounting now.
Below you’ll find the top 10 interesting restricted free agents. They might not sign for the most money but they are in unique situations that might make it hard to budget.
10. Ryan Johansen
Johansen is a bit of a strange case because he seems to be moving away from being a goal-scorer and more to a setup guy. Look at his stats his last four years:
2013-14: 82 games, 33 goals, 30 assists, 237 shots
2014-15: 82 games, 26 goals, 45 assists, 202 shots
2015-16: 80 games, 14 goals, 46 assists, 185 shots
2016-17 pace: 82 games, 13 goals, 49 assists, 157 shots
While his health is top notch, his goals and shots do not show a good trend. Part of the reasoning is the emergence of Filip Forsberg who likes to shoot the puck a ton. But you never like to see a player trend downward in those categories. Will Johansen get paid like a goal scorer or like a setup guy?
The previous Oilers GM liked to give young guys coming off their rookie contracts long-term deals at about $6 million per. I’m not sure what GM Peter Chiarelli will do but he has the cap space if he wants to give Draisaitl a big money, long-term contract. Draisaitl is on pace for a huge season of 28 goals and 68 points. I can’t see a bridge deal happening but it is possible.
8. Bo Horvat
The 21-year-old Horvat is the only Canuck with any sort of fantasy value this year in cap leagues as he leads the Canucks in goals and points. The Canucks would be smart to lock him up long-term, but the word smart and Canucks are usually never muttered in the same sentence. This is the same team that is paying Loui Eriksson and Brandon Sutter a combined $10.5 million for each of the next four seasons (and Eriksson another year after that). Horvat might need to take a smaller deal to prove that this season isn’t a fluke.
We’ve talked about Drouin many times on this list before. Despite having he best season of his young career so far, he’s still on pace for 53 points. The Lightning find themselves in cap hell. They have $18 million in cap space but still need to sign a backup goaltender, three defensemen and four or five forwards, including Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. Drouin might sign a cheap short-term deal to prove himself and to give the Lightning some cap relief.
There’s no guarantee that Galch will be playing in Montreal by the time he signs a new contract as he’s the centre of many trade rumours for the Habs to upgrade their offense. Galchenyuk is expected to be an offensive force in Montreal but plays 16 minutes a game and usually lines up with third-line plugs. When lined up with the top players, he produces. He’s either going to get a short-term show-me deal, or a long-term deal at a much lower cap hit similar to Max Pacioretty’s.
The Bruins don’t have a lot of cap space for next year (about $11 million) but don’t have a lot of players they need to sign. Will they want to give Pastrnak a large-money contract considering they already have four forwards making at least $6 million a year, two defensemen making more than $4 million a year and a $7-million goaltender? That’s $42.5 million tied up in seven players. Outside of Pittsburgh and Chicago, can a team have continued success with so much money tied up in so few players? Can the Bruins afford to give Pastrnak a big-money contract?
Many times, a great NHL contract comes down to luck. Jiri Hudler would have made a lot more money after his 76-point season in 2014-15. But he had another year before free agency, notched 46 points and wound up and wound up with a one-year $2-million contract. Ghost could be like that. He would have made more money last summer after an excellent rookie season. Now he’s had a sophomore slump where he was a healthy scratch several times and has to contend with Ivan Provorov looking to steal his top power play spot.
Schultz has found new life in Pittsburgh after many disappointing years in Edmonton. Thanks to injuries to many of the Pens defensemen, Schultz is getting plenty of ice time and is frequently on the top power play unit. He’s on pace for 15 goals and 58 points. His $1.4 million looks like a bargain. If you’re Schultz, do you re-sign for a low salary because you’re in a great situation? Or do you take a big contract from another organization? I’ve always believed players should take the money when they can as a poor season can impact future earnings.
Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan is going to have a busy summer. He’s either going to have to re-sign or replace TJ Oshie, Justin Williams, Daniel Winnik, Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk. And John Carlson next summer. And that’s just the unrestricted free agents. MacLellan still has to deal with RFAs like Dmitry Orlov, Brett Connolly and Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov had a poor start to the season, but then put up 42 points in 44 games before last night’s game. He’s the future in Washington but MacLellan is going to have some tough decisions.
Fair warning, I am a huge Mikael Granlund fan. I took him with my first-round pick in a points-only keeper pool in 2011 and held on to him for years, eventually trading him to help win a championship. I’ve tried to get him back over the years, but was never successful. He’s finally broken through this year, has already set career highs in goals, assists, points and power play points, while also posting his best-ever plus-minus season. He’s 11th in the league in points and is making just $3 million this year.
As there are plenty of intriguing RFAs this summer, here are a bonus (unranked) 10 players to keep an eye on:
Viktor Arvidsson: Unexpected breakthrough season, he could hit 30 goals before the year is out. He currently has a $631,666 cap hit.
Tyler Johnson: Tampa Bay is in a cap crunch, and Johnson is very inconsistent, but is considered a leader in Tampa.
Nino Niederreiter: Three straight 20-plus goal seasons and is on pace for 59 points. He’s only missed three games combined in the last four years.
Tomas Tatar: On pace for his fourth straight 20-goal season.
Teuvo Teravainen: Is he the future of Carolina? There were rumours on trade deadline day that he was on the market. He’s currently making $832,500.
Tyler Toffoli: He picked the wrong time for a setback season. Instead of flirting with 30 goals and 60 points, he’s on pace 16 goals and 34 points in 63 games.
Alexander Wennberg: On pace for a career-high 65 points, but Columbus will have about $7 million in cap space and quite a few guys to sign.
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