Top 10 most interesting RFAs (plus a bonus 10)

by Tom Collins on March 13, 2017

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?


9. Leon Draisaitl

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.


7. Jonathan Drouin

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.


6. Alex Galchenyuk

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.


5. David Pastrnak

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?


4. Shayne Gostisbehere

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.


3. Justin Schultz

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.


2. Evgeny Kuznetsov

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.


1. Mikael Granlund

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.

Ondrej Palat: If Alex Killorn gets $4.5 million for seven years, then Palat should be asking for at least $5 million. 

Colton Parayko: The heir apparent to Kevin Shattenkirk but hasn’t been manning the power play since Shattenkirk was traded.

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.

Mika Zibanejad: Injuries derailed a hot start to the season. And the Rangers are crazy stupid deep at forward. 





  • Jake Cote

    I could see Pastrnak signing a bridge deal with the Bruins. Not sure what the cap hit for that would be, but I think he’d be confident in his skills and production to sign a 2-3 year deal at 4.5-5.5 Million. Maybe he would be willing to sign a backloaded long term deal for 5-7 years at around 6-7 Million. I think he wants to stay in Boston.
    The Capitals are in a pretty rough spot. I’m not sure it was a good move for them to sacrifice future assets in order to pick up Shattenkirk. Someone else said that they should keep their core intact and sacrifice some of their depth. I think that’s the path that makes the most sense for them, but that can only be successful long term if they sign their big market players to reasonable contracts. It’s definitely worth mentioning that the main reason that strategy worked for Chicago is because they moved some players for draft picks and built depth through that. You can definitely see that they’ve burnt through some of that depth at this point. They’re still contenders, but no longer the favorites they were a couple years ago. With the Caps it may be more difficult since they have moved some picks in order to win now. It will be well worth the cost if they can take home a cup, but if they don’t(and anything can happen in the playoffs) they may have a pretty costly regression in store moving forward. This year is without question their best chance.

  • MarkRM16

    Great, detailed article.

    I couldn’t believe it before the year started when Johansen said in an article that he was going to concentrate on being a set-up player rather than scoring goals himself. One of the reasons he’s one of the League’s best young centers is that he is equally good at scoring and setting up his wingers! Talk about giving the League’s goalies a heads-up. When Forsberg was snake-bitten, the Preds sure could have used him.

    Let me get this straight – the Habs are looking to improve their offense by trading Galchenyuk, their best young forward and top center (though he needs a lot of faceoff work)? Who on earth would they replace him with?

    The Bruins need to convince Pastrnak to sign a back-loaded deal. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Spooner traded.

    Johnson and Palat have had back-to-back mediocre seasons after their lone above-average season, so I hope Yzerman plays hardball and doesn’t overpay them. If they want to stay in Tampa and go on a Cup run next year when Stamkos is (presumably) healthy, they’re going to have to follow Kucherov’s lead and sign for less that they might receive on the open market.

    Some of the Caps’ problems would be solved next year if they finally win the Cup, and do what Chicago has done by sacrificing their depth s while keeping their core intact.

    Toffoli’s had an awful year, but what choice do the Kings have but to re-sign him to a lucrative contract?

    • Tom Collins

      Thanks for the comments. I didn’t know Johansen had said that before the season started.

      As for the Habs, there were some fans that were disappointed the Habs didn’t trade Galch for Duchene at the trade deadline.

      Johnson will be a strange one, because even after his disappointing season a year ago, he followed that up with 17 points in 17 playoff games. He actually has 21 goals and 42 points in 47 career postseason games, so I think that will play a large role in the discussions.

      • MarkRM16

        I can’t remember where I read the excerpt from the article where Johansen said he was going to focus on passing, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it was in a Ramblings (I read them every day).
        Do you think a Galchenyuk-Duchene swap would be good for the Habs?
        Ah, that’s right, I didn’t take into account Johnson’s playoff numbers. I bet that’s brought up constantly when Justin Williams is due for a new contract!

      • Tom Collins

        I’m a Habs fan, and I think trading Galch for Duchene is a horrible idea. I said on the forums and in the comments of a column a couple of weeks ago that Duchene is basically a 20-goal, 55-point guy.

        Duchene would help the Habs tremendously with faceoffs and would be a fine second-line centre. But I wouldn’t trade Galch for him.

  • d00d

    A lot of money to be paid out. Perfect timing for Wennberg, Niederreiter, Granlund, Arvidsson, Schultz and Pastrnak. Also think Burakovsky (RFA) is on last year of his contract. And yeah, that situation in WSH will be a doozy.

  • Rick Roos

    I like the bonus 10 here, both for informational purposes and as a preemptive strike against “what about XXX” comments. Well done!

    I wonder how many of these guys will get shorter deals versus paydays that swallow up some UFA years. Maybe a good topic for Capped?

    • Tom Collins

      Thanks. I ended up with a solid 20 players, so I didn’t want to leave anyone out. It feels like there’s more solid RFAs this year than ever. Not sure why. I wonder if expansion has anything to do with it. ie- don’t spend too much time talking contracts on players that you might lose in a couple of months anyways.

      As for the second part, much of it probably depends on the team’s long-term salary plans. I think that’s the problem with guys like Pastrnak. If Boston didn’t have Krejci signed long-term, Pastrnak probably gets a six- or seven-year deal.