Top 10 RFAs about to get a huge raise

by Tom Collins on November 30, 2015

Top 10 RFAs about to get a huge pay raise

It's never too early to start looking ahead to next year for those of us in cap leagues.

Especially if you're already at near the cap maximum and have a few restricted free agents (RFAs) coming up. It's better to make roster moves before other owners pick up on the fact that you'll be forced to trade guys away on the cheap because of your cap management skills. RFAs are some of the hardest to judge. If you owned Braden Holtby, Vladimir Tarasenko and Dougie Hamilton last summer, you were scrambling to dump players as their cap hits all ballooned.

According to CapFriendly.com, there are 395 RFAs next summer. A lot of guys below on this list are coming out of the ELC deals, so there's lots of money to be made. Here are the top 10 RFAs that are headed for a big pay day. (Note, all cap numbers come from capfriendly.com.)

 

10. Victor Rask

Rask is going to get a huge pay increase before next summer. And it has nothing to do with his performance right now. Sure he's having a great start to the season.  His seven goals, 14 points, 12 PIM and six power play points are second on the Hurricanes in each category. But the Hurricanes have about $34 million in cap space for the 2016-17 season. They're going to need to sign some players to reach whatever the cap floor may be. So Rask stands to make much more than his current $680,833.

 

9. Mike Hoffman

Hoffman is a man on a mission this year after Ottawa gave him a one-year prove-it deal in the summer. Despite missing four games, Hoffman is second on the team in goals, points, power play points, third in plus-minus, first in power play goals, and fourth in shots. He's making $2 million right now and wants a long-term deal. If he keeps this pace up, Hoffman could get in the $5 million a year territory.

 

8. Aleksander Barkov

Barkov makes just $925,000 this year. His salary next year will depend on what he does the rest of the season. He had a good start with six points in his first seven games before breaking a bone in his hand. He now has four points in six games since his return. He's playing on the top line in Florida, and if he can finish with 60-plus points, should be in line for a pay increase.

 

7. Sean Monahan

The first of two Flames to appear on this list. Monahan is due for a hefty raise from his $925,000 he is currently earning.  Monahan leads the Flames in goals and is second in points. Last year he also led the Flames in goals as well. That type of offence has a tendency to be rewarded. At just 21 years old, he's one of the cogs to the Flames future.

 

6. Nikita Kucherov

The 22-year-old is making just $711,667 this season. Despite his struggles this season, he's lower on this list because he probably will get a small bridge deal worth $3 to $4 million as Tampa has to try to manage its cap dollars (Steven Stamkos is a free agent next summer, but the following year Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin, Victor Hedman, Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy all have to be signed). But that's still a significant increase over what he's making now.

 

5. Sami Vatanen

How much is a 24-year-old 40-point defenseman worth in the NHL nowadays? It's tough to say what the going rate is, but the Ducks set a bad precedent with the Ryan Kesler contract. Based on one good playoffs with the team, Kesler wound up with a six-year deal worth almost $7 million a year that doesn't even kick in until next year. The 24-year-old Vatanen leads the Ducks in power play ice time per game and is on pace for 17 goals and 44 points. If the Ducks are willing to give Kesler that type of deal, there's a good chance Vatanen sees a 400 per cent pay increase from the $1.26 million he's making now.

 

4. Filip Forsberg

Sure he's struggling, but the whole Nashville team is. Forsberg's 13 points is still good for third on the team. The type of deal Forsberg gets will all be dependent on what Nashville wants to do with the 21-yera-old. Do they want a bridge deal so he can have another prove me year and make even more money a few years from now? Or would they prefer to sign him long-term now at a more reasonable cap hit and hope last year wasn't a fluke, similar to Roman Josi. Either way, he will be earning much more than his current $894,167.

 

3. Tyson Barrie

Unlike most people on this list, Barrie is actually making quite a bit of coin this year at $2.6 million. And he will probably double that number with his next contract. The main reason is the Avalanche don't have anyone else that can be an offensive defenseman on their team. Barrie is on pace for 55 points, which would be a career high. He only has one goal though. And he doesn't take enough shots to be able to reach that next tier. But he is 12th among defensemen for points, so doubling his salary seems right.

 

2. Johnny Gaudreau

Gaudreau is making $925,000 as he comes out of his entry-level deal, but he'll soon be making a lot more than that. The former Calder nominee is having maybe the best sophomore season of anyone this year. He's 10th in the league in assists and 24th in points. His plus-minus at a minus-three could be better, but considering the goalies behind him it could also be a lot worse. Gaudreau should be rewarded significantly as the Flames are estimated to have about $23 million in cap space next year.

 

1. Nathan MacKinnon

Forget about the sophomore slump last year. MacKinnon is the real deal. There won't be any bridge deal for MacKinnon, who is in the third year of his entry level deal. How good has he been? He is 10th in the league in points with 24. He's 18th in plus-minus with a plus-nine. He's second in the league with four game-winning goals. He's 10th in shots with 83. And he just turned 20 years old in September. He's making $925,000 this season, but there's a good chance he will get Vladimir Tarasenko money ($7.5 million).