Top 10 RFAs Headed for Pay Day

by Tom Collins on January 12, 2015




The Top 10 restricted free agents headed for cap increases this summer.


It’s never too early to get a head start in cap leagues on figuring out where your team stands for next season.


Sure, maybe you’re under the cap now, but once you take into account that you own Patrick Kane, Jason Spezza, Bobby Ryan and Ben Bishop, then all of a sudden you realize you’re going to be in a lot of trouble next year, and that’s without taking your restricted and unrestricted free agents into account.


Depending on where you are in the standings, it may time to start guesstimating what type of pay check many of these guys will start getting, and potentially trading some before their cap increases ruins some of their tradability.


Below is a list of 10 RFAs who are due for big cap increases. I’m not going to take a guess at their exact salary (there are too many unknowns at this stage, such as whether an unrestricted free agent is signed in the offseason, if a teammate with a high cap is traded, or how much the team’s salary cap ceiling increases), but safe to say, all the guys on this list will be seeing a big increase to their cap hit.


I know some leagues use average annual salary, but for this exercise, we’re just looking at cap hits. Because a guy is on this list doesn’t mean he won’t still be a worthwhile player to own, but his point-per-dollar production will start to decline and you might be getting better value elsewhere.


Because of the fact Capgeek is now offline, I used for a list of RFAs and cap hits.


10. John Klingberg


Despite playing in 14 fewer games than everyone else, the 22-year-old rookie sure knows how to make a debut. He already has 13 points in 27 games, and leads the Stars with a plus-eight rating. He’s also got 40 shots and 20 PIM, giving him extra value in leagues that count those categories. And with him making just $870,000 cap hit, he’s going to get a pretty good pay raise pretty early into his NHL career.


9. Tanner Pearson


The Kings have a bunch of RFAs to sign this year (Kyle Clifford, Tyler Toffoli, Jordan Nolan, Martin Jones and Pearson), but will be helped out by the potential of not having Slava Voynov on the books if he’s deported, plus possibly losing two, or even three, of Robyn Regehr, Jarrett Stoll and Justin Williams in free agency. So there will be money available. The rookie Pearson, who has a cap hit of $925,000, will be a big beneficiary of this. Not only is he one of the league’s top rookies, but he’s second on the Kings in goals and power play points, and was a top guy for them in their Stanley Cup victory last season.


8. Tyler Toffoli


No matter what type of role the Kings put Toffoli in, he excels. They put him on a second-line scoring position, and he scores. They use him on the penalty kill, and not only is he effective there (he’s on the ice for just 1.49 goals against per 60 minutes of shorthanded play, which is fourth best in the league for guys playing 20 games), but he leads the league in shorthanded goals and shorthanded points. And all while making $870,000. That’s a great deal for the Kings, but it’s going to change. While Toffoli will probably get a bridge contract of some type, his salary could easily triple what it is now.


7. Jonathan Bernier


Bernier’s cap situation may be helped out by the recent coaching change in Leaf-land. While Randy Carlyle liked to play both James Reimer and Bernier equally (Reimer has played in 44 per cent of the games in the last 1.5 seasons under Carlyle), new coach Peter Horachek may have a different policy, although it is too early to tell. Bernier’s numbers don’t look that great this year (a 16-10-3 record with a 2.73 GAA and .916 save percentage), but there’s not a lot of other options for the Leafs. They won’t run with Reimer as the number one (as proven by the fact of trading for Bernier), and a weak free agent class for goalies (after Antti Niemi, there’s no other number one goalies). So Bernier, who has a cap hit of $2.9 million, will start to get paid like a number one goalie.


6. Torey Krug


It’s hard to imagine that both Krug and Dougie Hamilton (more on him later) are making a combined $2.9 million, but that’s what happens when the Bruins get hit with almost $5 million in cap penalties thanks to bonus-laden deals last season. With that $5 million not in effect in 2015-16, Krug should be one of the beneficiaries. Right now, Krug leads the Bruins in power-play points, and is on pace for 38 points. His $1.4 million salary should double.


5. Marcus Johansson


Once Mike Green and Joel Ward come off the books (both are unrestricted free agents this summer), that will give the Capitals at least $10 million to sign some of their RFAs, and Johansson will be one of their priorities. Johansson makes $2 million a year now, but is fourth on the team in goals and points, and third in power-play points. He also plays on the top power play line with Alexander Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom, so having that kind of chemistry with the top studs on a team can really do wonders for a player (right Tyler Bozak?).


4. Dougie Hamilton


Much like fellow blueliner Krug, Hamilton signed a modest one-year deal last season as the Bruins were in cap hell. Things probably won’t be much better for next season, unless there’s a major trade. But last year, Hamilton signed a one-year deal for $1.494 million cap hit. This season, he not only picked up the slack when Zdeno Chara missed 19 games due to an injury, he’s been the Bruins best defencemen on many nights when the captain returned. He leads the Bruins in power play time per game, and is third for power-play points and fourth in overall points.


3. Gustav Nyquist


This one is a tough one to call. On one hand, I could see Detroit wanting to sign Nyquist to a two-year bridge deal for a low cap hit. On the flip side, signing him longer-term at a bit more money may make more sense now than to wait two years and have his value skyrocket even more (a la P.K. Subban). But for now, Nyquist is one of the best owns in cap leagues because he makes $950,000. He’s second on the Red Wings in goals, third in points and tops in power-play points.


2. Vladimir Tarasenko


The Blues leading point-getter sure picked a good season to break through with his contract coming up for renewal. With a cap hit of $1.75 million, Tarasenko is going to get paid this summer, and then some. The Tank is a special player, so I can’t see him signing a small bridge deal like P.K. Subban. Maybe something like Ryan Johansen in Columbus (who will have a cap hit of $4 million for the next three years, but in that third year he’s making $6 million), but he’s going be at least doubling his salary.


1. Braden Holtby


If you were to rank goalies based on cap hits, Holtby would be near the bottom of the list. But if you were to rank goalies on success this season, Holtby would be near the top. He’s quietly putting up a solid season, and has just a $1.85 million cap hit. He’s top 10 in wins, shutouts, and saves, and of goalies that have started at least 20 games, sixth in save percentage and eighth in goals against average. With other number one goalies signing big contract recently (Marc-Andre Fleury at $5.75 million, Ben Bishop at $5.95 and Sergei Bobrovsky getting $7.425 million), $5 million is not out of the question for Holtby.