We will begin to delve into the top-20 restricted free agent class of 2019. We will look at projected contracts (using Evolving Wild), potential offer sheets and any other interesting stats from Dobber Frozen Tools. At any moment, players from this list could re-sign with their existing teams (e.g., Esa Lindell just re-signed with Dallas for six years at $5.8 million AAV)
With only four pro seasons, DeAngelo doesn’t have arbitration rights until he plays one more season. The Rangers could just choose to qualify DeAngelo for one more season and take their chances or sign him longer term and lock him in. The projected contract for him is six years at $4.7 million AAV. On the surface, this seems pretty steep for a player who played his first full NHL season but only dressed for 61 games. He did break out offensively and was on pace for what would have been a 40-point season if he had played 82 games. He also had 21 points in his last 36 games, with eight of those points being on the PP, so he has proven that he can produce at an even higher pace going forward. The Rangers will have to figure out what they have in Adam Fox, who is also a right shot d-man, and where DeAngelo slots in with Fox, Kevin Shattenkirk and Neal Pionk. They might be better served to qualify DeAngelo and re-evaluate at the end of next season, as surely one of the four will be dealt if Fox is ready.
After having an excellent rookie season, Johnsson is arbitration eligible after several seasons in the SHL and AHL. With Toronto having potential cap issues, there is speculation that Johnsson might be a prime offer sheet target. If he were to sign an offer sheet for anything less than $4,227,437 AAV, the signing team would only have to offer up a 2nd round entry pick as compensation. It seems like an attractive addition to a team that could use a player with Johnsson’s skills and skating ability, but offer sheets are rarely given. The main concern in a larger contract would be that he overachieved with a PDO of 103.4 and an IPP of 71.7, and he may have trouble duplicating a 40-50 point campaign without the luxury of playing with Auston Matthews over 45% of the time at even strength. His projected contract is four years at $3.7 million AAV.
Kapanen needs another pro season before having arbitration rights, but is another potential offer sheet target. His projected contract is two years at $2.3 million per AAV, but I don’t see the Leafs signing him for that little. Kapanen did fade in the fourth quarter of last season with only six points in the last 17 games and two points in seven playoff games. He has a path to being the second- or third-line right winger in Toronto for a few years if he re-signs, and he has the potential to become a 50-60 point player if he gets more PPTOI. If I were the GM of Toronto, I would look at keeping Kapanen over Johnsson if they can’t afford to re-sign both players, or look for a sign-and-trade deal.
Vrana struggled in the playoffs this year, with no points in seven games after putting up 47 points in 82 games in the regular season and becoming a second-line winger. With one more year of pro hockey before arbitration rights, two years at $3.1 million AAV is the projection. It appears that Vrana is improving each and every season, but his shooting percentage and PDO are high at 14.9% and 104.3 respectively. His IPP has steadily increased each season from 66.7 to 70.1 over his three partial years in the NHL. Will increased ice-time and PP time be enough to continue his rise in point production in the coming years? Only time will tell, but a bridge deal would be best for the Capitals if possible.
What sets Konecny above the other players on this list is that he put together back-to-back seasons of 24 goals and exceeded 47 points each season. Konecny still needs one more pro season for arbitration rights, and his projected contract is two years at $3.4 million AAV. What stands out is that Konecny played with Claude Giroux over 58% of the time at even strength. According to www.naturalstattrick.com, Konecny’s GF % without Giroux is 46.34 compared to 54.10 with him at even strength. Philadelphia will need to find out whether Konecny has another point level before committing anything over two or three years. The Flyers also have Joel Farabee and Isaac Ratcliffe in the pipeline as prospects who will compete with Konecny in a year or two.
From #16 to #20, only one player has arbitration rights (Johnsson) and the same player is the only player not selected as a first-round entry pick. Of the five players above, perhaps Kapanen, Vrana and Deangelo have the highest ceilings, but Konecny has the highest floor going forward. I don’t really believe that offer sheets will be even used, as they go against an unwritten gentlemen’s rule in the NHL. They have been used sparingly before and not since 2013. It seems they have been replaced with the sign-and-trade deal.
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