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Latest RFA in the NHL

Aug. 14, 2019 - Michael Stewart

Latest RFA in the NHL

Introduction: It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed the RFA for the 2019-20 season. Some players have signed, while others are still available to either be re-signed or possibly traded. Here’s an updated look at the top 10 RFA players still available and the possible verdict of their final destinations.

1. Brayden Point Age: 23/Position: Centre / Right wing
2018-19 salary cap hit: $686,667/Arbitration rights: No

Point put together a career season at the right time with 92 points; while also earning some votes as one of the best defensive forwards in 2018 with a plus/minus (+27). Tampa has roughly $9.3M in cap space and GM Julien Brisebois certainly wants to bring Point back into the fold in Tampa.

Verdict:  Both sides want a deal to get done and I believe they will, however; it’s unclear if Tampa will offer a long-term deal or a two-year bridge deal as it is reported that Brayden Point is open to either option.

2. Mitchell Marner: 22/Position: Right wing
2018-19 salary cap hit: $894,167/Arbitration rights: No

Marner led the Leafs in scoring for the second straight season and also was vital on special teams as well (power play/penalty killing). Maple Leafs scoring leader in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Quarterbacks power play. Kills penalties. Marner recorded 94 points while playing alongside center John Tavares and is from the Toronto region and certainly a fan favorite. The Leaf’s have already locked up center Auston Matthews to a 5yr/$11.634M deal and the team currently has no cap space.

Verdict: Marner is the only remaining RFA on the Leaf’s roster and to be honest need to really make some tough decisions if they intend to re-sign him to remain a Leaf. I believe it’s possible that the Marner is re-signed and then the Leaf’s will either trade him or look to trade other players to get enough cap space; which could be around $9-$11M per year.

3. Mikko Rantanen: 22/Position: Right wing
2018-19 salary cap hit: $894,167/Arbitration rights: No

Rantanen recorded his second consecutive 80 point season with the Avalanche and the fact that he is 6’4/215lbs and uses every bit of it on the ice, makes him a very appealing RFA. Not only is Rantanen a lethal weapon, but he also finished the season with a +13, making him a complete forward in the NHL.

Verdict: GM Joe Sakic has publicly stated his desire to re-sign the gifted forward and with the cap space not being an issue; expect a deal to made and Rantanen to remain in Colorado on a long term deal.

4. Matthew Tkachuk: 21/Position: Left wing
2018-19 salary cap hit: $925,000/Arbitration rights: No:

Tkachuk had a career year in 2018 with 34 goals, 43 assists for 77 points. The Flames and Tkachuk are on friendly terms and a deal seems likely. The Flames have roughly $7.7M in cap space, so they need to eventually clear more space to bring Tkachuk back.

Verdict: Austin Matthews contract seems to be setting the bar for the other RFA forwards like Tkachuk who many believe will be the highest paid Flame after all is said and done.

5. Brock Boeser: 22/Position: Right wing
2018-19 salary cap hit: $925,000/Arbitration rights: No


Boeser is the definition of consistency for the Canucks as he has averaged back to back 26 goal seasons and plays a solid two-way game at the forward position. Boeser was the runner up in the 2018 Calder Trophy and was the 2018 All-Star Game MVP. The Canucks have roughly $5M in cap space, so they would need to clear more space if they intend to bring Boeser back.

Verdict: GM Jim Benning has been saying the right things regarding Boeser’s returning to the team, however; might have a hard time clearing enough cap space. In the end I believe both sides will prevail and Broeser will sign a two-year deal to remain in Vancouver.

6. Charlie McAvoy: 21/Position: Defense
2018-19 salary cap hit: $916,667/Arbitration rights: No

McAvoy did about everything a defensemen could do for a team in 2019 as he led all D-men in even strength points and game-winning goals. McAvoy also was a shutdown blue-liner for the Bruins as well and made the 2018 All-Rookie Team.

Verdict: The Bruins have roughly $7.3M in cap space and would need to pony up more than that to bring McAvoy back to Boston. McAvoy’s agent is viewing the recent signing of Florida’s defensemen Aaron Ekblad’s contract (8 years/$7.5M per) as a starting point. The biggest obstacle for the Bruins in clearing space is the contract of forward David Backes (2 years/$6M) at age 35 with declining production and an NTC (no trade clause) limited to only 8 teams, could make it extremely hard to move him.  In the end, I believe the Bruins will find a way to get McAvoy signed.

7. Kyle Connor: 22/Position: Left wing
2018-19 salary cap hit: $925,000/Arbitration rights: No

 Connor has had back-to-back 30-goal campaigns and is only 22 years old.  Connor also excelled on special teams for the Jets and is arguably the best two-way forward on the team. By trading away Jacob Trouba and Kevin Hayes, the Jets have put themselves in good position to be creative and also aggressive in either free agency or in the trade front. Aside from Connor, only Patrik Laine (more on him later) and goalie Eric Comrie remain unsigned.  

Verdict: The Jets have roughly $17.6M in cap space and will need every bit of it to get all three players signed. The top two obviously being Connor and Laine. I expect to see Connor signed to a long term deal and remain a Jet.

8. Patrik Laine: 21/Position: Right wing
2018-19 salary cap hit: $925,000/Arbitration rights: No

Laine is part of the young dynamic duo along with Kyle Connor for the Winnipeg Jets. Laine has posted three consecutive 30-goal seasons; while also playing all three zones and shows the willingness to get physical when needed.

Verdict: The Jets viewed Laine very similar to Connor in terms of importance to the success of the Jets future. Again, with plenty of cap space the Jets are in solid position to bring Laine back and keep the core of forwards together for a while. 

9. Zachary Werenski: 21/Position: Defence
2018-19 salary cap hit: $925,000/Arbitration rights: No

Werenski is the only remaining free agent on the Blue Jackets roster and forms a solid blue-line presence along with Seth Jones to give Columbus a solid building blocks for the future.  Werenski tallied 40+ points; while also shutting down opposing forwards in his own zone. The 21 year old really has a very high upside and it would make a ton of sense for the Blue Jackets to lock him into a long term deal.

Verdict: Columbus has roughly $15.8M in cap space and all reports I’ve read indicates a long-term deal in the horizon.

10. Travis Konecny: Age: 22/Position: Right wing / Left wing/ 2018-19 salary cap hit: $894,167/Arbitration rights: No                                                                                                                                                       

Konecny has been as steady as a rock for the Flyers and provides solid production in all three zones. The gifted winger is only 22 years old and should improve in all areas even more moving forward.

Verdict: The Flyers are in good shape with their cap situation at roughly $13.4M and should offer Konecny a fair and reasonable contract to remain a Flyer. Not confirmed if that contract will be a long-term deal or a two year bridge.

Final Thoughts: How to gauge where all these players will end up as most should be re-signed, while others could be re-signed and then possibly traded. The current NHL player pool has seen a rise of young talent emerging over the last several years and with the additional of the 2019 class; that trend will continue at least another year. All these young gifted players will only make the NHL more appealing and fun to watch.