The Year of The RFA
By Tyler Hickey
With William Nylander finally signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, with five minutes to spare, it ends the longest RFA standoff in the salary cap era. While most RFA’s hold out until training camp starts like Johnny Gaudreau and David Pasternak has in the past couple years, Nylander held you until minutes before the deadline where he had to sign to play this season. In the end, both sides walk a while somewhat happy.
This negotiation was important not only for the Leafs and Kyle Dubas’ rein but for the extraordinary class of RFAs that will become eligible to offer sheets on July 1st if they are not signed by then. I believe most of them were waiting to see how the Nylander situation worked out. With a little over seven months, until they are eligible to be offer sheeted, I suspect most of them will be signed before then. Leading the pack are Nylander’s teammates Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Across Canada, is the likes of Patrick Laine, Kyle Connor, Matthew Tkachuk, and Brock Boeser. Rounding out the high-end forward group that is coming off their entry-level contracts are Brayden Point, Mikko Rantanen, Sebastian Aho, and Timo Meier. On the defensive side are Charlie McAvoy, Ivan Provorov, and Zach Werenski who are all in for big paydays after having a couple good years under their belt.
Matthews and Laine have proven themselves as elite goal scorers while Marner and Rantanen have proven to be able to drive offense while playing with superstars. I wouldn't be surprised if all of them will earn contracts with a cap hit north of $10 million. In the “second tier” Tkachuk, Connor, Point, Boeser, Aho, and Meier have proven to be key contributors on their team and pushing the star players ahead of them. On the back end McAvoy, Provorov and Werenski have been averaging 20+ minutes for their respective teams and quickly earned their coaches trust. Werenski and Provorov have hit double digits in goals before, while McAvoy probably would have last year if he didn't miss 19 games from injury.
With all these elite players coming off their entry level deals there are some players who have signed bridge deals who will be RFAs this summer as well. Jacob Trouba, William Karlsson, and Teuvo Teravainen are all having good years and looking for long-term deals. Linus Ullmark, David Rittich, and Joonas Korpisalo will have RFA status at the end of the year and are considered to have a future in their respective team's net.
At the end of the day most of these players, if not all of them, will remain with their respective teams (unless they are traded). In the old boys club aka the NHL GMs, it is very unlikely that any team will offer sheet a player in fear that they will retaliate. There has only been a handful of players offersheeted since 2005 and only one offer was not matched (Dustin Penner in 2007). The last one was Ryan O’Reilly in 2013, who had signed with Calgary but was matched by Colorado. If Nikita Kucherov was signed to one in 2016 after scoring 30 goals(he has since become a point per game player) I doubt we will see one this summer. The wrinkles in signing an RFA is the fact that the player has to actually sign the deal and the compensation. According to Capfriendly.com the compensation based on salary is as followed:
$1,339,575 or less: No compensation
$1,339,576 to $2,029,659: Third-round pick
$2,029,660 to $4,059,322: Second-round pick
$4,059,323 to $6,088,980: First and third-round picks
$6,088,981 to $8,118,641: First, second and third-round picks
$8,118,642 to $10,148,302: Two firsts, a second and third-round picks
Over $10,148,302: Four first-round picks
Are GMs willing to give up four first round picks for a player like Matthews or Marner? If they have an Immediate impact on the team you are looking at picks in the high 20s, which I think is totally worth it. This summer is definitely going to be interesting to see how these young players are signed and for how much. Teams like the Maple Leafs and Jets are in for a wild 7 months with the amount of good young talent that need new contracts this summer.