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RFA v. The Flat Cap, Part I

Y’all, it is already almost September and there are TOO MANY restricted free agents. What an insane year to be an RFA. It’s so insane that there were 19 (nineteen!!!) players who filed for arbitration. They all agreed to new contracts before any hearings. That still leaves quite a list of RFAs left to sort out. And they’re not just random players. No, there are some massive names on that list. So here’s a current list (*to the best of my knowledge as of 9pm Saturday night) of some RFA (on 5/15 teams) and where I think they will end up.

Ottawa Senators

Drake Batherson, C/RW

For any other non-Ottawa fan asking, “Who?” like I did, Batherson had a breakout year this season. He notched 34 points in 56 games, and tied the Senators’ record for longest goal streak (6 games). He’s not going to be the major headline, but he did well and deserves a modest contract. Maybe $2-3mil. The Sens have almost $30mil in cap space (somehow). There isn’t an apparent issue, which leads me to believe they’re biding their time to catch a bigger fish with a bigger price tag. Still, the guy deserves a chance with the Senators.

Brady Tkachuk, LW/C

To be clear, while I think Brady is one player they absolutely want to resign, I don’t think he’s the big fish they’re waiting for. I don’t feel the need to explain why he’s valuable to them in detail. But, I do think he’s on track to be the first captain the Senators have had in (however many) years. So, that being said, I think he stays in Ottawa with at least an $8mil/yr deal. That would match fellow alternate captain Thomas Chabot’s contract.

Other Players

Filip Gustavsson, G; Ottawa 2-way, but stays in AHL.

Logan Brown, C; AHL somewhere? (I honestly have no idea.)

Buffalo Sabres

Rasmus Dahlin

I’ll try to avoid the dumpster fire that is Buffalo at the moment by just asking why on Earth the Sabres haven’t resigned Dahlin? They, too, have just about $30mil in cap space if they continue to dance around the Eichel contract. And even if they figure that situation out, that still leaves $20mil. My guess is that Dahlin is considering his options and is hoping for an offer sheet. I’m not convinced he’ll get one with the flat cap, but I could see him holding out.

Casey Mittelstadt

Another valuable future asset the Sabres need. With no information to base this statement on, I feel like he might be easier to convince to stay in Buffalo. He’s not the flashiest or most talented, but has a place on the current roster. That might be more difficult to find elsewhere. I say he’ll stay with the Sabres, but he deserves no less than $3mil/yr.

Other Players

Henri Jokiharju, D; RFA; Buffalo with a $1-2mil.

New York Islanders

Anthony Beauvillier, LW

Y’all have heard me talk about him before. I have a high opinion of him and it gets higher every season he plays. I think the Islanders would regret letting him go so early in his career. So maybe I’m seeing him through rose-colored glasses, but I think he’ll stay on the Island. He deserves at least $5mil/yr.

Ilya Sorokin, G

It took him a while to come over from Russia, but he had a great rookie season. It was a $2mil gamble that paid off. And now he deserves to get paid. How much? I don’t know, I’m not a GM. Maybe $4mil? Subtracting the $5mil I gave to Beau above, that would leave about $5mil left in cap space on the Island, so yeah. $4mil sounds good.

Kieffer Bellows, C/LW

He’s a high prospect, one I’m sure New York would ideally like to keep. He may need more time in the AHL to develop, though. They may be willing to spend $1mil on him, but they also may not. My guess is that he stays on the Islanders, but they try to keep him under that $1mil.

Other Players

Anatoly Golyshev, RW/LW; never played in North America, doesn’t look like he ever will.

Otto Koivula, LW/C; probably won’t get an offer sheet, probably going back to Liiga (Finland).

Vancouver Canucks

Quinn Hughes, D; Elias Pettersson, C

I put them together for two reasons. One, they have the same agent now. Two, it seems like the ideal scenario for all parties involved would be for both of them to stay in Vancouver. With about $10mil in cap space, someone is going to have to compromise or someone is leaving. They both deserve elite-level salaries. Would they both be willing to take $5mil? Right now, the core leadership on the team averages about that per year, but Horvat’s contract is up in 2023 and Boeser is up in 2022. Who knows what they’ll want at that point. 

So it’s going to be a long game the Canucks play. I really don’t know how it will shake out. I do know that New Jersey would love to have a trio of Hughes’, though. I think that could be entertaining, but I don’t see it happening.

It may come down to who Vancouver sees a long dynasty with. Hughes is in ineligible for an offer sheet and I’m very unclear on how the 10.2(c) RFA situation is working this year. (Theoretically, Hughes was supposed to be a UFA on July 26 but like…is he? There are no answers that I could find.) So, all of this was to say that it’s a toss up. To pick one, Hughes would be the more stable option health-wise; Pettersson would be the star option.

Minnesota Wild

Kirill Kaprizov, RW/LW

Despite the rampant rumor that Kaprizov wanted to go back to the KHL, it seems that his agent and the Wild’s are determined to come to an agreement. It’s getting close to the wire here and Minnesota could really use Kaprizov in the lineup. They’re not dumb enough to let him go easy. But, at the same time, they have almost $12mil in cap space and they somehow haven’t come to an agreement yet? Something’s fishy here. Are they trying to sign someone else as part of negotiations or are they looking at someone else on their own?

Another consideration is that he is in the same position as Quinn Hughes as a 10.2(c) RFA.

Minnesota really does seem to want to keep him, so I see him staying with the Wild. But the price is anyone’s guess.

Montreal Canadiens

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C

As of 5:45 Saturday afternoon, Kotkaniemi accepted an offer sheet from the Carolina Hurricanes for a one year, $6.1mil contract. Montreal has until September 4th to either match it, or move on. Considering the Canadiens are already over the cap without his contract, I don’t see them matching it. It seems to me that Kotkaniemi is going to Raleigh.

In Summary

This list only makes up about half of the total players who are an RFA. There are so many intricate parts of these deals that we don’t hear about. I cannot for two seconds even pretend to know how to make contract deals. But it’s pretty fun to guess. I have a feeling there will be very few big names moving teams before the season starts, at least on this list. With only a month and a half before the season starts, I expect we’ll see players get paid soon.

*This ended up being way more work than I anticipated so expect RFA part two next week.

-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)

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Heidi Thomas

Armchair hockey coach, passive horse racing fan, full-time dog referee.

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