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RFA v. The Flat Cap, Part II

For those of you who missed my post last week, go take a quick peek to get yourself up to speed before you comment that I missed an RFA on your team. I’ll give you a minute to do that. …you done? Okay, good. You know how this works, so let’s jump right into it.

Edmonton Oilers RFA

Kailer Yamamoto, RW/C

One of the few breakout players to remain on the market this year, Yamamoto had a great season with the Oilers. While it wasn’t his most lucrative year point-wise, he earned himself a permanent spot on the Edmonton roster. The catch is that they’re paying McDavid $12mil, Nurse $9mil, and Draisaitl $8mil, which leaves very little room for the already contracted players. There’s no way Edmonton is going to pull a Lou and go over cap space for anyone less than RNH. Yamamoto better pack his bags and hope someone gives him an offer sheet soon.

Other Players

Cooper Marody, C; I see a one-way AHL contract in his future.

Calgary Flames RFA

Connor Mackey, LD

It seems like he’s worked hard to get to where he is and it sucks that Mackey is going to be one of the players screwed over by the flat cap. He was undrafted, played for Minnesota Mankato in the NCAA, then signed with the Flames last year. He played 6 games in Calgary, but spent most of the year in Stockton. It’s unfortunate, but I think he’s going to have to deal with an AHL contract this year.

Seattle Kraken RFA

Dennis Cholowski, LD

Cholowski was drafted 20th overall in 2016 by Detroit, and I think both could agree his career hasn’t panned out the way either of them had hoped. The defenseman has split his time between the AHL and the NHL so far and has 27 points in 106 games in the Show. I don’t think that he has a great sample size for the Kraken to really get a sense for his game. But, I think that because Seattle is so fresh, they’ll be looking for depth and potentially young leadership. Cholowski could find himself with another sub-million dollar, two-way contract. 

St Louis Blues RFA

Robert Thomas, RW/C

Thomas was St. Louis’ First Round pick in 2017. He’s played 169 NHL games in his three professional years, earning 87 total points. He has not played a single game in the NHL. It seems to me that he’s earned a spot somewhere in the roster. He’s not a point machine, so the contract doesn’t have to be big, even. After three seasons with the Blues, one would hope that they could squeeze a $1mil contract in their tiny bit of cap space.

Las Vegas Golden Knights RFA

Nolan Patrick, C/RW

(Made ya wait.) Needless to say, it was not Nolan Patrick’s best year. But, it’s definitely worth noting that he had a 17-month LTIR stint due to a migraine disorder (hell yeah, headache buddies). Even before that, though, he had a history of various injuries. He played 52 games this year, but only had 9 total points. Between his injuries, migraine disorder, and lack of production last year, he’s a gamble wherever he goes. Philly gave him a contact for the 20/21 season to give him a shot; I don’t see them repeating that, espeically when they only have $300k in projected cap space as it is. Patrick needs to find another team to give him a second chance.

San Jose Sharks

Noah Gregor, C/LW

Gregor is another player who has split his time between the AHL and the NHL. He hasn’t been very productive during his 58 NHL games, and unfortunately for him there are a good handful of forward UFAs within San Jose’s $3mil cap budget they could sign over him. He may be another player going to the AHL this year.

Detroit Red Wings

Givani Smith, LW

Not to sound like a broken record, but Smith is in a very similar position to Gregor, Mackey, and Marody. Not stellar numbers, splitting time between leagues; it’s really the same story there. The difference is that Detroit currently has $14mil in cap space. Even if they’re going for a whale-sized fish, Smith could potentially squeak out another two-way deal with the Wings.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Denis Malgin, RW/C

Malgin is the most unique amoung the list today. He’s played 192 NHL games in his 4 years in North America, but he is from Switzerland and has played in basically every league there. In fact, he was loaned out to Lausanne HC in the Swiss National League for the 20/21 season. So while his NHL stats are more impressive than the 4 mentioned [directly] above, we may find that he stays in Switzerland of his on volition. Anyone who has heard stories of the Swiss league knows how nice it is; could we really blame the guy for staying there?

Boston Bruins

Zach Senyshyn, RW

Senyshyn’s story isn’t unlike the rest of the pack. He hasn’t played as many NHL games and spent much more time in Providence than Boston. But what sets him apart is that he clearly has intangibles that make him valuable. At 23 he was made an alternate captain for the P Bruins; with the depth that Boston has, I think that speaks for itself. I think if they think they can swing it, the Bruins may try to re-sign him with that tiny $1mil in cap space.

Since I’ve Been Gone

Islanders

In a move that has me completely baffled, the Islanders announced that they had re-signed not only Beauvillier and Sorokin (both of whom I had predicted last week), but also Cizikas and Palmieri. Beau is getting $4.15mil AAV, Sorokin $4mil AAV, Cizikas $2.5mil AAV, and Palmieri $5mil AAV. For those keeping track at home, the whole package is worth $15.65mil (AAV); this puts (/projects) the Isles $4mil over the cap. Wow. But, Lou Lamoriello is known for pulling rabbits out of tiny hats, so I say he knows what he’s doing. (I personally have no idea how he’s gonna do it though.)

Kotkaniemi

In a move that I totally saw coming, the Canadiens did not match the Hurricanes’ offer sheet for Jesperi Kotkaniemi, so he is off to Raleigh. I hope he finds success training and playing with other players like Aho and Svechnikov. On another personal note, I can’t wait to see him in Whalers green and blue (because you know the Canes can’t resist).

Mittelstadt

While I did predict that Mittelstadt would say in Buffalo, I didn’t expect him to take any less than $3mil. He ended up re-signing with the Sabres for just $2.5mil. ($500k probably isn’t that much for quality NHLers in the long run, but for we poor people, it’s a big difference.)

Final RFA Thoughts

This is the point at which we start to see the impacts of the flat cap for the players on the fringes. It’s a hard time for them. By the same token, it could be great for them, given the right circumstance. For those getting those smaller contracts, it could be a time for them to make a name for themselves and earn more in the future.

With NHL hockey coming back in less than a month, we’ll see how all of these decisions pan out soon. In the meantime, keep an eye on these RFAs as well as the UFAs.

-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)

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Heidi Thomas

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

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