The waiting game: Who remains on the RFA market as the NHL season draws near

Rantanen, Laine, Connor headline remaining unsigned RFAs

Kyle Connor remains one of three top-10 UFAs with less than a week to go before the NHL regular season begins. Trevor Hagan/Canadian Press

Even though the 2019-20 NHL season is less than a week away, there are still some key restricted free agents who have yet to sign a new contract.

The extensive RFA list that started the off-season highlighted by Tampa Bay Lightning’s Brayden Point and Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner still has players without a deal despite the fact that the two superstars got new contracts over the past two weeks. 

While Point signed a three-year, $20.25-million US contract with the Lightning on Sept. 23, Marner locked into a $65.35-million deal through six years with the Maple Leafs 10 days earlier. They were the top two players on the Toronto Observer top 10 RFAs this off-season. 

Another high-ranked name on the board was Matthew Tkachuk (No. 5), the Calgary Flames’ left wing who signed a three-year, $21-million extension last Wednesday. 

Tkachuk was the most recent signing among the biggest RFAs this off-season, leaving Mikko Rantanen, Patrik Laine, and Kyle Connor as the only remaining players in the top 10 with an uncertain status for the upcoming regular season. They have until Dec. 1 to sign a new deal to be eligible to play.

Here’s how the top 10 restricted free agents are set up contract-wise after almost four months into the off-season. 

#RFATeam2018 season (goals/assists)Contract situation
1Brayden PointTampa Bay92 points (41/51)Signed: 3 years, $20.25 million
2Mitch MarnerToronto94 points (26/68)Signed: 6 years, $65.3 million
3Mikko RantanenColorado87 points (31/56)Unsigned
4Sebastian AhoCarolina83 points (30/53)Signed: 5 years, $42.27 million
5Matthew TkachukCalgary77 points (34/43)Signed: 3 years, $21 million
6Patrik LaineWinnipeg50 points (30/20)Unsigned
7Charlie McAvoyBoston28 points (7/21)Signed: 3 years, $14.7 million
8Kyle ConnorWinnipeg66 points (34/32)Unsigned
9Zach WerensekiColumbus44 points (11/33)Signed: 3 years, $15 million
10Timo MeierSan Jose66 points (30/36)Signed: 4 years, $24 million

Here’s a look at the current unsigned restricted free agents: 

Mikko Rantanen (RW, Colorado Avalanche)

2018 season: 74 games played, 31 goals, 56 assists (87 points).

NHL Draft: 10th overall, 2015

Mikko Rantanen and the Colorado Avalanche have been discussing a new deal frequently in the past week. TSN’s Pierre Lebrun reported that the Avalanche have been focused on a long-term deal that would include $8.5 million a year during seven seasons. But Rantanen, who will turn 23 years old later in October, would consider only offers starting at an AAV of $9 million, in order to sign a long-term contract. This gap between what Colorado has been offering and what the player is looking for creates a scenario without a concrete timetable. 

Rantanen’s 56 assists were only behind Nathan MacKinnon’s 58 in the 2018-19 season for the Avs. 

Patrik Laine (RW, Winnipeg Jets)

2018 season: 82 games played, 30 goals, 20 assists (50 points). 

NHL Draft: 2nd overall, 2016

Pierre Lebrun also reported that there’s still a money gap in the negotiations between the Winnipeg Jets and Patrik Laine. Both sides also spoken in the past week and while they are likely set on a short-term deal, the AAV is still an issue. That’s because the 21-year-old would rather be north of $7 million a year, which is one million ahead of what Winnipeg has offered thus far. Laine had down season in 2018-19 scoring 30 goals after 44 in the year before. A bridge contract now would create an opportunity to re-prove himself, potentially earning a long-term deal in the near future. 

Laine finished third in goals for the Jets in the past season.

Kyle Connor (LW, Winnipeg Jets)

2018 season: 82 games played, 34 goals, 32 assists (66 points). 

NHL Draft: 17th overall, 2015

Kyle Connor is another name under negotiations for Winnipeg. According to Bob McKenzie from TSN, the contract talks are pointing for a six-year deal, although a four-year term would be considered from Connor as well — Similar to Timo Meier’s deal with the San Jose Sharks. But the Jets, again, don’t appear to be close with the negotiations with the 22-year-old, whose 34 goals put him second on the team behind Mark Scheifele (38) last year.

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Posted: Sep 26 2019 5:52 pm
Filed under: Hockey Sports