These days it seems like half the league is waiting for Mitch Marner to re-sign in Toronto.
All indications are that it’s probably no longer a question of “if” but rather “when.” But “when” that happens, it will effectively set the market for every other RFA in the league and all of a sudden we’re going to get a rush of activity around the start of training camp.
One team with a notable RFA to sign is Vancouver, whose negotiations with Brock Boeser have apparently been slow going. But the thing is, it probably shouldn’t be, and this is why:
If Boeser wants an AAV of $7 million, unless it’s only on a bridge deal-type contract, that’s tough to square because you’re only two years away from both Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes coming off their ELCs. You don’t want to get into a situation where you’re trying to sign all three at once because they’re gonna get expensive in a hurry.
But if it’s four, five years or more? Man, you make that $7 million happen and you walk away laughing.
Except, of course, the Canucks can’t. They have a shade over $5 million in cap space right now and Boeser’s not even the only other RFA they need to re-sign. Not that Nikolay Goldobin is going to cost a lot, but it would be next to impossible to get them both for anything close to $5 million.
Of course, a team as bad as the Canucks were last year shouldn’t be anything close to capped out, but this is the problem when ownership demands you be competitive every year. You have to spend money even if you shouldn’t. That’s how you get $6 million for Tyler Myers, trade for JT Miller at $5.25 million, and $3.5 million for Micheal Ferland in a single summer. Myers doesn’t help much but Ferland and Miller definitely do. They overpaid, because that’s what you do on the free agent market, which the Canucks are in seemingly every year.
Which, if you’re developing talent like the Canucks seem to these days, can serve as a nice supplement. But once you’re doing it to the exclusion of being able to lock down all the talent you’ve developed, that’s a big problem. Take even one bad contract from the past several years off the books — Brandon Sutter, Tanner Pearson, Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle, and boy I’ve just said a lot of overpaid forwards in short order here — and Boeser’s easy to re-sign.
And that’s the big problem here: The Canucks are going to get Boeser at a number that makes sense and then make whatever moves they have to in order to get him under the cap. But two years from now, they’ll probably have to do it to an even greater extent again for Pettersson and Hughes.
The Canucks overpay just about every UFA by $1-2 million. That’s probably the price of coming to what you have every reason to suspect will be a dead-end team for most of your contract, and on one or two deals it’s probably not a huge worry. But when it’s five or six of those deals, well suddenly you’re up against the cap despite having mostly paid for middle-of-the-lineup talent.
And then you have to then go looking for solutions when you’re trying to find your top-of-the-lineup talent and there isn’t a huge number of palatable options available. Who could have predicted?
All of which raises the question that comes with seemingly every veteran UFA signing GM Jim Benning makes: What does that really get you in the end besides a headache?
Anaheim Ducks: When you’re like, “I’m not sure if this team has enough offensive depth. Also, I’m not sure if this team has defensive depth,” that’s bad.
Arizona Coyotes: Yeah sorry but I’m always going to be skeptical that a new Coyotes owner will actually spend the money they need to be competitive if he talks at length in his initial presser about all the financial challenges the team faces. If you buy the Coyotes and “sure as [crap] want to win” but aren’t openly committing to just losing a ton of money, that’s a problem.
Boston Bruins: Ooo, no thanks.
Buffalo Sabres: Wow a lot of really bad teams are going over the cap because they’ve overpaid bad defensemen in the past. Interesting.
Calgary Flames: Since 2016, Brad Treliving has bought out an average of one contract he personally gave a player per summer. All were obviously overpays on the day they were signed: Mason Raymond, Lance Bouma, Troy Brouwer, and now Michael Stone. Also the Neal contract was so bad he took on Milan Lucic to “undo” it. Stop letting this guy sign UFAs.
Carolina Hurricanes: You’d hope the answer to this question is “no one.”
Chicago Blackhawks: Honestly I can see where this team gets back into the playoffs (and gets smoked straightaway) if a ton of stuff goes right for them, but I’m not sure I believe a ton of stuff has a high likelihood of going right for them.
Colorado Avalanche: Up-and-down kind of summer for AJ Greer I guess.
Columbus Blue Jackets: …… Ah,
Dallas Stars: I guess the Stars improved this summer but the two main guys they added strike me as, uhh, “not fast.”
Detroit Red Wings: Apparently Nik Kronwall might retire instead of re-signing. He’s been below replacement level since 2014-15, so that would probably be a positive for the team.
Edmonton Oilers: Jesse Puljujarvi still doesn’t want to play for the Oilers anymore and local media is mad at him.
Florida Panthers: Not that you want to get too ahead of yourself based on performance in glorified exhibition tournaments but this Spencer Knight kid looks like the genuine article.
Los Angeles Kings: One thing I would definitely count on is a 32-year-old who hasn’t been good in two seasons bouncing back.
Minnesota Wild: My personal favorite part of the Paul Fenton shiv-fest in The Athletic was his three-week vacation in March after the team went 5-6-3 in February. That month started with Fenton missing a game so he could go to the Patriots’ Super Bowl parade. Good stuff.
Montreal Canadiens: They are loving le petit garçon de buts.
Nashville Predators: I’m gonna say “no” to this one.
New Jersey Devils: I do think it’s important to set a baseline expectation for Nikita Gusev so everyone’s not all mad when he doesn’t put up 70 points. Hope for 50. How many guys like that do the Devils have right now, y’know?
New York Islanders: It’s crazy that the Islanders still have three unsigned RFAs.
New York Rangers: Hey the Rangers still haven’t traded Chris Kreider. So are we thinking around the start of training camp or something? It’ll be very interesting to see where he goes.
Ottawa Senators: If you’re playing for the Senators and you have an actual high talent level, why on earth would you sign long-term?
Philadelphia Flyers: Putting potentially unfair expectations on a Flyers goalie? Well, okay.
Pittsburgh Penguins: I think Jake Guentzel is fine and everything but how is he not another Chris Kunitz to these people?
San Jose Sharks: One gets the feeling Kevin Labanc is gonna make a ton of money next summer.
St. Louis Blues: Do people just not understand how arbitration works?
Tampa Bay Lightning: This isn’t specifically about the Lightning but it’s really good.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Really hard to argue against this take, but the lottery win helps a lot too.
Vegas Golden Knights: This is the correct take and I think they’ll come out ahead in the end, but win or lose, the decision to pay Ryan Reaves instead of Gusev wasn’t a smart one.
Washington Capitals: That’s nice.
Winnipeg Jets: Missed this earlier but: Yes please.
Gold Star Award
Let’s just give this one to Paul Fenton. He needs the W after that stuff about the Rask/Niederreiter trade came out.
Minus of the Weekend
Swish. Nailed it.
Pierre Dorion tells @TSN1200 that the acquisition of Ryan Callahan is the first time the Sens have knowingly traded for an injured player who will go on LTIR.— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) August 2, 2019
So he doesn’t buy into the storyline of his team repeatedly doing things that violate the spirit of the current CBA.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User “Jets4Life” is just having a good weekend.
Edmonton's 2020 1st round Draft Pick
Can I use your bathroom?
Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.
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