Saturday, September 7, 2013 by The Hockey Daily.
With the NHL regular season less than a month away, many teams are locked in contract disputes with valuable Restricted Free Agents. In most cases, RFA’s are signed pretty quickly after their previous contracts expire, however, this offseason was different. The salary cap dropped significantly because of the lockout, creating headaches for NHL general managers looking to sign their maturing players. With the Cap so low a lot of GM’s are stuck trying to find cap space they just don’t have. Here is a look at the National Hockey League’s most noteworthy restricted free agents courtesy of CapGeek.com
Alex Pietrangelo Is Without An NHL Contract
The twenty-three year old St. Louis Blues defenceman has become one of the most coveted and acclaimed young players in the league over the last two seasons. His recent success ensures he will earn a hefty pay increase. Determining the right wage and finalizing a deal is never easy in these situations, especially with budding superstar defencemen. St. Louis Blues GM, Doug Armstrong is very adamant in his declaration that Pietrangelo will be a member of the St. Louis Blues moving forward. Armstrong recently told NHL.com, “We’ve kept enough cap space to address any team that thinks that they can poach him from us; that won’t happen.” According to Armstrong, “He’ll (Pietrangelo) will be a St. Louis Blue whether it’s this weekend, two weeks, two months, a year from now. Time will tell, but we hope to get him done as quick as possible.”
Re-signing big name defenceman after entry level deals has become a problem for many NHL GM’s in recent years. Last season, the Montreal Canadiens began the year without P. K. Subban because of a contract dilemma. Subban ended up settling for a two year deal at $5.75 million, after missing the first six games of the 2012-13 campaign. The Habs’ blueliner went on to win the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenceman.
Two seasons ago, the Los Angeles Kings were in a similar situation with their 2nd overall pick from the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Former Norris Trophy candidate Drew Doughty held out until he was rewarded with an eight year deal worth $56 million. Of course, Doughty went on to quarterback the Los Angeles Kings all the way to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup several months later.
Regarding Subban and Doughty, getting the young stars signed paid immediate dividends for the player in Subban’s case, and the organization in Doughty’s case. Either way, both proved themselves irreplaceable. The Blues cannot afford to lose Pietrangelo to another team, or play a significant portion of the upcoming season without him. All indications suggest, he will likely be signed very soon.
Kadri And Franson Remain Unsigned
After a long awaited return to the NHL postseason, the Toronto Maple Leafs are about to enter training camp without two key contributors from last year’s group. Forward Nazem Kadri and Defenceman Cody Franson are not signed yet, and there is no indication as to how close either player is to rejoining the Toronto Maple Leafs in time for the beginning of the upcoming season.
Nazem Kadri had a breakout season in 2012-13. His success benefited the Leafs and directly contributed to their regular season success. Unfortunately, he only has the one successful season to use as leverage in his pitch for a raise. However, the Leafs can’t really afford to begin the season without him considering their depth and lack of scoring quality at the centre position is amongst the worst in the league.
Nazem Kadri is excited for the upcoming NHL season even though he doesn’t have a contract yet. In a recent conversation with the Toronto Star he said, “The guys are here now and they’re working hard. There’s camp and getting the new systems down again, and I don’t want to miss out. But I’ve been through a lot in the last two years so this is another thing to work out.”
As for Cody Franson, the Leafs still haven’t been able to re-ink the blossoming defenceman. Franson came into his own last season finishing 8th in defenceman scoring with 29 points in 48 games. If the Leafs want any chance at making the playoffs again this season, Cody Franson will need to play a significant role.
Starting On The Right Foot
The Blues and Maple Leafs will begin the 2013-14 NHL season with high expectations. The two clubs finished 4th and 5th respectively in their conferences but lost in the 1st round of the playoffs. This season, expectations are higher and similar results may not be acceptable, especially in St. Louis where the Blues are considered a serious threat to challenge for a Stanley Cup this year.
The season is very fast approaching and the contract status’ of Pietrangelo, Kadri and Franson will remain hot topics in the coming days and weeks until all three are signed.