Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Lightning

As the season nears, NHL restricted free agent market remains frozen

Brayden Point doesn’t have a contract yet, but he’s far from the only one.
Lightning center Brayden Point remains without a contract for next season. [SHADD, DIRK | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Aug. 23

TAMPA — As September and the start of the Lightning’s rookie camp creeps loser, Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point, the team’s third leading scorer in 2018-19, remains unsigned.

He’s not the only one, though. Almost none of the big names have signed: Toronto left wing Mitch Marner, Colorado right wing Mikko Rantanen, Winnipeg right wing Patrik Laine, Boston defenseman Charlie McAvoy and Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski.

There are often a couple late-signers, but rarely, if ever, so many.

MORE LIGHTNING: Victor Hedman is healthy and ready for season

“It’s a unique marketplace,” said agent Gerry Johannson, who counts Point among his clients. “Everyone is waiting for some clarity.”

Last year, Toronto’s William Nylander held out until December waiting for terms he liked better (finally signing a six-year, $45-million contract). But this isn’t the NHL when training camps open with a list of players holding out.

It would be surprising for Point to miss meaningful regular-season games but no one can be shocked when any player holds out in today’s sports world.

Only two of the big names have signed, but neither under normal circumstances. Jacob Trouba declined to resign in Winnipeg, citing his fiancé’s desire to study medicine in the States, and the Jets traded him to the Rangers, where he signed. Montreal signed Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet, which Carolina matched to keep him.

That clarity Johannson referred to means someone re-signing with the same team.

No one has done that yet, and the water is heating up.

Players are starting to speak out a bit more. Point, who had 41 goals and 51 assists last season, has not been heard from, but Laine had some interesting comments for Sportsnet.

“You never know where you’re going to play next year so I’m just prepared for anything,” he said.

Laine followed up that he has nothing bad to say about Winnipeg. The Finnish native plans to remain in Europe until he has a contract.

Rantanen told reporters at the Finnish All-Star Game he’s neither stressed nor bothered about his contract situation. Avalanche executive vice president Joe Sakic told the Denver Post he wants to have Rantanen signed before training camp. Sakic said the Avalanche and Rantanen both want a long-term deal.

The Lightning has previously trended toward shorter bridge contracts. Point, however, has established his skill level so there’s not much to discover with a short term. He could have the standing to demand a long-term deal, which is the standard set by elite RFAs like Leon Draisaitl (eight years, $8.5 million average annual value) and Jack Eichel (eight years, $10 million average annual value).

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Point (21) works the puck through the Detroit zone during the second period of Saturday's (3/9/19) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings at Amalie Arena in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times]

Neither Johannson nor Julien BriseBois has specified a timeline nor any specifics on the negotiations. The general manager repeatedly expresses confidence in making a deal.

Johannson thinks we’ll start to see moves being made in the market. After all, the countdown to training camp is now measured in weeks, not months.

MORE LIGHTNING: Meet Bolt, the Lightning’s new puppy

UFA’s left standing

The RFAs are the ones holding up the market, so to speak, but some unrestricted free agents surprisingly remain on the board.

Joe Thornton remains without a contract after 14 years with the Sharks. He told reporters at the NHL Awards in June that he wanted to play a 22nd season. Timo Meier expects him to be back on the Sharks, according to nhl.com. But he doesn’t have a contract yet.

San Jose could send an interesting message if it lets captain Joe Pavelski walk and then doesn’t bring back Thornton.

Jake Gardiner ranked among the top five available defensemen when free agency opened, but remains without a contract. The former Maple Leaf had some defensive errors and injury issues last season, but can drive offense and make an impact even if not in a top pairing.

Justin Williams, 38, belied his age by helping propel Carolina into the playoffs and then to the Eastern Conference Final. Williams had a productive season with 23 goals and 30 assists.

From the Lightning, Dan Girardi stands the only UFA without a deal for next year. The 35-year-old defenseman missed 20 games last year, due to injury and the team’s defensemen rotation.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. DIRK SHADD   |   Times  
Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71) beats Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) to score shorthanded making the score 3 to 1 during third period action at Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (12/06/18).  SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Tampa Bay plays four games in six nights against the Islanders, Panthers, Bruins and Capitals ... oh my
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning center Carter Verhaeghe (23) celebrates his first NHL career goal as he returns to the bench with his team cheering as the Bolts go up 7-1 during third period action at Amalie Arena on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019 in Tampa.  DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The rookie has been close for weeks but finally got that first one in the final minute of Saturday’s game.
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98)  battles San Jose Sharks left wing Evander Kane (9) in front of the net in the defensive zone during second period action at Amalie Arena on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019 in Tampa. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    After 10 games playing with 11 forwards and seven defenseman, Jon Cooper goes back to the usual lineup.
  4. Tampa Bay dominates San Jose in a goal-a-thon
  5. Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) and defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) look on as the Minnesota Wild celebrate their goal scored by right wing Mats Zuccarello (36) to go up 5 to 4 during third period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019 in Tampa. The Wild scored the goal just 8 seconds after Lightning Alex Killorn (17) scored a goal to tie the score 4-4. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    They believe they’re playing well but their lapses have been costly.
  6. The scoreboard on 90's night before the Tampa Bay Lightning take on the Minnesota Wild at Amalie Arena on DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The few players who remember the 90′s shared their favorite parts of the decade
  7. Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) and defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) look on as the Minnesota Wild celebrate their goal scored by right wing Mats Zuccarello (36) to go up 5 to 4 during third period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019 in Tampa. The Wild scored the goal just 8 seconds after Lightning Alex Killorn (17) scored a goal to tie the score 4-4. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Tampa Bay gives up five goals, leaving the coach to slam its defensive effort.
  8. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) celebrates beating Minnesota Wild goaltender Alex Stalock (32) to score his 100th career goal during second period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019 in Tampa. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The loss to Minnesota puts a damper on the milestone, but he’s the first Tampa Bay defenseman to do it.
  9. Hedman scores his 100th career goal as the Bolts are defeated
  10. This undated photo provided by the Cook County Jail in Grand Marais, Minn., shows Mark Pavelich. The family of Pavelich, a player on the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Olympic hockey team, believes concussions and blows he received during his playing career have contributed to his current legal troubles. He is charged with beating a neighbor with a metal pole.  (Cook County Jail via AP) AP
    The family of Mark Pavelich, who assisted on the winning goal in the 1980 victory over the Soviet Union, believes he has been affected by repeated concussions from his playing days.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement