While teams were chomping at the bit to splurge on unrestricted free agents on July 1, the atmosphere for restricted free agents has been very different.
Tampa Bay Lightning fans agonized over every ridiculous (and even maybe the occasional semi-legitimate) rumor about Steven Stamkos before he was finally re-signed to an “everyone wins” deal. While talks of a stalemate between Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators might amount to his agent’s posturing, there’s a genuine concern that his contract negotiations might hamper the team’s ability to keep its “Big Three” in Tennessee. It’s even tough to praise Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi for his shrewd series of off-season moves because he still needs to sign Drew Doughty to what might be a legacy-defining contract.
One player who might fly under the RFA radar a bit (except in Toronto, of course) is Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn. While Schenn’s game leans far more toward defense (he lead all NHL defensemen in hits during the 2010-11 season with 251 and was the team’s leader in shorthanded ice time) he really captured a lot of hearts when things were especially bleak during his 2008-09 rookie season. Maybe worries haven’t reached a fever pitch because the Leafs signed most of their free agents already and the team showed far more promise in 10-11 – or perhaps because rival general managers simply aren’t sending offer sheets these days – but Schenn’s situation might remain a concern for some Leafs fans.
Then again, when you consider context, Schenn’s stalling situation might have as much to do with his representation as it does with his asking price. Schenn is represented by big-time agent Don Meehan, who has plenty on his plate this off-season since he also represents the likes of Stamkos, Doughty and Zach Parise. (Maybe Schenn needs an agent with a more personal, Jerry Maguire-like approach?)
When asked about Schenn’s negotiations, Meehan told the Toronto Sun that a deal probably won’t get done until next week … or maybe even later next month.
“It’s more of an August issue,” Schenn’s agent, Don Meehan, said on Tuesday.
Leafs assistant general manager Claude Loiselle is probably going to be one of the point men in contract negotiations with Schenn, and he is on vacation.
Considering Brian Burke’s burgeoning fleet of assistant general managers, the Leafs should probably be able to get a deal done sooner or later. They should be able to get a solid deal considering comparable restricted free agents (Meehan probably hopes the name “Karl Alzner” doesn’t come up too often). Yet even if he proves to be a tough nut to crack, the Leafs should have at least $5.2 million in cap space to work with. They’ll want to save some of that for trade deadline flexibility, but the takeaway is that Schenn probably won’t be playing anywhere else anytime soon.
Brian Boyle spent almost three full years with the Tampa Bay Lightning before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at last March’s trade deadline.
The veteran center liked his stint in Tampa so much that he’s willing to go back there when he becomes a free agent in less than week.
“We love Tampa,” said Boyle, per the Tampa Bay Times. “If Tampa wanted to work out a deal, that’s definitely a huge option for us. That’s something that I’ve kind of always thought about. I haven’t closed the door on anything.”
Boyle enjoyed quite a bit of success with the Bolts. During his time there, he scored at least 13 goals in each of his three seasons, which isn’t bad considering he was more of a bottom-six player when he was there.
It’s unclear if the Bolts would be willing to take him back at this point, but a big factor will likely be his contract demands.
“(Tampa) is a great place to be, great place to start a family. And, honestly, we’ll see what they say. You want to be wanted. That’s the other part.”
The Lightning have just over $23 million in cap space right now. That seems like a good amount, but they still have to sign Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Andrej Sustr. It’s also pretty clear that they’re in the market for a top four defenseman, and that won’t come cheap. As of right now, they only have three blue liners on one-way contracts.
The 32-year-old is coming off a contract that paid him $2 million per season. He should be able to fetch a higher number if he hits the open market.
The Carolina Hurricanes have reportedly taken care of some business on Monday morning, as they’ve re-signed forward Derek Ryan to a one-year deal worth $1.425 million, per TSN’s Frank Seravalli.
Update: The Hurricanes have confirmed the news.
The 30-year-old had 11 goals and 29 points in 67 games during his first full NHL season.
Ryan’s journey to the NHL is a great story.
He played three full seasons of junior hockey with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs (2004-2007) before joining the University of Alberta hockey program for four years (2007-2011). Once he completed his Canadian University hockey eligibility, Ryan went on to play three seasons of pro hockey in the Austrian League and one year over in Sweden. He came back to North America for the 2015-16 season, where he played 70 games with AHL Charlotte and six games with the ‘Canes.
Ryan was a finalist for the Masterton Trophy, which is awarded to “the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
“I feel a little out of place,” Ryan told NHL.com during the 2017 NHL Awards. “A couple of years ago, I was battling my way through the European leagues and all of a sudden here I am at the NHL Awards and just kind of taking it all in.”
–USA Today looks at six teams that have some work to do before the free-agent market opens on July 1st. The Coyotes are gonna need to find a new coach, Vegas will have to keep tweaking their roster and the New York Rangers still need that puck-moving defenseman. (USA Today)
–The Dallas Stars have been searching for a number one defenseman for a few years now. You have to believe they were excited to land Miro Heiskanen third overall on Friday. The Dallas Morning News shares five things you need to know about their new top prospect. Yea, he wasn’t even both when Dallas won the Stanley Cup in 1999. (Dallas Morning News)
–Does your team need a center? NHL.com compiled a list of the top free-agent centers that are scheduled to hit the open market on Saturday. If clubs are looking for size down the middle, they could do worse than Joe Thornton or Martin Hanzal. (NHL.com)
–If you’re a fan of great hair, you’ll enjoy this. The Score looks at the top 5 “flows” from the NHL Draft. Nico Hischier wasn’t only the top pick in the entry draft, he also found himself on the top of this list, too. (The Score)
–2017 Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns went to Disney World with his family during the off-season, and many of the children thought he was a pirate (I can’t really blame them). “I actually signed a couple of autographs in kids’ books because they thought I was a pirate. And I actually signed them.” (Sports Illustrated)
–Penguins forward Ryan Reaves didn’t believe the rumblings about him being traded on Friday night. His response was classic:
The interview process for draft prospects must be a real beating. Then again, it’s also an opportunity for hopefuls to push back.
In the case of two smaller prospects, it meant providing some swagger in their answers, possibly impressing their new teams. If nothing else, Kailer Yamamoto and Michael DiPietro generated some refreshingly confident quotes.
One would assume that the Edmonton Oilers picked Yamamoto with the 22nd choice for more than just a great answer alone … but still.
Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek related a similar story about DiPietro, who the Vancouver Canucks nabbed with the 64th pick.
Funny story: When one team at the NHL told him “We don’t think you can play in the NHL with our team, you’re too small” at the combine, he fired back with “well, I guess you have a problem with winning, then.” How do you not like that?
If nothing else, those two aren’t shy.
As a bonus story, check out the bumpy path Will Reilly – aka the “Mr. Irrelevant” of the 2017 NHL Draft – took to being chosen last overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins, via Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy. From the sound of things, there are worse feelings than going 217th.
The 2017 NHL Draft may have been “pumped down” from a hype perspective, yet it sounds like many of these prospects at least bring some moxie to the table.