RFA Watch: Six high-profile restricted free agents are still waiting for deals

We’re just three weeks away from the start of NHL training camp and there are still some big restricted free agents that have yet to get new deals locked away with their respective teams. Being a restricted free agent is a strange thing. Their rights still belong to the team you’re with but there’s always the possibility of signing an offer sheet from another team. The catch there being that their current team can match the deal and keep the player or they can allow him to go and take draft pick compensation.

With the number of high-profile guys we’ve seen get deals worked out already, it’s strange we haven’t seen any team attempt to poach a RFA away from their current team, but that’s another story. Of the six big name guys left to be signed (Drew Doughty, Luke Schenn, Brad Marchand, Kyle Turris, Josh Bailey, and Zach Bogosian) we’ll take a look at what they and their teams are up against as time ticks down until camp.

Drew Doughty – Los Angeles Kings

No news is not good news for Kings fans here. Drew Doughty and the Kings aren’t making any progress in their negotiations and while there’s no supreme rush to get things done, both sides would like to get a long-ish term deal done. With the amount of money needed for a former Norris Trophy finalist who is just 21 years-old, getting the deal right is important for the Kings. After rumors over a week ago that a deal was done were squashed, both sides continue to wait each other out.

Luke Schenn – Toronto Maple Leafs

Another young defenseman in need of a deal but this one isn’t as contentious as Doughty’s negotiations with L.A. Like Doughty, Luke Schenn is 21 years-old and figures to be a cornerstone player on the Leafs blue line. Schenn is a guy that teams have tried to get from Brian Burke in trade offers the last two years, but he’s hanging on to him. Leafs assistant GM Dave Nonis figures that a deal with Schenn will be done before training camp. As for the money he’ll get, expect it to be a sensible deal.

Brad Marchand – Boston Bruins

After Brad Marchand became a holy terror for all of the Bruins’ opponents in they playoffs, Marchand helped put a lot more money in his pockets this summer. While his regular season was great scoring 21 goals and adding 20 assists, his 11 goals in the playoffs and ability to get under everyone’s skin make him a worthy guy to have on any team. Marchand’s agent says a deal isn’t imminent and you have to think the Bruins brass is busy figuring out if this kind of production is something Marchand can sustain over a long career or if he’s a one-year wonder.

Kyle Turris – Phoenix Coyotes

The Coyotes taking their time with Kyle Turris seems a bit silly. The Coyotes are barely above the salary floor and while Turris has shown flashes of brilliance, he’s struggled under Dave Tippett’s system for the most part. He’s been in the Coyotes organization for a bit and while he’s a guy that was drafted during the Wayne Gretzky regime in Arizona, his lofty talent hasn’t landed him a permanent role on the team. That, ideally, should change this season with the Coyotes having a dearth of offensive skill players. Now that Phoenix has Mikkel Boedker signed up for two more years, Turris’ deal should be coming soon. Then again, we were told it was coming soon back on August 6.

Josh Bailey – New York Islanders

Josh Bailey’s situation is a bit strange with the Islanders as well and is eerily similar to that of Turris’ in Phoenix. Bailey appeared primed to have a breakout season last year and did… For a little while. His production, instead, fluctuated and now he can’t get a deal done with the Isles. Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank points out that Isles owner Charles Wang has a curious protocol that says if an RFA isn’t signed by camp he’s not going to play for them that season and won’t get a deal. The Isles are going to be a good, tough team to play and Bailey is going to be a factor in that. They’ll get something done before camp.

Zach Bogosian – Winnipeg Jets

Zach Bogosian’s deal in Winnipeg is going to be a curious one to see. He’s a guy with a lot of potential still in the NHL but now he’s dealing with new owners, a new GM, and a new location to play hockey in. After being so solid two years ago, he struggled last season but since he’s a defenseman and still very young (he’s 21) he’s still developing his game. The Jets would be wise to keep him locked in for a few more seasons but they’re going to want to be smarter about the money. Bogosian hasn’t broken out big the way Doughty has nor has he made as much of an impact as Schenn, but his future should still be bright.

The Buzzer: Ovechkin is clutch

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Two games on Thursday

Bruins 3, Maple Leafs 1 (Bruins lead series 3-1)

The Boston Bruins continue to show that they can survive – if not thrive – with key players out of the lineup. They don’t get much more “key” than Patrice Bergeron, who was unable to suit up for Game 4. Even so, Tuukka Rask made some crucial saves and the Bruins connected on two 2-on-1 rushes to snag a 3-1 series lead. The Maple Leafs must grapple with a lot of uncomfortable questions as they see their season slip to the brink of elimination.

Capitals 4, Blue Jackets 1 (Series tied 2-2)

This game was all about patterns continuing, or breaking.

Continuing: The road team winning. The away team has won all four contests during this series, so this one returns to Washington with the two teams now tied up 2-2. It’s also another instance of Alex Ovechkin being sneaky-clutch, although many people will disagree because of team results. Washington’s starting to pull away in terms of puck possession during the series, and that continued on Thursday, too.

Breaking: For the first time in the series, the game ended in regulation. It wasn’t all that close, either, as the Caps won 4-1 and were safe even considering one empty-netter.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Three Stars

1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins – There will be talk of Bergeron, Auston Matthews not being able to score, Mike Babcock’s decisions, and other factors from Game 4. Rask helped to push those discussions to the forefront – rather than talk about which team has the edge if they ended up tied – as he was sharp on Thursday. Rask stopped 31 out of 32 shots, factoring heavily in Boston building a 3-1 series lead against Toronto.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals – After scoring two goals in Game 1, Kuznetsov had been held silent by the Bruins in Games 2 and 3. The Russian center made up for lost time in Game 4, scoring an empty-netter and two assists in that 4-1 win. Both of his assists were primary helpers, while he checked many other boxes by winning more than half of his draws (10 of 18), generating a +3 rating, and firing four shots on goal.

3. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – Ovechkin fired a shot on Sergei Bobrovsky, which created a rebound opportunity for T.J. Oshie during a Washington power play, a goal that ended up being the game-winner. Ovechkin also scored from the right face-off circle for an important insurance goal. Ovechkin fired five SOG and was a +1 in Game 4.

Factoids

There’s plenty of focus on Bergeron being out and Marchand scoring/agitating, but don’t forget about David Pastrnak‘s brilliance.

Again, Alex Ovechkin is more clutch than people realize. By scoring the 49th playoff goal of his career, Ovechkin tied Henri Richard for 60th in NHL history. You may remember Henri as a) Maurice Richard’s brother and b) the guy who won the Stanley Cup 11 times.

Friday’s games

Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Minnesota Wild at Winnipeg Jets, 7:30 p.m. ET, USA Network
Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators, 9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Capitals tie series with Blue Jackets

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In Game 4, the Washington Capitals showed their heart by not working overtime.

The Capitals dropped both of their home games to start their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, opening the floodgates for people to dust off their favorite, cruel jokes about this team. They’ll return home with those one-liners drying up, though.

After falling behind 2-0 in the series, the Capitals flipped the script to tie it up 2-2 after beating the Blue Jackets both times in Columbus. The symmetry wasn’t complete, however; while Washington continued the series trend of overtime nail-biters by winning beyond regulation in Game 3, they made no mistake about winning Game 4 by a score of 4-1.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

This wasn’t a case where the Bruins got the bounces and the finishes to win. The Capitals have shown signs of dominance even in defeats during this series, but they really smothered the Blue Jackets in Game 4.

The Capitals generated a 33-24 shots on goal edge, won about two-thirds of the faceoffs, and generally carried the play by every metric.

Tom Wilson making it 1-0 was valuable, and jokes about blown 2-0 leads aside, T.J. Oshie‘s eventual game-winner was important during the second period. Alex Ovechkin‘s goal from his opposite office widened the gap too much for an overmatched Blue Jackets team, even with Boone Jenner scoring and giving Columbus a brief boost.

With a goal and an assist in Game 4, this is yet another reminder that Ovechkin is a playoff performer, even if his team isn’t always there with him. After Washington went down 2-0 against Columbus, Ovechkin said “it’s going to be fun when we bounce back and tie the series,” and that’s exactly the situation Washington is in after … whatever the opposite of “holding serve” is.

Of course, people will quickly forget this triumph-within-the-series if the Capitals ultimately bow out of the first round, anyway.

The Caps must feel really good about their collective play as they aim to become the first team to win at home in this series in Game 5. Their power play has been productive, playing tight defense, getting scoring from Ovechkin/others, and Braden Holtby looks poised in regaining his usual spot in net. It’s the sort of stretch that changes the Capitals’ narrative from “here we go again” to “could this be the year we finally make a run?”

With this series now essentially becoming a best two-out-of-three clash, the disposition could easily go from sunny back to gloomy, but give this beleaguered group credit for keeping cool heads and making this anyone’s game once again.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins push Leafs to brink

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The Boston Bruins found themselves on the wrong end of plenty of stats in Game 4, but even with Patrice Bergeron on the shelf, they won 3-1 to push the Toronto Maple Leafs to the brink of elimination.

Boston took a 3-1 series lead with tonight’s win despite Toronto generating a 32-21 shots on goal advantage, hogging the puck, and holding home-ice advantage.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Goaltending was one big area of advantage for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask was forced to make some tough saves as Mitch Marner and other Leafs players created plenty of chances. One cannot help but wonder if fatigue is a bit of a factor for workhorse Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, meanwhile, as he’d likely love to have this Torey Krug goal back:

That early 1-0 lead provided a cushion for the Bruins to adjust to life without Bergeron (again), although Tomas Plekanec did tie things up. Ultimately, the Bruins were able to cash in on two 2-on-1 rushes, with Brad Marchand burying a tremendous setup by David Pastrnak for the game-winner and Jake DeBrusk finding the net after a great feed by David Krejci (who has absorbed some criticism for his play lately).

The two goals were remarkably similar in exhibiting the Bruins’ smarts and finish, along with the Maple Leafs lacking in a few areas on defense, as Nikita Zaitsev and Roman Polak were exposed (among others). Here’s that Marchang GWG:

Game 5 shifts back to Boston on Saturday. You can watch that game on CNBC, with puck drop slated for 8 p.m. ET.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins without Bergeron vs. Leafs in Game 4

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The Boston Bruins rolled through much of the regular season despite injuries, even to key players like Patrice Bergeron. The fact that they’re unfortunately experienced playing without Bergeron is probably the only silver lining regarding his late scratch heading into Game 4.

The Bruins announced that Bergeron is day-to-day with what they’re deeming an upper-body injury, so Riley Nash slips into Bergeron’s spot between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

This stands as an obvious opportunity for Auston Matthews to roam more freely against the Bruins and a chance for the Maple Leafs to tie this series in front of their home fans.

NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty makes a good point that Bergeron missing Game 4 is especially troubling since the Bruins played Game 3 on Monday, gaining an extra off day between contests.

Bergeron generated five assists through the first three games of this series, including four helpers in Game 2. He was limited to 64 regular-season games in 2017-18, falling just short of a point-per-game with 63. Naturally, his all-around game goes beyond goals and assists, so this hurts badly for the Bruins, whether they had some experience playing without him or not.

As of this writing, the two teams are tied up 1-1. Click here for the livestream link.

This news comes not that long after news surfaced that Bergeron’s once again been named a finalist for the Selke.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.