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.

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

3 Comments

As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

Getty
Leave a comment

For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau generated his 200th point (and 201st) in Calgary’s win, while Alex Steen generated four assists. (Vladimir Tarasenko also enjoyed a three-point night.)

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Brian Gionta scored in his 1,000th game as Buffalo won, by the way.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

Getty
4 Comments

For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

5 Comments

Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?