One more down, four to go.
Arbitration cases, we mean.
The Nashville Predators announced today that they’d signed restricted free agent Colin Wilson to a four-year, $15.75 million contract. Wilson had been scheduled to go to arbitration tomorrow.
The Wilson signing, combined with today’s Derek Stepan signing, leaves four RFAs still scheduled to make their cases in front of an arbitrator:
— Washington’s Marcus Johansson, hearing scheduled for Wednesday
— Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman, Thursday
— Minnesota’s Erik Haula, Friday
— Toronto’s Jonathan Bernier, Friday
Wilson, 25, had 20 goals and 22 assists last season for the Preds.
Related: Preds sign ‘integral’ Smith to five-year, $21.25M extension
Marcus Johansson wants $4.75 million. The Washington Capitals are requesting a little less, $3 million.
That’s according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, as Johansson, a restricted free agent, is preparing to have his arbitration hearing on Wednesday.
So far, the two sides have not been able to agree on a new deal. However, these negotiations often go right down to the wire, as was the case with goalie Braden Holtby.
Johansson, a 24-year-old forward, had 20 goals and 47 points, both career highs, last season.
Restricted free agent Derek Stepan might consume all of the New York Rangers’ remaining cap space.
Ahead of Monday’s arbitration hearing, the 25-year-old forward put in a request for a $7.25 million contract while the Rangers are countering at $5.2 million, per Elliotte Friedman.
While that might sound like a big gap, it’s worth remembering that both have likely chosen their positions strategically, leaving potential room for a compromise. We saw an example of that recently when Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby filed an $8 million request versus Washington’s position at $5.1 million. They ended up agreeing to a five-year, $30.5 million deal. In other words, he’ll come with a $6.1 million annual cap hit.
The Rangers have reportedly already shown a willingness to go above their arbitrator filed price on a long-term deal as they are interested in a six-year contract worth $6.5-6.75 million annually, according to the New York Post. Stepan has countered at $7.25-7.5 million annually for at least seven years.
At the same time, that gap does have major significance to the New York Rangers as they currently have roughly $6.9 million in cap space, per General Fanager. So if the two sides settle close to Stepan’s demands then the Rangers will have essentially no wiggle room going into the season and might even need to make another move to get in a more comfortable cap position.
Stepan had 16 goals and 55 points in 68 contests in 2014-15. He’s never recorded more than 57 points in a single season, although he did have 18 goals and 26 assists in the 48-game 2013 campaign.
The Capitals were able to come to terms with goaltender Braden Holtby before an arbitrator had to rule on his value, but will Washington be able to pull that off again with its final restricted free agent, Marcus Johansson?
“I think they’re status quo from last time,” Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said of the Johansson contract negotiations, per NHL.com.
Johansson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. He’ll presumably be seeking a decent raise from his old two-year, $4 million contract after recording 20 goals and 47 points last season.
MacLellan is willing to go through the arbitration process if necessary, but of course his hope is to avoid that.
The good news is that Washington has some cap flexibility after inking Holtby to a five-year, $30.5 million contract. If Holtby had been awarded $8 million for the 2015-16 campaign as he was asking an arbitrator for, then signing Johansson while staying under the ceiling might have been a balancing act. As it is, Washington has about $5 million in space.
Even if it could still be a relative bargain for the Washington Capitals, it’s not lost on Braden Holtby that his five-year, $30.5 million contract puts him in select company among goalies.
Holtby provided a message during Friday’s conference call: after working to earn a raise from $1.85 million to $6.1 million per year, now he must show that he’s worth that new deal.
As the seventh-highest paid netminder in the NHL, some would expect “elite” work. Interestingly, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan wasn’t ready to put him in that category just yet.
“I don’t know if I would call him elite,” MacLellan said. “He’s above average, that’s for sure.”
Perhaps the Caps GM is just guilty of using some odd semantics, though. He also told reporters that he believes that Holtby has the potential to win championships for Washington and be a “top-two or top-five” goalie.
“I think he’s just touching the surface of what he could become,” MacLellan said, according to the Canadian Press. “I don’t know what the ceiling is on him.”
OK, so obviously MacLellan wasn’t burying the 25-year-old, but it was still a little weird to hear him hesitate to throw around the word elite.
Maybe he just doesn’t want Holtby’s ego to inflate along with his bank account?