The Anaheim Ducks were able to lock up Sami Vatanen on Saturday afternoon, but they still have one key blueliner to strike a deal with this off-season.
Hampus Lindholm, who’s been a key piece on the Ducks’ defense, will become a restricted free agent on July 1st. Vatanen had more points, but Lindholm is three years younger, scored one more goal and averaged 42 seconds more per game in the regular season.
If the Ducks want to lock up Lindholm to a long-term deal, it will likely take more than the $19.5 million they used to sign Vatanen.
But what happens if they can’t come to terms on a long-term deal?
Well, the OC Register’s Eric Stephens has a theory:
Lindholm, 22, does not have arbitration rights but the Ducks have long seen him as a potential top-pairing star on their blue line and perhaps a future cornerstone piece of the franchise.
If the two sides can’t come to terms on a deal spanning five years and beyond, Murray could look toward trying to get Lindholm re-signed to a more affordable two-year bridge extension and put the defenseman in line for a massive free-agent deal in the summer of 2018.
Bridge deals are seen as “safe” for the team, but they come with a certain amount of risk.
For the Montreal Canadiens, a 2012 bridge deal with P.K. Subban backfired a few years after he signed it. The Canadiens signed Subban to a two-year, $5.6 million deal after he held out of training camp and the first few games of the regular season. Subban won the Norris Trophy in 2012-13 and had another fantastic year the following season. He cashed in to the tune of nine years, $72 million on his following contract. Had the Canadiens locked him up to a long-term deal instead of a bridge deal, he’d currently be on a much more affordable contract.
Another key RFA for the Ducks is Rickard Rakell. The 23-year-old had a career-high 20 goals and 43 points in 2015-16. Both he and Lindholm will set the Ducks back a pretty penny, but GM Bob Murray knows these deals could take a while to figure out.
“They’re at a point where we give them qualifying offers,” Murray told The OC Register. “That is not a time-sensitive issue. That could take well into August and September before that gets done. We’ll take our time. Obviously they’re very important to the organization and we hope to get them signed and keep them for long term.”