restricted free agents

Laine makes interesting comments about future with Jets

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Not long after Kyle Connor probably made Winnipeg Jets fans feel a little less anxious about lingering RFA impasses among two big stars, Patrik Laine had an interview with Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston that could make that discomfort rise to a boil.

At least, depending upon how much you read into things. Overall, I’d say: maybe don’t, although as Laine said, “anything could happen.”

You can see a chunk of the interview in the video above, and note that Laine seems pretty relaxed about the whole thing … but he also didn’t exactly guarantee that he’ll stick with Winnipeg.

“Well you never know. It’s still business, you’ve got to be prepared for anything,” Laine told Johnston on Friday. “But yeah, you never know where you’re going to play next year so I’m just prepared for anything.”

Johnston’s full report is worth reading beyond the video, as it includes additional details. Some are promising (Laine is working on his explosiveness, and aware of criticisms of his play off-the-puck) and unsettling (Laine apparently said contracts talks have been “non-existent”).

Again, it’s probably wise for Winnipeg fans not to get too stressed. Most notably, RFA’s are restricted free agents for a reason: teams exhibit a lot of power over their negotiating options, restricting Laine’s ability to play anywhere else. In the past, that often allowed teams to get huge bargains for second year contracts; Laine’s current teammate Mark Scheifele only carrying a $6.125M cap hit through 2023-24 is a prime example of the savings teams can soak up.

This summer could serve as a turning points where high-profile RFAs see the way NBA players are flexing their negotiating muscles, and getting a little more say in their own paths, or at least not rolling over as easily when it comes to trying to get the maximum dollars they can in this context.

Laine, of course, is far from the only RFA in this situation, and that’s the rub: players are waiting for the first shoe to drop. The Athletic’s Craig Custance provided a fascinating breakdown of the standstill for forwards like Laine as well as defensemen like Charlie McAvoy (sub required), with an anonymous agent making it sound like this is almost a game of chicken: no one wants to blink first, and possibly miss out on more money.

“There is a little of, ‘I don’t want to go first,’” The agent told Custance. “If you’re Rantanen, you’re waiting for Marner. If you’re Marner, you’re waiting for Rantanen. … And you can couple that with, there’s not a ton of urgency right now.”

In Custance’s report, he notes that the Colorado Avalanche haven’t brought offers to Mikko Rantanen, who has discussed his situation with Laine, according to Johnston.

It begs the question: could it be that maybe Laine is nudging the Jets to try to break the ice? Is this interview just a matter of timing, and Laine is merely playing it cool (or even playing “hard to get”?).

Yes, teams are waiting for that new benchmark comparable to be set, possibly in Mitch Marner‘s prominent proceedings with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

But if you’re the Jets, maybe you want to at least dip your toes in the water and see if Laine actually wants to just get something done? Winnipeg is particularly justified in wanting to try to skip in line as, again, the Jets must settle things with Laine and Connor. Earlier this week, Connor went as far as to say that he’d prefer a long-term deal with the Jets, yet would also consider something short-term.

If things thawed out with Connor, maybe they could with Laine as well?

Either way, it’s tough to imagine this ending in any way other than the Jets signing both Connor and Laine. The bigger questions likely revolve around key resolutions: how much, and for how long?

Of course, while it’s difficult to imagine Laine not eventually signing with the Jets, it’s also foolish to say that this will necessarily be easy for Winnipeg. Perhaps that’s the biggest takeaway from what may ultimately be a harmless — if a bit unsettling — interview.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Done deal: Cowen signs four-year, $12.4 million extension with Sens

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The Ottawa Senators and Jared Cowen have managed to find common ground after all.

The Ottawa Senators announced they’ve come to terms with their restricted free agent defenseman on a four-year deal. As Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun initially reported, the deal is worth $12.4 million over the term and good for a $3.1 million cap hit.

Cowen played in just a handful of games last season thanks to offseason surgery, but two seasons ago he had a major breakout with the Senators playing in all 82 games of the 2011-2012 season.

In the seven games he played in last year, he had one goal and averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per game. At 22 years old he’s got a lot of time ahead of him.

Now that Cowen is locked up, that leaves just two more major restricted free agents left to be signed.

New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson need to sign deals and both players’ teams have cap issues. Cowen’s new deal may not do much to help Franson get what he’s seeking from the Leafs.

McKenzie: No chance Subban, Del Zotto, Kane, and O’Reilly get deals done before lockout

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If you’re waiting for your favorite restricted free agent to sign a new deal ahead of the lockout, you might be left disappointed.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports it’s highly unlikely any of Montreal’s P.K. Subban, New York’s Michael Del Zotto, Winnipeg’s Evander Kane, or Colorado’s Ryan O’Reilly will sign new contracts before the CBA expires at 11:59 p.m. ET tonight. McKenzie says there’s “no chance” Subban or Del Zotto will get something done and Kane is equally unlikely.

Adrian Dater of The Denver Post reports the Avalanche will wait until a new CBA is completed before locking up O’Reilly. His negotiations with the Avs have been particularly gruff as some believed his unwillingness to sign right away cost him a shot at being the team captain. Instead, 19 year-old Gabriel Landeskog was given the “C.”

Considering it’s taken this long for these RFA’s to get signed it’s no surprise that teams are waiting for a new CBA to be finished before committing. It’s not as if the players will be able to sign offer sheets during a lockout.

Devils give qualifying offer to Mark Fayne, other RFAs may not be so lucky

According to Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has made a qualifying offer to potential restricted free agent defenseman Mark Fayne. That means New Jersey wants to keep Fayne in the fold and after how he performed through the playoffs helping to shut down some of the East’s top scorers, he’s earned that much.

Gulitti also reports that Fayne may be one of the few potential Devils RFAs to receive qualifying offers. Lamoriello didn’t say whether forwards Vladimir Zharkov and Kory Nagy, defenseman Matt Corrente, and goalie Timo Pielmeier might receive the same treatment.

Fayne is the lone one of the bunch to spend all season in New Jersey helping balance out the blue line. Fayne finished the regular season with four goals and 13 assists and added another three assists in the postseason helping the Devils reach the Stanley Cup finals.

Jamie Benn should be ready for All-Star Game

The Dallas Stars won’t benefit from Jamie Benn’s presence on Tuesday, but ESPN Dallas’ Mark Stepneski reports that he should be able to take part in the 2012 NHL All-Star Game.

It looks like Benn will miss at least five games overall (including tomorrow’s match against the red-hot Anaheim Ducks) after undergoing an appendectomy.

Some might argue that Benn broke out in an abbreviated 2010-11 campaign, but Brad Richards’ departure has allowed him to shine in a heightened role. He earned the All-Star nod based on 42 points in 43 games, but that’s a good news/bad news proposition for the Dallas Stars since his entry-level deal expires after this season.

Stepneski reports that Benn and the Stars have discussed a new contract briefly but will wait until the end of this season to hash out his second contract. If the second half of his 2011-12 is anything like the first one, Benn’s next deal won’t be cheap.