Restricted free agents coming off entry-level contracts in 2019
Auston Matthews will be wanting to hear how much money he will be getting. | (Photo:  Kamil Krzaczynski/AP)

Restricted free agents coming off entry-level contracts in 2019

An impressive list of RFA's will be ending their entry-level contracts at the end of the 2018/19 season. Will they be signed or dealt?

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William Grigsby

Some good young players will have their entry-level contracts end soon. The list is beyond impressive and things could get very interesting when teams need to decide to sign them while staying under the salary cap even with its expected rise to about $83 million.

Mikko Rantanen 

 

The Colorado Avalanche winger is having a stellar season with 19 goals, 46 assists in 42 games. He is second in the NHL in scoring and has contributed eight power-play goals while shooting at an incredible 17.8 percent ratio.

To say he is a valuable asset that the Av's want to retain goes without saying. The Colorado team will have about $32 million of cap space to try and convince Rantanen to stay.

Can he expect to gather between $6.75 to $8.5 million for maybe six years?

Perhaps.

But don't forget that Nate MacKinnon opted for a seven-year contract worth $6.3 million. Do they pay Rantanen more than MacKinnon?

We'll soon find out.

Mitch Marner

 

The talented right wing has emerged as a steady scorer for the Toronto Maple Leafs and has 15 goals, 40 assists in 41 games placing him sixth in scoring in the league.

The dilemma with Marner is that Auston Matthews is also set to get a new contract when his ELC ends. The team already signed star forward William Nylander to a six-year $45 million contract recently after a lengthy hold out.

Still, the Maple Leafs look to have $23 million in cap space to sign Marner to a new contract. 

Some have mentioned that signing both Marner and Matthews may not be feasible especially after signing Nylander, but their GM Kyle Dubas remains steadfast that he can sign both star forwards

Personally, I feel that will take some magical intervention since other free agents' contracts will need to be addressed as well.

Brayden Point

 

The Tampa Bay Lightning center has been playing very well this season with 24 goals, 30 assists in 42 games placing him right behind Marner in the seventh position in scoring. 

The problem the Lightning will have to figure out is how to pay him since their projected salary cap will only be $6.3 million. The team is really in a pickle with contracts they've handed out to forwards like Nikita Kucherov ($9.5M), Steven Stamkos ($8.5M), Ryan Callahan ($5.8M), and Ondrej Palat ($5.3M).

That leaves little space to sign Point, which may mean he or some other players may be dealt to make some cap space available.

Matthew Tkachuk

 

Another talented forward with an edge is up to be rewarded with a new contract for the Calgary Flames.

Or is he?

The Flames aren't in a much better situation financially than the Lightning when it comes to salary cap management. They will only have $11.7 million available to try to convince Tkachuk to stay in Calgary. 

The gritty forward has not only put points on the scoreboard with 19 goals, 30 assists in 43 games this season, he has also averaged almost a minute of penalties a game. 

He has no limitations to his physical game and at times may need to exhibit more restraint... but hey, his last name is Tkachuk after all.

If he is available there will be many teams interested in signing him. When the Arizona Coyotes missed out on drafting his brother Brady Tkachuk, they may still have interest in getting Matthew in a Coyotes' jersey. 

Sebastian Aho

 

The Carolina Hurricanes have a good prospect in Sebastian Aho, and it goes without saying that they'd like to keep him. His statistics speak for themselves. He has tallied 16 goals, 27 assists in 40 games this season.

The Hurricanes should have no difficulty signing him as they will have a whopping $34 million in salary cap space, the most in the league. The question becomes what will they give him? 

If the 'Canes are going to sign Aho now, they have two options, a bridge deal or long-term extension. A three-year $15 million deal sounds about right for a player of his caliber. 

Auston Matthews

 

 

What can be said about a player like Auston Matthews which hasn't already been said? He and Marner BOTH need to signed by the Maple Leafs and with the incredible talent Matthews possesses... the sooner the better.

There have already been silly rumors of an offer sheet being presented to the Arizona-born forward, which is not what's going to happen. 

With Matthews missing 14 games due to injury, he is sixth in the NHL with a points-per-game average of 1.44. 

The magical question still remains as to how the Maple Leafs will manage to keep both Matthews and Marner along with others they need to sign. A deal could happen (nah...), but at this point, both players are going to get some big bucks to re-sign with the Leafs.

Are we looking at John Tavares type money in the range of $11 million? Not sure, but it will be in the same zip code... perhaps closer to $8-9 million.

Hey... he's worth it!

Timo Meier

 

The San Jose Sharks will have $24 million to play with and signing Meier shouldn't be rocket science for them. 

He has contributed 18 goals, 19 assists in 40 games and could see a contract in the vicinity of Aho's three-year $15 million projection. 

With both Joe Thornton (39) and Joe Pavelski (34) becoming unrestricted free agents, and considering their ages a player with youth (22) like Meier looks to be a no-brainer to do what is necessary to keep him in a Sharks' jersey.

It may be time for Thornton to hang up his skates which would leave some breathing room to get Meier signed. 

Patrik Laine

 

 

Of all the listed RFA's this player may come away with the largest bundle of cash. He is a phenomenal talent whom the Winnipeg Jets MUST re-sign.

He has almost been the catalyst for his team.

He has tallied 104 goals in his two-plus seasons with the Jets and may appear to be slowing down. He has 24 goals, seven assists this season and he has slipped off a bit. He is 83rd in scoring in the league, but still has 11 power play goals with a 17.1 percent shooting ratio.

He can put the puck in the net, and it would be foolish to not sign him to at least a three-year contract worth $ 6-7 million a year. Blake Wheeler just signed a five-year $41.25 million contract which will kick in next season. 

The Jets will have $23.9 million in cap space, but the problem may well be that Laine will want more to remain in Winnipeg.

Brock Boeser

 

Brock Boeser seemed to take most NHL observers by surprise... including yours truly. He has really redefined the post-Sedin twins' team with his offensive talents.

He has missed 13 games due to injuries this season but still has a very respectable 14 goals, 14 assists in 32 games played. Along with rookie sensation Elias Pettersson (who is now injured) chipping in 22 goals, 20 assists in 38 games the Sedin twins seem to not be missed much.

It's quite obvious that both Boeser and Pettersson are the future of this Vancouver Canucks' team, and keeping Boeser around should be a top priority for them. 

He should expect to add between $6.76 to $8.35 million to his bank account based on comparable players' contracts in the league.

Final analysis

Considering that there are only 22 players in the NHL earning $8 million or more, this group may add to that total... and deservedly so.

The other factor remains that what William Nylander did with his holdout may create a trend where excellent young players know they are worth more and will stand their ground (or should it be ice...) to get it. 

Could there be some of these above-listed players traded?

Perhaps.

But all of the teams realize when they have a future superstar and will think long and hard about whether to bite the bullet and pay them or run the real risk of losing them.

What's your take on what all these RFA's and their worth? Will any of them be traded or hold out for more money? Let us know in the comments section below.

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