NHL training camps kick off next week and not every player who should be there, will be there.
Thanks to restricted free agency, some key players have yet to sign new deals, and for some of them, negotiations aren't going so hot. From cities like Toronto, Ottawa and New York City, there are young guys that need to get signed, and some of them have been waiting a long time.
In a salary cap world, restricted free agents don’t get much say in how they get a deal done, but they can always hold out til they get the right one or until they’re signed to an offer sheet. Just ask Ryan O’Reilly.
How likely are the eight remaining big name RFAs to hold out? We’ll check them out on a case-by-case basis.
Cody Hodgson - Buffalo Sabres
Cody Hodgson has always been a player with tremendous upside. Last season, he showed he’s been worth the investment for Buffalo, as he finished second on the team in points, with Thomas Vanek taking first.
Those two teamed up to provide the Sabres with the bulk of their offense.
Now he’s coming off of his entry-level deal and looking to earn more than the $1.7 million he netted the past three years. After getting 34 points last season in just 48 games, his second-highest career point total, he’s due for a raise.
Being the Sabres’ No. 1 center helps his case, and he tells John Vogl of The Buffalo News he’s looking to get something done to stay there.
Holdout Threat: Not very likely
Derek Stepan - New York Rangers
Derek Stepan is in a very curious position.
Last season, he proved to be the Rangers’ top center, and his work alongside Rick Nash helped establish him as a rising star. Now he’s a restricted free agent, and the Rangers are running short of salary cap space.
They’re also paying Brad Richards No. 1 center money to be their No. 2 or 3 pivot.
See how there’s a problem here?
TSN’s Bob McKenzie says Stepan wants a long-term deal (six years, $4.7 million per), but the team wants a P.K. Subban-like bridge deal. In case you forgot, it took Subban a few games into the regular season last year before he re-joined Montreal.
If Stepan does the same thing Subban did, he could give Richards the opportunity he needs to win his job back.
Holdout Threat: Moderate
Jared Cowen - Ottawa Senators
Jared Cowen wasn’t seen very much last season with the Ottawa Senators thanks to offseason surgery. Over his three seasons in the NHL, he’s played just one full year and as impressive as it was, it hasn’t given him much of a leg to stand on in negotiations.
What’s odd is the Senators have made a generous offer. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reported the team offered him an eight-year, $28 million deal that he’s since turned down.
Assistant general manager Tim Murray said they’re waiting to hear from Cowen’s camp about the four offers they’ve presented to him as Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen shared.
If a deal can’t get worked out here, it would be a shame. After all, if the team is offering eight seasons at just under $4 million a year after just 90 games of work, that’s a heck of a commitment. If Cowen wants fewer years to be able to cash in for more later, there’s middle ground to be had.
Holdout Threat: Minimal
Mikkel Boedker - Phoenix Coyotes
Mikkel Boedker provides an interesting case. He’s an offensive player who’s showed glimpses of how good he can be in coach Dave Tippett’s defense-minded system.
Last season he had just 26 points, but that nearly equaled his career-high of 28 set in his rookie season. Doing that in just 48 games last season showed he should be ready to emerge as a top producer for the Coyotes.
Of course, that’s part of the fun of negotiating.
His career numbers aren’t particularly dazzling (95 points in 256 games), but he finally saw steady minutes last season and it showed. The Coyotes think they’ll have him in by the start of camp, as Fox Sports' Craig Morgan reported, but general manager Don Maloney told the Coyotes website he is prepared in case he’s not there.
For the Coyotes’ sake, let’s hope this doesn’t turn out to be another Kyle Turris situation.
Holdout Threat: Low
Alex Pietrangelo - St. Louis Blues
Of all the RFAs looking to get a deal done, Alex Pietrangelo’s lack of a new long-term deal is the most baffling.
The player wants to stay in St. Louis, as Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The team wants to keep him for a long time. The Blues even have a new owner who has stabilized their finances, something proved by the other RFA signings and extensions they've handed out this summer.
So what gives?
Arguably the best young defenseman in the league—a Norris finalist two seasons ago—wants to keep playing for the Blues through his prime years. They have no salary cap problems, and Pietrangelo has comparable guys in Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith already getting paid well.
They’ll get it done, but the amount of time it’s taking is almost annoying.
Holdout Threat: Minimal
Cody Franson - Toronto Maple Leafs
Cody Franson and teammate Nazem Kadri have one thing in common with their situations with the Leafs: There’s not much money left to be spent, and it may cause them to miss the start of training camp, as Chris Johnston of Sportsnet shared.
Franson was one of the top point-producing defenseman last season and equaled a career-high in points with 29. The difference being he got that many points in 35 fewer games than it took him to do that three years ago.
Toronto needs his presence on the blue line, especially on the power play.
Thirteen of his 29 points came on the man-advantage. If Franson isn’t signed, it’ll all fall on Jake Gardiner’s shoulders to be the offensive threat, and coach Randy Carlyle wasn’t very trusting of him last season. If the Leafs can find a way to free up the cash, Franson’s return should be a no-brainer.
That’s the trick, however.
Holdout Threat: Low
Nazem Kadri - Toronto Maple Leafs
Nazem Kadri’s situation seems to be a bit different.
There are rumors about what he wants from Toronto ranging from $6 million a year as Fan 590's David Alter reported to something more like what John Tavares got from the Islanders as TSN's Bob McKenzie shared.
While he and Tavares were both picked in the first-round of the 2009 draft, the comparisons end there.
Kadri finally got his best shot to show what he could do last season, and he took advantage of it. While he had his minutes kept in check (averaging 16:03 during the season), he had 44 points in 48 games.
He saw his minutes reduced further in the postseason and still had four points in seven games.
The problem here is the bulk of his resume is from last season. The Leafs want to sign him to a Subban-like bridge deal, and the player wants to get paid. It looks uncomfortable from the outside looking in.
If a team had the cap space to force Toronto's hand, they could sign him to an offer sheet and make life really miserable for the Leafs. Until the money issue gets settled, he's going to be sitting out for a while.
Holdout Threat: High
Marcus Johansson - Washington Capitals
This is another odd one.
Marcus Johansson went from being a possible solution as their second-line center to finding a home on the left wing of Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin thanks to Ovi’s move to the right wing.
What’s odd is he’s seen his production level off.
While you’d expect to see his numbers take a big bounce playing with two all-world players, they really didn’t. He had just 22 points last season, although he seems to be a 40-50 point player.
Johansson and the Capitals are still far apart in negotiations as CSNWashington.com's Chuck Gormley reports. After coming off his entry-level deal that paid him $900,000 a year, he’s due for a raise but nothing too dramatic. At least you’d think.
There’s no reason for there to be a fight over this and things should get settled before camp opens on the 12th.
Holdout Threat: Low