NHL

Restricted NHL Free Agents Who Aren't Going Anywhere in the 2016 Offseason

Allan MitchellFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2016

Restricted NHL Free Agents Who Aren't Going Anywhere in the 2016 Offseason

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The NHL's free-agent season in the summer of 2016 looks like a rich crop. However, chances are many of those who are restricted and unrestricted will sign before the free-agent window opens.

    For some teams, their restricted free agents have blossomed during entry-level deals, and major paydays are coming—see the Calgary Flames and their impact players Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. In other cases, teams will make a trade during this window to achieve cost certainty—among other things—as was the case in the Seth Jones trade January 6. The Jones trade story is covered by Robby Stanley of NHL.com.

    Here are eight restricted free agents who will stay put and perhaps surprise with the size and term of their new deals.

Calgary Flames: Johnny Gaudreau

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    What Is His Current Salary? Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames has a base salary of $925,000. Bonus dollars are available that could stretch his cap number close to $2 million. 

    How Important Is He to His Team? During his entry-level deal, Gaudreau exploded as an offensive player and is now one of the most valuable young forwards (22) in the game.

    Future Roster Impact: The Flames have a tremendous young talent in Gaudreau, but he is not the only one who needs a contract. Expect Calgary to cut costs to its defense—four of its defensemen own a cap hit of $4 million or more—via trade or buyout.

Calgary Flames: Sean Monahan

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    What Is His Current Salary? Sean Monahan of the Calgary Flames is one of the real value contracts in the NHL. He is set to earn just $925,000 base salary, with a modest bonus available.

    How Important Is He to His Team? Monahan is emerging as an impact talent, with a 30-goal season already on the books by age 21. Although he is not on pace to repeat that total, there is little doubt about his value to the Flames. 

    Future Roster Impact: Calgary has some big contracts to give out this summer, with Monahan and Gaudreau leading the way. The Flames could cut costs is in net, where they spend a substantial amount on Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller.

Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    What Is His Current Salary? Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche has a base salary of $925,000 with substantial bonus opportunities that can stretch his total past $3.75 million.

    How Important Is He to His Team? MacKinnon is a former No. 1 overall pick and a franchise player. He is already a major piece of the future, along with Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene, and that influence will grow in the coming years. 

    Future Roster Impact: The Avalanche must improve their defense soon, but their foundation players like MacKinnon aren't going anywhere. Expect Colorado to run leaner in their depth positions and possibly look for a trade to offload Brad Stuart's contract come summer. The team also eased cap pressure in executing the Ryan O'Reilly trade at the 2015 draft.

Detroit Red Wings: Danny DeKeyser

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    What Is His Current Salary? Danny DeKeyser of the Detroit Red Wings has a cap hit of just over $2 million this season.

    How Important Is He to His Team? DeKeyser has grown quickly into a significant role with the Red Wings. This season he ranks No. 2 in time on ice among Detroit's rearguards, leads defenders in takeaways and is among the team's best shot-blockers.

    Future Roster Impact: Detroit has a long history of quality on defense, and a big part of it is consistency. DeKeyser lacks the flash of other young defensemen, but he is emerging as a reliable player who can successfully play the modern game. We may see a player like Kyle Quincey—unrestricted this summer—exit in order to make room for a lucrative, long-term deal for DeKeyser.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Olli Maatta

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    What Is His Current Salary? Olli Maatta of the Pittsburgh Penguins has a cap hit of just under $900,000 on his current deal. 

    How Important Is He to His Team? Maatta is a valuable two-way defender for the Penguins, and when healthy he has a substantial role. His offense is the best on the team at even strength, and he plays in all three disciplines.

    Future Roster Impact: He has a significant injury history, but when healthy he gives the team a quality two-way player. The Penguins are top-heavy in terms of contracts and may have to let free agent David Perron walk in an effort to sign Maatta and others.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Nazem Kadri

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    What Is His Current Salary? Nazem Kadri of the Toronto Maple Leafs is earning $4.1 million this season.

    How Important Is He to His Team? Kadri is an impressive possession forward with offensive ability, and the previous regime in Toronto may have been slow to realize it. This season, he is winning most shifts with wingers Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk.

    Future Roster Impact: Mike Babcock likes to employ forwards who contribute to possession, believing he can outscore opponents with opportunities created on the forecheck and on turnovers. Kadri is ideally suited to that role, and he is likely to be an important player for the Leafs over the next several years. Toronto has many moves it can make to clear cap room, and Kadri should be a priority.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Morgan Rielly

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    What Is His Current Salary? Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs has an $833,000 salary with bonuses that can get him over $1.7 million. 

    How Important Is He to His Team? He is a fine young player (21) who can push offense and is learning the defensive aspects of the game. Rielly plays more than 22 minutes per game, which makes him one of the busiest and most valuable young defensemen in the league

    Future Roster Impact: Rielly brings offense, and players who can deliver in that area get paid. Toronto has loads of cap space and many free agents coming off the books, so a long-term contract is likely. The Maple Leafs are making smart decisions these days, so expect a value contract with this player. 

Winnipeg Jets: Mark Scheifele

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    What Is His Current Salary? Mark Scheifele of the Winnipeg Jets will earn $833,000 this season, with bonuses that could mean a cap hit of just over $1.5 million. 

    How Important Is He to His Team? Scheifele is a solid center for the Jets and is used in a variety of ways. He ranks second on the team in ice time per game and has helped offensively this season.

    Future Roster Impact: The Jets run their team in a frugal fashion, so internal cap numbers are key to understanding their future moves. Since we don't know that number, a good bet would be for the team to sign Scheifele to a bridge deal and allow one of its unrestricted free agents to walk. Winnipeg builds through the draft, and Scheifele is a good recent example of the team's success in this area. 

     

    Note: All advanced stats reference Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.

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