NHL Free Agents 2011: Power Ranking the Top 20 Restricted Free Agents
With July 1 coming up, free agency is just around the corner for many NHL players. However, there are both restricted and unrestricted free agents that are available to all 30 NHL teams.
Unrestricted free agents come on the open market and are free to sign with any team of their choosing, whether they want to play for a specific team, maximize their compensation or whatever their criteria might be based on.
Restricted free agents, however, do not have it quite that simple, as their current teams are able to match any contract offer any other team might throw their way. While in past years most GMs have frowned upon the practice, there occasionally has been a team willing to fight through the backlash it might cause to try and "steal" an asset away from an opposing team.
Recent examples of this include San Jose's Niklas Hjalmarsson being signed to a four-year $14 million offer sheet by the San Jose Sharks, only to have it matched by his original team (Chicago). In fact, seven of the last eight players who have signed offer sheets have been retained by their original team, the lone exception being Dustin Penner, who signed a five-year $21.5 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers on July 26, 2007.
GM Kevin Lowe had been looking to make a splash and first set his sights on Tomas Vanek, who was signed to a seven-year $50 million contract, only to be matched by Buffalo a few weeks earlier. Lowe ended up overpaying for Penner, who ended up not living up to his contract and was dealt at last year's trade deadline to the Los Angeles Kings.
That's the thing with restricted free agency: Even if by some chance the offer isn't matched, you still have to pay the compensation and the player has to pan out. Beyond that, there is compensation that is given to the original team if they choose not to match the contract. The current compensation rules are as follows:
- $1,034,249 or below: No compensation
- $1,034,250-$1,567,043: A third-round draft pick.
- $1,567,044-$3,134,088: A second-round draft pick.
- $3,134,089-$4,701,131: A first and third-round draft pick.
- $4,701,132-$6,268,175: A first, second and third-round draft pick.
- $6,268,176-$7,835,219: Two firsts, a second and a third-round draft pick.
- Over $7,835,219: Four first-round draft picks.
Some of the names would easily be worth the cost of two firsts, a second and a third-round pick, so GMs better be careful they do not allow some of these players to hit the open market, even the restricted free-agent market.
I hope you enjoy the list...
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20. Michael Frolik
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Frolik was traded earlier this season from the Florida Panthers to the Chicago Blackhawks, and the trade seemed to ignite a spark under Frolik, especially in the postseason, when he had five points in seven games against the Canucks, including a memorable penalty-shot goal in Game 6 of the first round.
Frolik is effective at both ends of the ice and produced 251 shots on goal in his 80 regular-season games for the Panthers and Blackhawks, adding 11 goals and 27 assists and a plus-two rating. Coming off a season with a cap hit of $1.275 million, you can see Frolik possibly getting a deal in the $2 million range.
I think Frolik, coming off the type of postseason performance he had, could potentially give him a false sense of his value. Yes, he had a great playoff series, but he needs to be effective like that over the course of an entire season, similar to his two previous years as a Panther, when he netted 43 goals combined.
Because of his drop in production this past year, I think Frolik may best be suited for a one-year deal to try and potentially earn a big payday if he produces the 25-30 goals this upcoming season he is capable of.
Michael Frolik is an effective player for the Chicago Blackhawks and could obtain an offer sheet from an opposing team if he makes it to restricted free agency on July 1. He comes in at No. 20 on my list of the top restricted free agents for 2011.
19. Brad Marchand
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Brad Marchand is a player that certainly has added a lot of value with his playoff performance this year. Thus far, through Game 4 of the Finals, he has scored eight goals and added seven assists and a plus-eight rating in 22 games, including his impressive shorthanded goal in Game 3 versus Vancouver (also pictured above).
Marchand has been a force on both ends and has stepped up his physical presence as well. Despite his 5'9" 183-lb stature, he has not backed down against any opponents, in some cases getting under the skin of his opponents.
Marchand's plus-25 and five shorthanded goals from the regular season jump off the stat sheet and are both quite impressive. His cap hit of $821,667 is sure to go up especially when you factor in his playoff performance.
A big question is how much salary cap space will the Bruins have available for him? If the number is not enough to Marchand's liking, perhaps another team would step in and sign him to an offer sheet more to his liking.
His intangibles and all-around play have him at No. 19 in my top 20 restricted free-agent list. It will definitely be interesting to see what kind of contract Marchand gets this offseason.
18. James Reimer
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"Optimus Reime" was a nice find for the Toronto Maple Leafs last year, posting an unexpected record of 20-10-5 in 37 games, with a 2.60 GAA and .921 save percentage to help Toronto make a late push towards a playoff spot.
Although they did ultimately fall short of the postseason, Reimer has given Leafs Nation a reason to feel good about the future in net. However, Reimer is a restricted free agent who is likely to stay in Toronto, but it will be interesting to see how contract negotiations go between the two parties.
If negotiations break down with the Leafs, it isn't hard to think another team could make an offer on Reimer, who is coming off a relatively small salary of $555,000, and at just age 23, could have a bright future ahead of him. It would definitely irk GM Brian Burke, who has bashed offer sheets in the past.
James Reimer comes in at No. 18 on my top 20 restricted free-agent list for 2011.
(UPDATE: Per reports, James Reimer has been signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs to a three-year $5.4 million contract.)
17. Matt D'Agostini
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Matt D'Agostini has stepped up his game tremendously with the St. Louis Blues, breaking out with 21 goals, 25 assists and a plus-eight rating, playing in all 82 games this past year. With a salary cap hit of just $550,000, he should be in line for a pretty big raise this offseason.
D'Agostini was acquired by St. Louis from Montreal in return for Aaron Palushaj on March 3, 2010. He's proven to be a nice acquisition for the Blues, and he utilizes all 6'0" 200 lbs of his frame on the ice at all times and has a knack for scoring timely goals, demonstrated by his five game-winning goals this year.
The Blues have plenty of cap space to work with to fit in D'Agostini under their salary cap, and I fully expect they will re-sign him in the $1.5-2 million range, but if not, other teams will likely be interested in a potential offer sheet for the No. 17 restricted free agent for 2011.
16. Teddy Purcell
Purcell was acquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning from the Los Angeles Kings on March 3, 2010 in return for Jeff Halpern and a third-round pick. He scored 17 goals and added 34 assists in 81 games for the Lightning this past season, beating his combined totals in each category over his previous four seasons in 110 games (11 goals and 23 assists) with the Kings and Lightning.
He has a solid 6'2" 198-lb frame, but doesn't always utilize it, getting credit for just 21 hits this past season. But he certainly knows how to use his skills, as he set up his teammates on the power play, with 18 power-play assists this year. He has utilized his great set of hands and improving skating ability to become a top-six forward for the Lightning and at age 25, should have a bright future playing alongside the likes of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier.
As he continues to improve his confidence at the NHL level, Purcell should continue to improve, but coming off a cap hit of $550,000, his bank account should also improve nicely, as I have him as the No. 16 potential restricted free agent in 2011.
15. Andrej Sekera
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Andrej Sekera had a cap hit last year of $1,000,000 and definitely showed signs of breaking out, with one amazing five-game stretch where he had two goals and eight assists. For the season overall, he posted three goals and 26 assists in 76 games while playing at a plus-11 rating.
Sekera has excellent skating ability and has shown excellent passing skills, even when under duress. His 6'0" 202-lb frame can use a little more bulk, but the foundation is definitely there. Sekera also needs to work on his physical play and taking charge more often instead of sitting back at times, but there is plenty of skill to offset any negatives and a whole lot more.
The Buffalo Sabres and their new ownership should be able to lock up Sekera to keep him on the back line to work with fellow youngsters Mike Weber and Tyler Myers to form the core of Buffalo's back line for many years to come. Sekera and his talent come in at No. 15 on my list of potential restricted free agents for 2011.
14. Brian Boyle
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Despite being thought of as little more than a depth player before last season, Brian Boyle had a breakthrough 2010-11 season, posting 21 goals and 14 assists in 82 games. After an extensive offseason of working on his skating, it all came together for the gritty Boyle.
Boyle has great size and certainly isn't afraid to use it, putting up 240 hits on the year, third-highest among all RFAs. He is a maximum effort type of player who is effective on both sides of the ice.
He should be able to cash in on his big season, coming off a cap hit of $525,000. GM Glen Sather may need to be prepared to dish out a lot more money to one of his better acquisitions in recent days. My guess is Boyle will get something in the neighborhood of $1.5 million for a one-year deal to allow him the opportunity to prove last year wasn't a fluke before he would up his market value even more.
Boyle comes in at No. 14 in my top 20 restricted free agents and is coming off a low enough salary that he could garner interest from other teams if the Rangers don't take care of him.
13. Devin Setoguchi
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Setoguchi is a player who has had a bit of a roller-coaster, up-and-down career thus far for the San Jose Sharks, a team that drafted him eighth overall in the 2005 NHL draft. After a career-high 65 points in 2008-09, Setoguchi has barely eclipsed that total the last two years combined (77).
So, which player is the one his salary should be based on? Good question, and one GM Doug Wilson and Setoguchi's agent should have "fun" figuring out, complicated by the limited salary cap space left for the Sharks.
At 6'0", 200 lbs, Setoguchi is big enough to mix it up (138 hits) and still add a nice scoring punch (three straight seasons of 20-plus goals). Coming off a cap hit of $1.8 million, it will be interesting to see how much money he seeks and whether or not Wilson and the Sharks will have enough cap space to oblige.
Setoguchi comes in at No. 13 in my top 20 restricted free agents available.
12. Sergei Kostitsyn
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After dealing with some off-ice issues during his time in Montreal, Kostitsyn made a home for himself in his first season with Nashville, posting 23 goals and 27 assists in 77 games.
He does not necessarily play as physical a game as his brother, but he may be more explosive. Playing in the defensive system of Barry Trotz should pay dividends to his all-around game over the remainder of his career. Maturity and a move to the Music City have definitely benefited him greatly.
Kostitsyn has enough size to stay on the puck and has enough offensive talent to benefit any team at any time. I'm sure the Predators will look to lock up Kostitsyn with a long-term deal if at all possible.
Like his older brother, developing more consistency would be beneficial, but overall, he still comes in at No. 12 in my top 20 restricted free agents this offseason and would appeal to teams in need of an offensive winger if he is open for offer sheets come July 1.
11. Andrei Kostitsyn
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Kostitsyn is a product of the much-heralded 2003 NHL draft and had a solid 2010-11 season for Montreal, posting 20 goals and 25 assists in 81 games. He isn't afraid to use his 6'0", 214-lb frame when he needs to, dishing out 140 hits this past season.
Kostitsyn has some consistency issues but should be an asset the Canadiens look to lock up for the long-term. Coming off a cap hit of $3.25 million, he likely won't come cheaply, meaning there could potentially be the opening for another team to come in and target him with an offer sheet.
Andrei Kostitsyn comes in at No. 11 in my top 20 restricted free agents for 2011 and could draw interest from other teams if given the chance.
(NOTE: Kostitsyn has agreed with Montreal on a one-year $3.25 million contract extension)
10. Andrew Ladd
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Andrew Ladd has been traded twice since being the fourth overall pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2004 NHL draft, with stops in Chicago and now Atlanta (soon to become Winnipeg). At 6'2", 200 lbs, Ladd has the size to play physical, but while his hits have decreased greatly the last couple of seasons, his point output has greatly increased, so the trade-off is fine.
Ladd brought leadership to the Atlanta franchise, being named captain last season. He took it and ran with it, scoring 29 goals and adding 30 assists for a career-high 59 points but also added a much-needed presence to a franchise that needs it greatly.
With the pending move of the franchise to Winnipeg, Ladd and his restricted free agency becomes something worthy of watching closely. Does the British Columbia native want to sign a long-term deal with Winnipeg?
Ladd was very close to signing an extension, but whether that will be impacted by the new ownership and location remains to be seen. Either party could go the arbitration route, which could take Ladd into unrestricted free agency next summer.
Ladd is a very interesting package of size and skill and is sure to interest another team if he were to hit restricted free agency and is the No. 10 restricted free agent for 2011.
9. Clarke MacArthur
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Clarke MacArthur just finished his fifth season in the National Hockey League and was one of the best bargains in the league last season, scoring 21 goals and adding 41 assists for the Toronto Maple Leafs, playing in all 82 games. His 62 points rank second in points amongst all RFAs this season (behind Steven Stamkos). At a cap hit of $1.1 million, GM Brian Burke and Leafs Nation definitely got their money's worth and then some.
He seems to be a player who has matured some and found an organization that is a good fit for him, as he definitely flourished this past season. Whether or not there is room for growth can be debated, but at age 26, he is just hitting his prime, so there should be more quality seasons ahead for MacArthur.
How much of a salary increase he can expect from the Leafs is likely the sticking point, as rumors had Burke and MacArthur's camp talking extension during the season but weren't able to come to a deal. Is MacArthur pricing himself out of the market or is Burke trying to be too stingy? Could this potentially turn ugly?
Let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet, but MacArthur is definitely a jack-of-all-trades type of player that would appeal to just about any team and I would think is going to get a deal in the vicinity of $2.5 million a season. He comes in as the No. 9 restricted free agent of 2011.
8. Luke Schenn
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At age 21, Schenn is a much-heralded building block for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have patiently groomed him to be their big star on the back line. GM Brian Burke has been mostly patient with Schenn's development and should expect to earn a nice return on his investment, assuming Burke can ink Schenn to a long-term contract.
Schenn is a rugged defenseman who isn't afraid to utilize his big 6'2" 215-lb frame, and dished out 251 hits this season while blocking 168 shots, so he clearly isn't afraid of getting his hands dirty. After three seasons now with the Maple Leafs, the question remains if Schenn is ready to take his game to the next level of star; he certainly has been solid over the last three years.
With a cap hit of $2.975 million, it might be tough to figure out the right value for Schenn, but there certainly wouldn't be a lack of interest around the NHL if he wasn't tendered (Relax, Leafs Nation; I'm pretty certain he'll be qualified). At age 21, Schenn is reaching the age where defensemen usually begin to show signs of breaking out, and I fully expect him to continue to progress in the next few seasons.
GM Brian Burke will have his hands full this offseason, but one of his priorities must be to lock up Luke Schenn long-term, but for this offseason, I have him as the No. 8 restricted free agent.
7. Brandon Dubinsky
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Dubinsky led the New York Rangers in scoring with 54 points and adds some grit and toughness to the Rangers lineup. He isn't the biggest guy in the league at 6'1" 205 lbs, but he plays bigger than that, grinding for loose pucks and getting messy along the boards and in front of the net. He provides a good presence on special teams and is also a good faceoff man.
The biggest question surrounding Dubinsky is how much salary cap space the Rangers will have to offer him. With Ryan Callahan, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle and Matt Gilroy all restricted free agents and the Rangers trying to allegedly lure a true No. 1 center, how much can the Rangers offer Dubinsky?
Expect Dubinsky to get in the neighborhood of Drew Stafford's recent four-year $16 million contract and for Dubinsky to remain on Broadway for the foreseeable future, much to the liking of the Rangers and their fans.
Either way, Dubinsky should be in line for a nice raise over his current cap hit of $1.85 million and at age 25, should have a nice future ahead of him in New York. He ranks at No. 8 amongst the restricted free-agent crop for 2011.
6. Ryan Callahan
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As much as it might pain this Devils fan to say, Ryan Callahan is the kind of force any fan should want as part of their team. His injury took a lot of the wind out of his team's sails as it headed into the playoffs and lost to the Washington Capitals in five games. Despite being just 5'11" 181 lbs, he plays significantly bigger than that, throwing his body around seemingly on every shift, leaving it all out on the ice.
Callahan had 224 hits last season, and that number would have been closer to 300 had he not missed 22 games to injury. Despite missing those games, he still scored 23 goals and added 25 assists, both career bests. He also scored 10 goals on the power play and added five game-winning goals.
The Rochester, NY native seems to have elevated his play after the 2010 Olympic experience and should expect a nice raise after his $2.3 million cap hit for last season. It wouldn't be out of the realm to think he could push the 30-goal mark next year, all while adding his lunchpail-type work ethic to the team.
There would be no shortage of suitors if he hit the restricted free-agent market, but you would think the Rangers would match any offer that could come Callahan's way, and I have him as the No. 6 restricted free agent, and the argument could be made he deserves to be even higher.
5. Drew Doughty
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Had free agency come a year earlier, Doughty may have been No. 1 on this list, coming off a breakout 2009-10 season. While he was far from a slouch last year, Doughty did take a step back some this past season.
Despite that, Doughty should be in line for a huge raise from his last salary of $875,000 (although his cap hit was $3.475 million due to performance bonuses, some of which I'm guessing he hit).
At just age 21, there are many teams that would love to add this all-around defenseman who could become one of the brightest stars of the league in the right opportunity. GM Dean Lombardi should make sure to sign Doughty before July 1, or a team could come in with a high offer to try and woo him away to build their team around.
Doughty comes in at No. 5 in my top 20 restricted free agents for 2011 and easily could be higher; his upside is second to none.
4. Keith Yandle
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Keith Yandle doesn't play in a hockey market like New York or Toronto, but anyone who follows the NHL knows the kind of year he put up last year, putting up 11 goals and 48 assists and plus-12 rating while manning the back line for the Phoenix Coyotes. Yandle should be due a rather large raise from his $1.2 salary cap hit from last season, coming off a season in which he was named to his first All-Star game.
Yandle has improved greatly in each of his first four-plus seasons in the NHL and could be in the mix for future Norris Trophy talk. His 59 points were third amongst potential RFAs last season and 11 higher than any other defenseman. Don't be misled by his total of 30 hits, because Yandle also brings a bit of a mean streak to his game.
At 6'1" 195 lbs, Yandle could use a little more bulk to battle more in front of the net and along the boards, but his offensive ability grades off the charts, as he is one of the more respected power-play quarterbacks in the league. Any of the 30 teams in the NHL could use Keith Yandle no doubt, but assuming they are able to get together on a contract, only the Phoenix Coyotes will have him on their team.
Yandle comes in at No. 4 in my rankings for top restricted free agents in the summer of 2011. The Boston, MA native should expect to sign a rather large contract this offseason and remain a fixture in the Phoenix lineup for years to come.
3. Zach Parise
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It was a very frustrating 2010-11 season for Zach Parise and the New Jersey Devils. A knee injury limited Parise to just 13 games, including only one of the last 70, leading Parise to finish the year with just three goals and three assists, ending a streak of four straight seasons of 30-plus goals.
Parise is coming off a salary of $5 million (cap hit of $3.125 million) and despite the injury, should be in line for a raise. He is one of the rare types of game-changers you see in the NHL, when he just outworks his opponent and constantly generates scoring chances.
With the Devils having some salary cap problems, don't be surprised to see the Devils file for salary arbitration and thus take Parise off the free-agent market, all while trying to negotiate a long-term deal before the actual hearing to keep Parise a Devil for years to come.
It is expected by many for Parise to be named the ninth captain in team history assuming nothing breaks down during contract negotiations, but Parise checks in at No. 3 in my top 20 list of potential free agents for July 1.
2. Steven Stamkos
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What can you say about the former No. 1 overall pick from the 2008 NHL draft other than to say "Wow, what an offensive machine!" After some growing pains in his rookie season, Stamkos has become the superstar he was expected to be, scoring 96 goals over the last two seasons.
It is with the extra man where Stamkos' one-timer truly becomes a weapon, as he's scored 41 goals on the power play over the same two-year span. Stamkos did well this year in his first taste of the postseason, scoring six goals and seven assists in 18 games, although he was a minus-five. He did show off his toughness, taking a deflected shot off his visor and returning to the game with a bloody face.
Stamkos is one of the best scorers in the NHL today, if not the best. I can not foresee any possibility that Tampa Bay will not figure out a way to re-sign him, most likely to a long-term deal, but even if he makes it to July 1st and signs an offer sheet, I'd fully expect Tampa Bay to match it to keep the No. 2-rated restricted free agent this offseason.
1. Shea Weber
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There pretty much is no one area to highlight about Shea Weber: He simply can do it all. Offensive ability, leadership, toughness, intangibles and defensive responsibilities—there is no area at all that Weber doesn't excel.
It seems a mere formality that he will remain a Predator, but don't think there aren't 29 other teams that wouldn't love to give up the necessary draft-pick compensation to add a Shea Weber to their roster.
Weber is coming off of a season of 16 goals, 32 assists, 211 hits, 113 blocked shots and a plus-seven rating. He plays the point on the power play with his booming shot and is also out there killing penalties. Many think of him as the modern-day Scott Stevens, although he is a different player in a few areas.
There are so many ways Weber can beat his opponents that his presence and value from the back line make him the No. 1 potential restricted free agent on July 1. I'm sure GM David Poile and head coach Barry Trotz shudder at the thought of not keeping Shea Weber as captain in Nashville for many years to come.
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Here are the next 20 restricted free agents who did not make the top 20: (alphabetically)
Artem Anisimov, F, New York Rangers
Zach Bogosian, D, Winnipeg
Tyler Bozak, F, Toronto Maple Leafs
Troy Brouwer, F, Chicago Blackhawks
Bobby Butler, F, Ottawa Senators
Chris Campoli, D, Chicago Blackhawks
Blake Comeau, F, New York Islanders
Nathan Gerbe, F, Buffalo Sabres
Matt Gilroy, D, New York Rangers
Tyler Kennedy, F, Pittsburgh Penguins
Lauri Korpikoski, F, Phoenix Coyotes
Andreas Nodl, F, Philadelphia Flyers
T.J. Oshie, F, St. Louis Blues
Mike Santorelli, F, Florida Panthers
Wayne Simmonds, F, Los Angeles Kings
Anton Stralman, D, Columbus Blue Jackets
Semon Varlamov, G, Washington Capitals
Jakub Voracek, F, Columbus Blue Jackets
Mike Weber, D, Buffalo Sabres
Blake Wheeler, F, Winnipeg