The free agent market has been open for almost a month, folks. And there are still a number of good young players who remain unsigned.
While UFAs tend to attract the most headlines when the market opens due to their ability to sign anywhere, the RFA crop is just as interesting this season, with an intriguing number of future stars still seeking deals with teams their respective like the dog. days pass
Who will stay and who will go? This is the question.
So let’s take a look at the best claimants still on the market as arbitration hearings begin.
Jake Oettinger – Dallas Stars
2021-22 Stat Line: 48 GP, 30-15-1, .914 save percentage, 1 SO
2021-22 Cap Hit: $925,000
Hey, so the Dallas Stars still haven’t signed their franchise goaltender.
Why don’t we talk about it?
After anchoring the Stars’ fold throughout the 2021-22 regular season, Oettinger became the one and only reason Dallas was able to close in on a first-round playoff series against the Calgary Flames in May by going on. a historic run that nearly took down the Pacific Division postseason winners before it even really began.
In the seven games it took the vastly superior Flames to knock off the Stars, Oettinger shut things down with an absurd .954 save percentage, facing a total of 285 shots — an average of 41 of shots per game — and stopping 272 of them.
His teammates, on the other hand, shot just 195 total pucks on the opposition net throughout the entire series, nearly 100 fewer than they surrendered, and when looking at the heatmaps, doing so from angles too much worse.
And yet, Oettinger somehow kept the Stars in it all the way to overtime in Game 7. That’s sorcery.
It’s highly unlikely that GM Jim Nill looked at the 23-year-old who just gave his team the most consistent goaltending they’ve had since the Marty Turco days and thought he didn’t deserve an extension.
Oettinger will probably get a new offer soon. But with just over $10 million in cap space to work with and the next entry on this list also in need of an extension, the Stars might have to change some things to make it happen.
Jason Robertson – Dallas Stars
2021-22 Stat Line: 74 GP, 41 Goals, 38 Assists, 79 Points, 18:06 TOI
2021-22 Cap Hit: $795,000
If Jason Robertson played anywhere but Dallas — ok, maybe not Arizona, but you get the point — he’d be a household name.
The 22-year-old is an incredible young talent who has simply done nothing but score since bursting onto the scene in 2021, finishing last season with 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in 74 games — all while being surrounded by virtually no high-end talent.
Robertson is the hockey equivalent of a “walking bucket” in basketball. All the kid does is put pucks in the net. And for a fraction under $800,000 in salary last season, he did it at an absurdly low rate.
That bargain will largely disappear next season, though. Or at least it should. Robertson is a baby by NHL standards who, despite his limited experience, now has a 40-goal season already under his belt and also happens to belong to a team that is currently in desperate need of any offensive help.
Robertson could command the sun and moon from the stars if he wanted, and they would probably give it to him. It probably won’t be long before they do, too.
Noah Dobson – New York Islanders
2021-22 Stat Line: 80 GP, 13 Goals, 38 Assists, 51 Points, 21:27 TOI
2021-22 Cap Hit: $894,167
One of the quietest breakout players of the 2021-22 season, Dobson has blossomed into a terrific young defenseman throughout his short time in the NHL thus far, exploding for 13 goals and 51 points at just 22 years old this season past and last season. process, putting him in line for a serious raise.
Isles general manager Lou Lamoriello, of course, is a tough negotiator. Or at least that’s what his reputation would suggest, despite the fact that he’s the same guy who gave Nikita Zaitsev a seven-year deal worth $4.5 million per season after a much worse year than his which Dobson just had.
Something will be done. In fact, given Lamoriello’s odd penchant for waiting until September to announce deals that were signed in July, there’s a good chance he already has.
However, with cap space a bit tight, the Islanders may need to do a little shuffling to fit Dobson’s new price on their books this summer, if they’re still waiting to do so. But whatever needs to be done, do it. And so on.
Dobson deserves it and is getting better.
Kirby Dach – Montreal Canadiens
2021-22 Stat Line: 70 GP, 9 Goals, 17 Assists, 26 Points, 18:02 TOI
2021-22 Cap Hit: $925,000
Dach, the third overall pick in the 2019 draft and still a rising star, now joins a Canadiens organization that is going all out to stockpile talent this summer in hopes of erasing a disastrous 2021-22 season.
That, on the surface, should give him some leverage.
But Dach is a work in progress, still. The 21-year-old had just nine goals and 26 points in 70 games for the Blackhawks last season and has clearly struggled to establish himself at the NHL level thus far.
The potential is what’s so tantalizing here at the end of the day, as Dach has a tremendous skill set and is just the type of player to make a major leap after a strong offseason of training and some guidance from Canadiens coach Martin St . Louis. .
Martin Necas – Carolina Hurricanes
2021-22 Stat Line: 78 GP, 14 Goals, 26 Assists, 40 Points, TOI 16:11
2021-22 Cap Hit: $863,333
You never know what to expect from the Hurricanes when it comes to their RFAs.
This is the same team that cavalierly dealt young netminder Alex Nedeljkovic to the Red Wings last season just weeks after he snagged a Calder nomination to sign a pair of injury-prone puck stoppers in their mid-30s .
Is strange. They are a strange organization.
Unless it’s Andrei Svechnikov or Sebastian Aho — the latter of whom was only extended because Montreal gave him an offer sheet — the Canes always seem to squeeze their RFAs in negotiations, drawing a clear line in the sand before cutting the bait if the player continues to negotiate.
So it seems typical that Necas, an effective young player but by no means a star, would go unsigned at the end of the summer. The 23-year-old has been a consistent contributor in each of his three NHL seasons, taking a small step back last year from the extraordinary pandemic-shortened 2021 campaign he had the year before, while finishing with 40 of points and established a career. high in games played.
That step back, however, could be just the kind of thing to worry Canes management, who now have just over $1.8 million in cap space to work with after locking up Ethan Bear.
Necas has every right to command more than $2.50 on a short-term bridge trade if he chooses, and that’s probably what he’ll get. But for a club with a track record of being so picky with its young mid-level players, a happy ending is all but guaranteed.