Unsigned RFA’s: Lots of Quality Left

“Show me the money!” Who doesn’t remember this catch phrase and what movie it comes from? That’s right, Jerry MaGuire, a football players’ agent played by Tom Cruise, who has to start all over again with only one client, Rodney “Rod” Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.), who is asking for nothing less than… the money! NHL teams’ General Managers and owners must feel like Maguire as it seems like that’s all they’re hearing these days, and coming from younger and younger players, earlier in their career than ever. They must be thankful to the rookie salary cap otherwise their teams’ pay scales would be even more out of whack than it already is.

A handful of prominent Restricted Free Agents have recently signed with their respective teams, going for money that just a few years ago, only long time veterans would be getting. The league is getting younger and players are contributing more than ever and they want their piece of the pie immediately. Mitch Marner, Thomas Chabot, Brock Boeser, Travis Konecny, Charlie McAvoy, Ivan Provorov, Zach Werenski, Clayton Keller, Samuel Girard, Timo Meier, Sebastian Aho and Brayden Point are all 23 years old and under and all have received their millions this summer. And there is still a list of key RFA’s who are waiting for their day at the bank.

AGE: 22HEIGHT: 6’1″WEIGHT: 182HAND:LCAP HIT:$925,000
SCOUTING REPORT:Has a projectable frame and plenty of speed and quickness (he’s strong in his lower body). Can score goals at every level, as well as set up his linemates with aplomb. Thinks the game well and has plenty of two-way upside. Needs to fill out his 6-1 frame and gain greater upper-body strength in order to maximize his long-range potential at the National Hockey League level. Must also become a more consistent player in all three zones.
TEAM CAP: With Dustin Byfuglien currently suspended without pay, the Jets currently sit $1.75 million below the limit of $60.2 million set by the NHL, with 19 players with NHL contracts. It’s safe to say that with just one of Connor and/or Laine signed, they’ll be perfectly fine and that, no matter what Byfuglien decides to do with his career.
SCOUTING REPORT:Has great size and even better hands. Can play either wing position with aplomb and is a natural goal-scorer. Can use his big frame effectively in tight spaces. Needs to work on his quickness, since he tends to need a little time before getting to top speed. Is not very physical, which somewhat negates his tremendous size in the NHL.
TEAM CAP: See above, same situation for Kyle Connor.
SCOUTING REPORT:Owns a terrific nose for the net, plus enough size to produce quality numbers at the highest level. While not as tough as his father (Keith), he is also plenty feisty. Does his best work in front of the net. Needs to continue to get physically stronger. Also needs to continue to work on his defensive game and improve his play without the puck for the professional ranks. Is only an average skater.
TEAM CAP: With a 22 men roster, the Flames have approximately $6.3 million to spare under the cap, but Tkachuk should take it all, if not more, even if he decides to sign a bridge deal.
SCOUTING REPORT:Owns a tremendous combination of NHL size and elite skill. Skates very well for his size and is a great playmaker. He is also quite versatile and can play all three forward positions, which adds value. In order to maximize production at the highest level, he will need to amp up his physical play (and take full advantage of his 6-4, 211-pound frame). Could also stand to improve his shot a little.
TEAM CAP: Even counting a 23 men roster, the Avalanche have $15.6 million available under the cap so there’s no doubt that they can get this done. One has to wonder what’s taking so long?
SCOUTING REPORT:Owns outstanding size and terrific game-breaking talent. Skates very well in a straight line but could stand to improve his quickness (as well as his decision-making with the puck). Has a great release. Knows where to go in order to score goals. Can also be a physical presence. Is a great playmaker. Like most young players, he needs to improve his defensive-zone coverage. Also needs to be more game-to-game consistent in order to maximize production in the National Hockey League.
TEAM CAP: We know the situation. Puljujärvi has requested a trade and he’s playing in Finland while waiting for the Oilers to make their move. Edmonton is in a tough spot with only $1.5 million available. But what exactly is his value on the market? Will he be another Yakupov or will he put it all together with another team? So far, their asking price is too high for any NHL team to pull the trigger on a trade.
SCOUTING REPORT:Complements skilled linemates very well, due to his size, reach and ability to win puck battles. Is an imposing figure who can make his presence felt when on the ice. Has solid offensive instincts, too. In order to thrive in the National Hockey League, he will need to completely fill out his big frame and become even stronger so as to battle in the corners (and also to fill a role in front of the net).
TEAM CAP: Thanks in part to the Montreal Canadiens’ offer sheet to Sebastian Aho, the Canes are about $2 million over the cap ceiling, although with a 25 men roster (without Maenalanen). This is very much unfamiliar territory for Carolina and it will be interesting to see how they will manage, considering that owner Tom Gordon has to pay Aho $21 million in the first 11 months of the season, when the team managed a hockey related profit of… $25 million all season!
SCOUTING REPORT:An impressive skater and offensive defenseman, he moves the puck very well and has the ability to put up good point totals at all levels. Is an asset on the power play, due to sound hockey sense and a good point shot. Will need to add significant strength, since he doesn’t own ideal size for a National Hockey League defenseman. Also needs to continue to work on his play without the puck, especially his defensive-zone coverage.
TEAM CAP: With a 22 men roster, the Stars have less than $1 million available under the cap but it sounds like they are shopping the rights to their young defenseman. The issue is that he has yet to live up to the expectation so his value is much lower than Dallas was hoping for.

So Habs’ fans, which one(s) would you like to see in a Canadiens’ uniform? Forget offer sheet as the team doesn’t have enough cap space available to do that but… some of them could be available through trade. In that case, what price do you think that the other team would accept for their player(s)? Go Habs Go!

*Scouting Reports: Sports Forecaster

Habs Trying To Land The Big Fish

Tired of hockey cliches? It’s summertime after all, so let’s change it up a bit and why not try using fishing analogies to describe Montreal Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin‘s attempts at luring talent so far? Don’t miss the boat, the conditions are perfect. Rumours are swirling at cross-currents, and there are quite a few good fish to be landed. Big, small, fast, some stinky and some we would love having on our plate. If you’re not hooked yet, keep on reading.

Lesson number one is: You can’t catch fish if you don’t have a line in the water.

Aside from those crazy carp you see on Youtube, fish don’t just jump in the boat. Rest assured, Bergevin seems to have lines all over the place. Up until recently, he still had a big one on the hook in Sebastian Aho, but the forecast showed that a Hurricane could come through and get it off the hook, which has now been confirmed. Knowing that the offer was likely be matched, he has lines in several other spots it seems.

It’s up to the fish to dictate when they’ll get caught. You can’t force it.

The Habs wanted John Tavares last year. He didn’t even want to give them the time of day to meet or talk with them. You may have the best lure, the best equipment, but if the fish won’t bite or is not hungry for what you’re offering, there’s simply nothing you can do to get it into your boat. Montreal has a lot to offer but it’s not for everyone. Ironically, it seems like most players who experience playing for the Canadiens doesn’t want to leave. Just this past weekend, Brian Gionta was telling the media how much he misses Montreal and how he loved playing there. Gionta was at Josh Gorges‘ charity ball tournament in Kelowna and Gorges is another one who never wanted to leave the Canadiens’ organization, even declining a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs before being traded to Buffalo.

If it were easy, it wouldn’t be called fishing. I’d be called catching.

“Just do it” doesn’t mean you’ll succeed. You must work hard, smart, consistently, and keep market need firmly in the forefront, then your “doing it” will pay off. Yet, some fans and media are chastising the Habs every time a top UFA signs elsewhere or a trade involving teams other than the Habs is consumed. Many of them, sitting behind their keyboard in their stained underwear, protected by some usernames and a few Twitter followers or Facebook/Instagram “friends”, laugh at the notion that trading in today’s NHL is hard, pretending to know better. They forget that each time a player is signed, there are currently 30 teams (soon to be 31) that didn’t get him. Oh but that’s a GM’s job, they say. Well as a fan, your job is to cheer and encourage your team… and you’re failing at it too! Yet, it’s a heck of a lot easier to be a fan than trading with real money, real contracts and real players.

The bigger the bait, the bigger the fish.

You can’t land Moby Dick with a worm. If you’re up for catching the big fish, do what’s necessary in your industry to attract them and land them. Unfortunately for Bergevin, while he has perhaps the biggest bait in tons of cap space and a willingness to spent it, there are plenty of other factors going against him. The water is murky from the taxes muddy bottoms where every bottom sucking political government is taking pleasure in chasing the fish away. Worse, you have a bunch of media and so-called “fans” dumping their trash and sewage straight into the St. Lawrence river.

The fishing is always better on the other side of the lake.

Sometimes it seems like no matter where you throw your line, fish doesn’t bite. Yet, you see other fishermen pulling them out… on the other side of the lake. Team A managed to trade for player B. Why couldn’t Bergevin give player C to get him? Simple folks: Team A did not want or need player C, or didn’t think that he had as much upside as player B… in spite of what you think. And guess what? They’re entitled to it, it’s their team, their business. And no, it’s not Bergevin’s fault when that happens. It actually happens to every single team in the NHL.

Something big brewing?

It seems like this summer, Bergevin is a lot more aggressive and from the outside looking in, it certainly looks like he has a plan and he’s following it to a tee. He wants a big name and has already taken several steps to address his team’s needs.

Plan A seemed to have been Matt Duchene but as we know, he chose the Nashville Predators, where Duchene has a house and spends part of his off-season. An avid guitar player, he loves country music and if you’ve ever been to Smashville, it’s an amazing city, one that I would rank well ahead of Montreal, New York and Las Vegas.

Plan B might have been Anders Lee, although there seem to be contradicting reports on that one. The Isles captain never really wanted to leave, it was obvious and he said so himself. Being a UFA, he had to do his homework and see his worth on the market and that provided him with the leverage needed to convince Lou Lamoriello to fork out the dough to get him back.

The announcement of Lee’s signing with the Islanders wasn’t made yet that came the news of the offer sheet to Sebastian Aho, which drew a lot of ink (literally) in the media and between the Hurricanes and Canadiens’ fan bases. The Hurricanes’ owner Tom Dundon has come out with guns blaring stating that it was an exercise of futility, a waste of time for everyone on the part of Bergevin and the Canadiens but don’t be fooled. He didn’t want to spend that kind of money, particularly not most of it in bonuses and half the contract in the first 12 months! That’s the owner who, just a few months ago, didn’t want to pay his GM more than $600,000 when coaches make millions!

Patrik Laine

Rumours seems to be persistent surrounding the Habs and one of the most interesting, in my opinion, is the one where the Jets and Canadiens would be talking trade for 21 year-old Finnish forward Patrik Laine. Coming off a somewhat disappointing season with the Jets (to his standards as he still managed 30 goals), the RFA can’t agree on the terms of a new contract with the Jets who are in a bit of a pickle cap-wise. The team already lost 3 of their top-5 defensemen from last year in Tyler Myers (Canucks), Jacob Trouba (Rangers) and Ben Chiarot (Canadiens) and although they have picked up Neal Pionk from New York, they’re still thin at that position. A cheap NHL ready young defenseman as part of the package would likely have to go, a Victor Mete, Josh Brook or Noah Juulsen, one would think. The Canadiens’ first round pick (still tied up in the Aho offer sheet at the time of writing this) would also likely be involved, as well as a top forward prospect, one would think.

There is plenty of smoke and more often than not, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And Bergevin is still sitting in the middle of the lake, focused on the task ahead even with the wild forest fire around him, in the thick smoke… trying to land his very own big fish. He, Trevor Timmins and Shane Churla have already stolen the Draft by having Cole Caufield land on their lap at number 15. They’re looking at stealing the summer too. Stay tuned Habs’ fans and don’t forget: Good things come to those who wade. Bergevin did land a big Tuna late last summer remember? The season doesn’t start until October 3rd… in Carolina ironically. Go Habs Go!