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.

KYLE CONNOR, LW
AGE: 22HEIGHT: 6’1″WEIGHT: 182HAND:LCAP HIT:$925,000
GP:82GOALS:34ASSISTS:32POINTS:66+/-:-7TOI/GP19:15
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.
PATRIK LAINE, RW/LW
AGE: 21HEIGHT: 6’5″WEIGHT:206HAND:RCAP HIT:$925,000
GP:82GOALS:30ASSISTS:20POINTS:50+/-:-24TOI/GP:17:13
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.
MATTHEW TKACHUK, LW
AGE: 21HEIGHT: 6’2″WEIGHT:202HAND:LCAP HIT:$925,000
GP:80GOALS:34ASSISTS:43POINTS:77+/-:+14TOI/GP:17:35
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.
MIKKO RANTANEN, RW
AGE: 22HEIGHT: 6’4″WEIGHT:215HAND:LCAP HIT:$894,167
GP:74GOALS:31ASSISTS:56POINTS:87+/-:-2TOI/GP:20:50
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?
JESSE PULJUJÄRVI, RW
AGE: 21HEIGHT:6’4″WEIGHT:201HAND:RCAP HIT:$925,000
GP:46GOALS:4ASSISTS:5POINTS:9+/-:-14TOI/GP:11:57
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.
SAKU MAENALANEN, RW/LW
AGE: 25HEIGHT:6’4″WEIGHT:207HAND:LCAP HIT:$925,000
GP:34GOALS:4ASSISTS:4POINTS:8+/-:0TOI/GP:9:25
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!
JULIUS HONKA, D
AGE: 23HEIGHT:5’11”WEIGHT:180HAND:RCAP HIT:$863,333
GP:29GOALS:0ASSISTS:4POINTS:4+/-:-2TOI/GP:13:42
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

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Bergevin Summarizes Habs’ Summer 2019

It’s early… still: September 8. The rookie camp is in full force and youngsters like Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki, Josh Brooks, Otto Leskinen, Cale Fleury and other Habs’ hopeful are grinding their teeth against the Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets’ top prospects. As Joël Bouchard directs the flow, management is looking on, trying to determine which ones of those prospects will be invited to the Canadiens’ main camp starting September 12th.

In the meantime, team General Manager Marc Bergevin is keeping a close eye on many other files, particularly the Restricted Free Agents’ market, as many high quality players are still unsigned. Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, Mikko Rantanen, Zach Werenski, Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, Matthew Tkachuk, Brock Boeser, Travis Konecny, Charlie McAvoy, Ivan Provorov – and the list goes on, are all without contracts.

On a segment of Table d’hôte with Marc Denis on RDS, Bergevin took time in his busy schedule to answer some tough questions with an honesty that has become his trademark. Here are some of the key topics and answers provided by the Canadiens’ GM, when questioned about the teams’ activities since the end of June, after the Draft.

THE OFFER SHEET

With the discussions we had within our staff and with Sebastian Aho‘s agent, we estimated our chances of getting him at 90-95% from the discussions with the player. You don’t submit an offer sheet just to submit one was not the goal. The goal was to get the player. We structured the contract in a way that we thought it would be a strong possibility. The $21 million in the first 11 months or so was the hammer but at the end of the day, they made the decision to match it. If I had to do it over, I’d do it again.

From the discussions with the agent and from within, we felt like going up to the next level would not have made a difference, from $21M to $25M isn’t a big enough difference. As for going to the upper level, the idea of giving up four first round picks wasn’t an option. Maybe we would have gotten him at that price but it would be too pricey.

Sebastian Aho

Bergevin also address a legitimate concern: his relationship with other GMs around the league since that offer sheet.

The relationship with other GMs is fine. Since then, I’ve had discussions with the majority of them and it’s fine. Some GMs told me in their discussions, they said that they understood why we did that, it made sense. It’s in the CBA and available. I have no problems.

REMAINING RFA’s

Is Bergevin contemplating another offer sheet this late in the summer?

We keep a close eye on unsigned RFA’s but as it stands, we’ll have about $6.2 million available and those players will require more than that. You’re not going to get them at $5 million. But we keep a close eye on it.

Is he happy with his summer, his acquisition thus far?

Starting around June 22nd, the window to talk to pending UFA’s so by July 1st, we had a good idea of who would or would not consider Montreal. Some wouldn’t consider it. As you know, when you become UFA, you get to pick your destination and we make the calls but at the end of the day, we’re happy with the players we signed. Chiarot wants to play in Montreal. He was willing to stay in Winnipeg and wanted to play in a Canadian market. I can’t wait to watch him at camp.

ANDREI MARKOV

The Andrei Markov situation has been a regular topic of discussions amongst fans for two years now, since “the General” left to play in the KHL. Bergevin made it clear: he will not be back with the team as a player.

In 2012, Andrei was here. His contract was due and we re-signed him. Two years ago, we made an offer but he chose another direction, the KHL. Since then, things have changed. The player is older and we have taken another direction, going with youth. We have many young guys pushing. The Juulsen, Mete, Brook, Romanov next year. We want to give then a chance. We had success with our youth last year and that’s the direction we want to go. No hard feelings between us and Andrei but this chapter is closed.

I don’t know why people don’t like Bergevin. He’s honest in his answers and I personally feel like some mistake his confidence and sense of humour with arrogance. They cannot be more wrong, again in my opinion. He wears his heart on his sleeve and several people around hockey say that he’s one of the hardest working GMs around the league. Is he done for the summer? Something tells me that he’s not… if the price is right. Go Habs Go!