Ranking The Top 10 Unsigned RFA's


Photo: The Hockey Writers

The NHL, a league where an offer sheet has not been signed since July 18th 2012, when the Philadelphia Flyers gave Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators a whopping 14 year $110 million deal, which the Preds ended up matching.


However, the talk of the summer has been offer sheets. Mitch Marner. Mikko Rantanen. Brayden Point. Offer sheets, offer sheets, offer sheets.


While the talk has mainly been surrounding Mitch Marner and the cap strapped Leafs, I'm here today to rank and break down this years outrageously good RFA class.


#1 Brayden Point - Tampa Bay Lightning


Make no mistake, Point is the best RFA this offseason. While all the talk surrounds Mitch Marner in our local media, are we really assuming that a team wouldn't want to offer sheet one of Tampa's superstars?!


Brayden Point is a natural centreman, the most coveted position on the ice. He is also a natural goal scorer, the most coveted skill in hockey.


In 79 games this season, he put up 92 points including 41 goals, good for 3rd on his team and 12th in the NHL. His rookie season he posted 40 points in 68 games, leading to 66 points in 82 games his second year. Each year he has increased his points per game, from .59 to .80 to 1.16 this year, and who's to say he's peaked now.


While these numbers are great, let's not forget about his two-way game. Point is an extremely responsible defensive centre, and was over 50% on draws last season. He has consistently had a positive corsi for %, averaging 52.1% over his career.

On a team filled with perennial all stars, head coach Jon Cooper pumped Point's tires all year, saying he was their MVP, their most consistent player night in night out, and a threat at both ends of the ice. High praise coming from the coach of the team with the Hart Trophy Winner in Nikita Kucherov and a generational scorer in Steven Stamkos. Bruce Boudreau, as an opposing coach, stated last year that Point is the catalyst of the Lightning and is the least well-know star in the league.


Point is only 23 years old, and is primed to get paid this off season. We are all aware of the lack of state tax in Tampa, often leading to lower AAV on their contracts than we anticipate. While nobody really knows how much he will sign for this year, I think he is worth approximately $10 million per season at this point. This slides him behind centres such as Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Jonathan Toews, while earning the same as Jack Eichel and Anze Kopitar.


However, more realistically, I see Point signing for $9 million with the Tampa Bay Lightning. With Kucherov locked up at $9.5 million and Stamkos at $8.5 million, the Lightning will be able to leverage the fact that they have the League MVP signed at $9.5 million and their Captain at $8.5 million.


Overall, for any team willing to give up four 1st round picks to bring in an elite player, Brayden Point is the best player available on the RFA market this season, and a big offer could potentially put Tampa in a tough spot financially moving forward.


#2 Mitch Marner - Toronto Maple Leafs


Aside from all the rumblings of Marner flying around to visit potential RFA suitors, and the fact that he is in no way financially worth more than Auston Matthews. While I don't think he is worth the rumoured offer sheets of $11.5 million plus, I think the 22 year old Marner is bound to be a superstar and deserving of a big paycheque,


Coming off a 94 point season, Marner lead this year's RFA class in scoring, and is arguably the most skilled player available. He has increased his points per game each season thus far, climbing from 0.79 to 0.84 to 1.15 this past year, 1 notch below Brayden Point.


His career PDO of 101.7 is slightly below Point, as is his average corsi for % of 51.8. Both impressive, but both illustrating he is similar to Point, while playing a less coveted position.


Patrick Kane, Marner's lifelong comparable, who plays the same shifty and skilled game, and are both products of the OHL's London Knights, is currently the highest paid winger in the NHL. The difference, Patrick Kane won 3 Stanley Cups prior to his biggest deal at $10.5 million.


Alex Ovechkin, at just over $9.5 million, is the next highest, followed by Mark Stone and Jamie Benn both at exactly $9.5 million.


Don't get me wrong, Marner is an exceptional talent. However, to me, he is not worth double digits. $10 million is what his expected value is at, and to me this sounds right.


Being realistic though, with the way things are transpiring, Marner will receive more than this. In my eyes, Marner gets close to $11 million, from the Toronto Maple Leafs.


Gun to my head, I have $11 million spend, I choose Brayden Point, but it seems as though Marner is set to receive more money this offseason.


#3 Mikko Rantanen - Colorado Avalanche


Here's the thing with internal comparisons. Marner wants Matthews/Tavares money. Point will want Stamkos/Kucherov money. Rantanen however, will want nothing to do will Nathan MacKinnon money.


Rantanen is right there with Marner in my eyes, a step behind Point but a step ahead of Aho and the rest of the pack.


Also coming in at 22 years of age, Rantanen is coming off an impressive year at 87 points in 74 games. The year before, he broke out with 84 points in 81 games. Over his career, he has increased his points per game from 0.00 in his 9 game trial stint in 2015-2016, to 0.51 to 1.04 and to 1.18.


A big bodied, fast skating, skilled winger is a rare breed in the NHL, and Rantanen is one of the best around.


The best thing and the worst thing for him, playing with a legit superstar in Nathan MacKinnon.


MacKinnon absolutely helps Rantanen's stats, but the Avalanche will also argue that Rantanen wouldn't put up these point totals by himself. As well, they will hit him with the fact that MacKinnon makes $6.3 million and their other winger Gabriel Landeskog makes a little over $5.5 million.


Realistically, Rantanen is worth just as much as Marner. I'm sure the Avs will heckle over this deal, using their comparable's to their advantage. The good thing for Rantanen is that the Avs have $38 million in cap space this year, and he can capitalize with a big percentage of the team cap.


Overall, Rantanen will likely not be offer sheeted, as the Avs have the ability to match anything. However, I expect him to get locked up right around $10 million long term with the Avalanche.


#4 Sebastian Aho - Carolina Hurricanes


Yes, he's that good. The 21 year old Aho might be the least appreciated young star by hockey fans, but the hockey world knows how good he is.


With 3 years under his belt in Carolina, Aho has increased from 0.60 points per game to 0.83 and most recently to 1.01, posting 30 goals and 83 points in 82 games this past year.


Aho is a very strong corsi player, registering a 57.2 CF% last season, driving his line up the middle of ice night in and night out. While the players above play with some legit superstars, Aho is putting up these points on a line with Nino Niederreiter and Teuvo Teravainen, 2 very good players but not superstars like Tavares and MacKinnon.


The one knock on Aho at this point is his defensive game. While it has improved, he hasn't really figured out the draws yet at the NHL level with around 48% last year.


As well, Aho has been playing somewhat of a sheltered role, seeing 59.2% of his starts in the offensive zone. In comparison, Point and Marner are both around 53% in the offensive zone.


The one curious thing about this situation is how much the frugal Hurricanes are willing to offer. On one hand, Aho should be worth $9 million plus, and the Hurricanes have the room to spend that, but are they willing?


If not, potentially this could be an offer sheet. Every team could use a speedy young centreman like Aho, and if the Hurricanes aren't willing to blow the budget, perhaps they wouldn't match.


Realistically though, I do not see them letting him go following the remarkable season they just had. I see him signing on a shorter bridge deal, say around $7.5-8 million for 3 years. This saves a little money off the top for the Hurricanes, but also allows Aho a chance to prove his worth for a real big deal before he hits UFA down the road.


#5 Matthew Tkachuk - Calgary Flames


Somehow the least talked about RFA this year, Tkachuk plays a game of pure skill and grittiness that not many can replicate. With 77 points in 80 games last season, Tkachuk is set to become a very rich man this summer.


The 21 year old left winger has increased his points per game each season thus far, rising from 0.63 to 0.72 to 0.96 this year.


While the numbers are impressive, Tkachuk is also one of the leaders on his team, and plays a physical style that not many other natural scorers offer.


Much like Aho, the most impressive thing about Tkachuk for me is the fact that he puts up these point totals playing with Backlund and Frolik, while the guys mentioned above play with John Tavares, Nathan MacKinnon etc.


Tkachuk also boasts an impressive corsi for % at 57 last year, and a PDO of just over 100, again illustrating his elite skill.


Again with the internal comparisons, Calgary somehow has Gaudreau and Monahan locked up at $6.75 and $6.375 respectively, bringing down the value of a deal Tkachuk would likely demand in Toronto or Tampa.


To me, Tkachuk lacks some of the game breaking skill that Point, Marner, and Rantanen offer, but is right behind them with Aho when it comes to overall value and potential.


I see Tkachuk worth $9 million, similar to Aho, but I also see the Flames not willing to go that high initially. In my opinion, Tkachuk will resign with the Flames, but will wait until Marner and Point etc sign, and say "hey look I'm worth closer to that than the $6.75 you gave Gaudreau a few years ago."


I see him getting the $9 million if he waits it out, but could also take a bridge deal in hopes that his point totals keep progressing or that he gets more powerplay time in the future.


#6 Charlie McAvoy - Boston Bruins


A big, smooth skating, right-handed defenseman, just what every team wants.


McAvoy is the first defence on my list, and is one of the most valuable pieces available this year. At just 21 years of age, McAvoy is a legit top 4 defenseman who will soon become a bonafide top pairing guy.


With 0.51 points per game in his rookie year, and 0.52 last year, McAvoy can not only defend well, but pinch in offensively as well. He uses his size and strength well in his own zone, and has a good stick that he often picks off passes with. His transition game is strong, making good first passes and can skate the puck out of trouble when need be.


While he won't command Erik Karlsson or Drew Doughty money right now, he very well could some day. Rumours in February circulated that he turned down the Bruins offer of $7.5 million over 8 years, similar to Aaron Ekblad's deal.


With this in mind, I can see McAvoy commanding somewhere in the neighbourhood of $8 million, similar to what Brent Burns and Oliver Ekman Larsson are currently making. I don't quite think he's worth the $9 million that PK Subban got back in the day, and envision him sticking around Boston on a 5 or 6 year deal worth upwards of $8 million.


If you're an opposing team you definitely need to explore the McAvoy option, but I don't see the Bruins letting their young horse go any time soon.


#7 Zach Werenski - Columbus Blue Jackets


Only a notch behind McAvoy is fellow American defender Zach Werenski. The 21 year old defenseman has a career points per game of 0.54, slightly higher than McAvoy, but his defensive game isn't quite as well rounded yet.


Gun to my head, i'm taking McAvoy, but Werenski is a heck of a consolation prize. He is big, skates very well, and shoots hard.


I think the big thing behind me putting Werenski so low on this list, despite being an elite defenseman, is the fact that Columbus is paying Seth Jones, the better player, only $5.4 million, and that they have sufficient cap to match any offer sheet.


While it is almost a guarantee that he'll get far more than Jones, I doubt Columbus wants to back the money truck up too far, so perhaps he takes a bridge deal until Jones is up for his next deal. A 3 or 4 year deal of around $7 million could make sense, although I feel he is worth near the $8 million I suggested for McAvoy. If he opts to take a longer deal, perhaps he could get that number up towards $8 million.


#8 Brock Boeser - Vancouver Canucks


Boeser is an interesting one for me. The sharpshooter blew up when he first arrived in the NHL, scoring 4 goals in his first 9 game stint, and 29 goals in 62 games the year after. He was plagued by some injuries this past year, but still produced 56 points in 69 games .


His 0.56 0.89 and 0.81 point per game totals are a tick behind Tkachuk and the elite players listed above, but are comparatively slightly higher than Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine's.


As well. Boeser scores lots of goals, the most coveted skill in the game. With Boeser and Pettersson on the same line for many years to come I think an AAV of $7.5 could look like a great deal for the Canucks in a few years.


This would put him slightly above recent UFA signing Kevin Hayes, which he absolutely deserves to be, yet just slightly behind other premiere scorers like Phil Kessel, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Evgeny Kuznetsov.


I see the Canucks willing to give him $7.5 on a long term deal, and Boeser jumping on the chance to play it out with the up and coming Canucks.


#9 Kyle Connor - Winnipeg Jets


A few years back, Patrik Laine would have garnering the RFA hype in Winnipeg. However, Laine's inconsistency and Connor's emergence of chemistry with Wheeler and Scheifele have changed the plan in Winnipeg, and even after shipping out RFA Jacob Trouba, they still find themselves up near the cap.


Connor has improved each season, to the tone of 0.25 0.75 and 0.80 point per game seasons. He is an impressive offensive player, with both a nose for the net and the skill to make high danger chances on his passes.


If I had to go against Connor in arbitration, I would illustrate the fact that his point totals are most likely inflated via Wheeler and Scheifele, and also that he was very sheltered last season with 60.7% o-zone starts.


I see Connor worth around $7.5 million long term, which the Jets will likely counter due to the low value of Scheifele's deal. I would expect Connor to stick with Jets, realistically right around or above William Nylander's $6.9 million, and a fair bit ahead of teammate Nikolaj Ehlers $6 million deal.


#10 Patrik Laine - Winnipeg Jets


Patrik Laine. One of the best goal scorers in recent memory, but also one of the streakiest players around. This is arguable the most interesting deal of the bunch, as he will command big money, but if you're Winnipeg, are you really willing to hit the cap ceiling on a guy that you don't know how he'll play most nights?


There is no denying the unique talent Laine has for burying pucks, and at just 21 years of age, he could very well figure out a complete game. Right now though, if you're the Jets, you aren't paying him as much as you're willing to pay Kyle Connor.


0.88 0.85 and 0.61 point per game seasons have him trending backwards, and even though he does the most important act, scoring, you really don't know what you're getting with Laine.


I could see him saying give me $10 million a year I score more than anyone including Auston Matthews, but I could also see the Jets saying listen you're our 5th or 6th best player a lot of nights. (Scheifele Wheeler Connor Ehlers Byfuglien).


If I were to guess, I'd say like a 2 year deal is on the horizon for Laine, likely somewhere in the low $7 million range.



Honourable Mentions


Jacob Trouba - New York Rangers


Right now, Trouba is probably as good and maybe better than either McAvoy or Werenski. In the long run, they both likely project to be better, but you may be asking why he didn't crack the top 10.


Simply put, I don't see the Rangers losing him in any way. They just traded for him, he said he and his partner want to stay in New York for the rest of his career (before even playing a game there) and they have the cap to match any offer thrown his way. If you wanted a defenseman, you'd likely target McAvoy, who has the highest ceiling and plays for the team closer to the cap.


Trouba is an excellent defenseman and will get paid, deservedly so, but it seems all but guaranteed that it will be the New York Rangers retaining his services moving forward.


Jordan Binnington - St. Louis Blues


Binnington is literally in a class of his own. Never before has a rookie goalie won the Stanley Cup heading into an RFA negotiation. There are no comparables and no precedents set prior to him. Binnington is in the best position an RFA could possibly be in, he just won the cup as a goalie who was called up from the minors in January when his NHL team sat in last place.


Was he the sole reason that the Blues turned the season around? No. Did he play a big role? Absolutely.


While St. Louis likely doesn't want to make a long term high AAV commitment to a goalie with half a season under his belt, Binnington has every right to demand a pretty penny.


Why wouldn't he ask for a $5 million by 5 year deal? Or a $6 million by 6 years? He has all the leverage here, and the only thing working against him is his sample size.


Realistically, I see him accepting a 3 year deal at $5 million, because he will look around his own room and say listen, Jake Allen makes $4.350 million and you called me up from the minors to replace him.


This will be a very interesting case, and maybe the most likely to go to an independent arbitrator.


Timo Meier - San Jose Sharks


Lastly, Timo Meier is somehow the forgotten man in this RFA class. While not as flashy as the guys at the top of the list, Meier is still an incredibly skilled player. Even more, he is a very big winger who is quick on his feet and not afraid to play physical.


On top of this, San Jose is up against the cap. After resigning Erik Karlsson, they still have to handle Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Gustav Nyquist, RFA Kevin LeBlanc, and Meier with less than $15 million in cap space.


Coming off a 66 point campaign, Meier is set for a nice pay day this offseason.


Realistically, I would value him around $6 million, but if San Jose wants to lock everyone up, he might have to take closer to $5 million. This is where I could see an offer sheet coming into play. If someone were to offer Meier $6.3 million, the Sharks may be hard pressed to match it, and could very well take the compensation of a 1st and a 3rd in order to restock their depleted prospect pool.


Overall


I feel there will be at least 1 offer sheet this year. There has to be. If not now, there never will be. This is by far the best RFA class we have seen, and with a lot of teams tight to the cap, there will never be a better opportunity.


I don't see it happening on one of the top guys, but if it does, and it happens early, don't be surprised to see teams become more open to the idea, whether they turn around and offer sheet someone else, or use the picks in future years.

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