The offseason presents a myriad of ways to look at what is ahead. Three of the more prominent restricted free agents were under the spotlight earlier in the week here. Now, we continue with the next batch of restricted free agents.
So, the Metropolitan Division is up next. There are quite a few intriguing RFA’s out there. Here are three who could, err, should see a bigger paycheck.
NHL Restricted Free Agents — Metropolitan
Tom Wilson — Right Wing — Washington Capitals
The good news is that a different Wilson has surfaced in the playoffs. Nine points in 12 games (at press time) has given Wilson a little leverage. His ability to create space for Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Kuznetsov has been vital in Washington’s deep playoff run. His average ice time jumped up two and a half minutes from the regular season (18:26 per night).
How much is Washington willing to pay Wilson at this point?
Again, he is only 24 years old. The history of suspect hits is well documented along with a few suspensions. However, Wilson is starting to realize some of the potential that many saw in him as a mid-first round pick in the 2012 draft. Is this the beginning of an even bigger breakout next season? That is why a bridge deal may still be prudent as there is some uncertainty.
Noah Hanifin — Defenseman — Carolina Hurricanes
The young defenseman is just 21 years old. Despite that, he broke out with career highs in several categories. Hanifin played 79 games, averaged 18:52 of ice time per night, and tallied 32 points. This included ten goals.
One nagging concern is the high offensive zone percentage at over 63%. Also, his even-strength PDO was just 95.2. Is that because of the talent or is it just a function of what was a lost season for Carolina in net last year? Hanifin’s shooting percentage increased to 6.1% and he enjoyed nearly a +3% possession metric relative to his teammates. Considering how well the Hurricanes dominated possession, that is noteworthy.
Carolina’s management says they are interested in exploring almost all avenues via trades to improve their team. Would they entertain moving Hanifin for a goal scoring forward? That would seem foolish given his potential to improve on last year’s totals.
Do they bridge Hanifin or do they sign him to a longer deal? It is expected that the Carolina defenseman will likely double his salary ($1.775 million in 2017-18). This should prove to be some summer down in North Carolina.
Ryan Pulock — Defenseman — New York Islanders
Alas, some debates will erupt here as to Pulock’s selection. He performed well in spite of the Islanders’ second-half nosedive. Pulock’s shot is just an incredible asset. His offensive zone usage dipped to 48.5%. Despite that decrease, his production warrants it along with above possession metrics (+4.25%).
He is effective anywhere in the top-four and meshed well with the top six forwards of the Islanders. The question is will Doug Weight allow him to take the next step? There is some uncertainty in the coaching and management ranks. On the other hand, the 21-year-old could easily surpass three shots a game and wind up on the Islanders’ top power play unit in 2018-19. Those five power play goals were not a fluke.
The talk with the New York Islanders was potentially a bridge deal, which makes sense. The Islanders cap situation may necessitate that. John Tavares expects to command $10 million or more. Pulock may almost double that $1.363 million dollar price tag from 2017-18.