The offseason presents a myriad of ways to look at what is ahead. Last month, we took a look at some of the cheaper unrestricted free agents – here, here and here. Now, we begin the spotlight on the restricted free agents.
First off, it is time to lead with the Atlantic Division. 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 — Atlantic
Mark Stone — Right Wing — Ottawa Senators
Will he be extended by Ottawa? It’s an interesting question. Consider his 2017-18 salary is just $3.5 million. Also, he had 62 points. That was impressive. However, Stone has only played in 58 games this season (missed 18 games the previous two seasons combined).
The good news is that Stone is Ottawa’s best forward by far. Expectations are that Stone would re-sign in Ottawa. He is a forward who has produced for several seasons now.
Metrics have been very good with Stone. His 11.5% on-ice shooting percentage at 5 on 5 is top ten in the entire league. Possession relative percentages are up about 3% from team norms this year. It was up an average of 7% over the previous two years.
Ottawa’s rebuilding efforts have been well documented. What does this mean for Stone going forward?
Again, do you keep the right winger? Stone will be just 26 years old come July, and he will net a significant pay raise. His time in Ottawa will impact his payday to an extent. Would he take a little less to stay in Ottawa? He could nearly double his current salary, maybe more, if the Senators so choose. Ottawa is a team who could free up some cap space as well. Unloading Bobby Ryan’s $7.25 million per year salary could help in any potential new deal. Keep that in mind.
Dylan Larkin — Center — Detroit Red Wings
The young center is just 21 years old. Despite that, he broke out with career highs in several categories. Larkin played all 82 games, averaged 19:51 of ice time per night, and tallied 63 points. This included 47 assists (40 of them at even strength).
One nagging concern is his shooting percentage which has dropped each season. Is that because of the talent or is it just a function of what was a lost season for Detroit last year? Does that 10% shooting percentage the previous two years come back? It is something that has been projected? Larkin’s shot total went up to 232 and that could come close to 250 in 2018-19. If he comes close to his normal numbers, 25 goals is not impossible.
Detroit’s rebuild is hampered by a complicated salary cap situation. There are a few moves they will have to make. What does this mean when it comes to a salary for Larkin?
Do they bridge Larkin with a two- or three-year deal? The Red Wings could opt for a longer deal. The thought process is with a 60+ point campaign, Larkin is expected to easily surpass his 2017-18 salary of $925,000 plus bonus. The only question is by how much?
J.T. Miller — Center — Tampa Bay Lightning
Alas, Miller is in an interesting position. He performed well in his stint with the Lightning post-deadline (18 points in 19 games). Miller’s versatility to play on the wing or at center is helpful. His offensive zone usage is high at 56%. However, his production warrants it along with slightly above possession metrics (+1%).
He is effective anywhere in the top-six and can hold his own on a power play. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have meshed well with him which bodes nicely. This comes down to what does one pay the 25-year-old? Miller has 60+ point potential. His Tampa numbers suggest a possibility of 70 points and 25+ goals. Consider he had 10 goals in 19 games with Tampa Bay which brought his on-ice shooting percentage up to his season-long averages.
The talk with the New York Rangers was potentially a bridge deal, which is something Tampa may opt for here. Tampa’s cap situation may necessitate that. Consider that Miller made $2.75 million this year. The raise will be substantial. Could it be nearly double or more? That remains a possibility.