2018 NHL Free Agents – Central Division – Restricted Free Agent Defensemen

2018 NHL Free Agents – Central Division – Restricted Free Agent Defensemen

NHL restricted free agent defenseman Matt Dumba, Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey

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 Central Division is up next. There are quite a few intriguing RFA’s out there. Here are three defensemen who could, err, should see a bigger paycheck.

NHL Restricted Free Agents — Central — Defensemen

Matt Dumba — Right Defense — Minnesota Wild
His 2017-18 salary was just $2.55 million. He had 50 points and finally showed the upside Minnesota fans were anticipating. Despite seeing more defensive zone start time (54.2%), Dumba’s possession metrics improved closer to average (-0.75% team relative).

The good news is that a different Dumba emerged in the second half. Dumba tallied 16 points in the final 19 games after March 1st. His ability to create space for Minnesota’s top-six forwards was noted along with a more accurate shot. His average ice time jumped up two and a half minutes from earlier in the season (26+ minutes per night).

How much is Minnesota likely to pay Dumba at this point?

Again, he is only 24-years old. The history of some suspect defensive play has been masked by faster progress offensively. This year was a significant breakthrough and should allow Minnesota to play Ryan Suter a bit less next year while giving Dumba prominent top power play time and possibly top pairing minutes. Can Minnesota gain a little more term for a bit fewer dollars? That is quite possible.

Jacob Trouba — Right Defense — Winnipeg Jets

The defenseman is just 24 years old. Trouba played three minutes less per night this season at just under 22 minutes a game. Injury, like last year, lowered his games played to 55. Trouba tallied 24 points on three goals and 144 shots on net.

One nagging concern is the low shooting percentage (2.05%). Also, his power play time was reduced by some. Is that because of the talent or is it just a function of the emergence of Josh Morrissey? Trouba enjoyed nearly a +1% possession metric relative to his teammates. Considering how well Winnipeg played this year, a winning environment is there.

Winnipeg’s management and Trouba say they are interested in an extension. Would they entertain a lesser AAV for more term? That would seem a possibility given the youth on Winnipeg and their increasing window of success.

Do they bridge Trouba again or do they sign him to a longer deal? It is expected that the defenseman should see a raise ($3 million in 2017-18). Could he see a raise to $4.5 to $5 million per campaign? That is plausible. Morrisey is also an RFA so keep an eye on his next deal. Stay tuned.

Josh Morrissey — Left Defense — Winnipeg Jets

Alas, Morrissey’s emergence cemented Winnipeg’s rise in the standings this year. His versatility is just an incredible asset. His offensive zone usage steadied at 48.4%. Morrissey’s possession metrics were just average this season but defensively his hits, blocks, and positioning improved.

He is effective anywhere in the top-four, and his improved play on the penalty kill was noteworthy. The question is what the 23-year-old could command in his next deal. There is a reason to believe the defenseman will be even more trusted in more defensive situations and occasionally some power play time. Morrissey’s play indicates he can be in the top-four for many years to come.

The talk with the Winnipeg Jets was a longer-term deal, which makes sense. The idea is to tie up a couple of extra years before Morrissey becomes an unrestricted free agent. Morrissey might triple that $1.363 million dollar price tag from 2017-18. What is certain is that Winnipeg has a bright future ahead on their blueline.