2018 NHL Free Agents: Central Division – Restricted Free Agent Forwards

2018 NHL Free Agents: Central Division – Restricted Free Agent Forwards

JJason Zucker, Mattias Janmark, and Ryan Hartman are three of the top pending 2018 restricted free agent forwards from the central division.

The offseason presents a myriad of ways to look at what is ahead. Three of the more prominent restricted free agent defensemen from the Central Division were under the spotlight here. Now, we continue with the next batch of forwards.

There are quite a few intriguing RFA’s out there. Here are three forwards who could, err, should see a bigger paycheck.

NHL Restricted Free Agents – Central – Forwards

Jason Zucker – Left Wing – Minnesota Wild
His 2017-18 salary was only $2 million. He had 64 points and proved the year before was not a fluke. Despite seeing more defensive zone start time (55.9%), Zucker’s possession metrics improved and were well above average (+4.5% team relative).
The good news is that Zucker poured it on in the second half. He tallied 19 points in the final 21 games of the regular season. 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 over two minutes from earlier in the season (17+ minutes per night).

How much is Minnesota likely to pay Zucker?

Again, he is 26-years old. The logical progression in his numbers has been steady. This year was another step and some believe there is room for more. Can Minnesota gain a little more term for a bit fewer dollars? That is quite possible.

Zucker exceeded expectations with an increased role under more difficult utilization. How many unrestricted free agent years do the Wild want to buy? The winger should double his salary easily and then some.

Mattias Janmark – Center/Left Wing – Dallas Stars

The center is just 25-years old. Janmark missed the entire 2016-17 season due to injury. Few expected too much from the forward, but Janmark was able to slightly increase his totals. He almost topped 20 goals and finished with 34 points.

One nagging concern is the lack of shots on net (less than two per contest). Also, his defensive play was definitely not as good as his rookie season. Is that because of the talent or is it just a function of the increased responsibility? Janmark played at nearly a -2.5% possession metric relative to his teammates. Considering how Dallas performed over the second half, part of that adversely impacted the forward’s numbers.

Janmark showed an ability to stay in the top-six against all odds and some may argue he is better suited on the left wing. That is something Dallas may try under new coach, Jim Montgomery. Dallas found themselves engaged in some bad habits last year and that included Janmark. Special teams must improve and Dallas must take advantage of the forward’s speed and agility.

Do the Stars bridge Mattias Janmark? Could he see a raise to $1.5 to 2 million per campaign? That is plausible. He may even take a little less as his base salary in 2017-18 was just $700,000.

Ryan Hartman – Right Wing – Nashville Predators

Alas, Hartman was a former first-round pick who became expendable in Chicago. His versatility is just an asset. His penchant for taking penalties was not, sadly. Hartman’s possession metrics took a hit due to his deployment which was around 45% in the offensive zone.

He is effective anywhere on the third and fourth line and can occasionally take on top-six minutes. The question is what the 23-year-old could command in his next deal. There is a reason to believe the forward will bounce back in Nashville. Hartman scored 19 times in his rookie season. There is an expectation that the winger could come close to that in 2018-19.

The talk with Nashville was a one or two year deal, which makes sense. One problem is how much of a raise does Hartman see from his $863,333 salary? Another dilemma is again that discipline issue. Nashville needs the depth, but they have the leverage over Hartman to a point. Expect a modest raise and little more.