It is getting late early for a small selection of restricted free agents in the NHL.
Though these players, who of course remain beholden to their current clubs, are not back to work on an official basis with training camp still a few weeks away, they are nose to the grindstone in preparation without a contract in place for the upcoming season.
As always, each are held up for their own reasons. Some demand big money on top of term. Others want a quick turnaround before their next contract negotiation. One might just want clarity.
Here's the situation facing the big-name restricted free agents still waiting to see what the biweekly deposits will look like throughout the season.
Jason Robertson, Dallas Stars
Robertson is the biggest name league-wide waiting on a new deal. He scored 41 goals last season in the final year of his entry-level contract, which places him in the elite tier of NHL snipers — at least provisionally. Therefore, he's an obvious candidate for a significant investment from the Stars.
The problem is two-fold. Dallas has a fairly sizeable amount of money promised to big-name forwards. But perhaps most importantly, the Stars are experiencing some significant buyer's remorse when considering those agreements with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, specifically.
There is enough money laying around to presumably satisfy Robertson's needs but, from an organizational standpoint, the Stars seem reticent to meet what would be considered market value. Stars owner Tom Gaglardi appeared to lay that out — and without much hesitation— in a recent appearance on the Cam and Strick Podcast, where he complained about the disproportionate amount of money being carved out for the star players league-wide.
".. Kid in the third year of his entry level puts up 40 goals, and now he wants to make $7 million," Gaglardi said, with a level of exasperation. "And if you want term with that player, he's going to take you higher than that."
Evidently, it's been on Robertson to fight for his. Hence the stalemate.
Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs
It feels less about the contract with Sandin and the Maple Leafs, and more about how the partnership could move forward.
Sandin reportedly turned down a similar offer to the fairly generous two-year $2.8 million bridge contract his friend and common defence partner Timothy Liljegren agreed to back in late June.
As it was with Liljegren, it comes across as the sort of offer worth taking.
But even with a deal, Sandin isn't in a position to start earning the raise on his next contract, which is paramount. He remains the fourth defender on the depth chart on the left side with the Maple Leafs, and firmly behind Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and Mark Giordano, and risks being misused by agreeing to any deal with Toronto.
It's likely the strongest determining factor to him remaining unsigned.
Kirby Dach, Montreal Canadiens
Kirby Dach is in an interesting position after being acquired in an extreme buy-low scenario from the Chicago Blackhawks. The former third-overall pick scored just nine goals in the final season of his entry-level contract, but was still thought of enough to be worth the 13th-overall selection — or the market value tied to Alexander Romanov (plus) — which should provide him with the sort of leverage he was without in Chicago.
It comes down to belief; for Dach, in himself, and Montreal, in the player it acquired to slot behind Nick Suzuki for seasons to come. It's complex situation that likely results in both parties making concessions on a mid-term with the sort of money that won't impact what Montreal is aiming to do in the Kent Hughes era.
Sean Durzi, Los Angeles Kings
Durzi has the least amount of data available after only just completing his rookie season, but the manner with which he elevated his NHL market value compares only to Robertson on this list. That said, while showing signs of true potential as a top-end defender in the league, Durzi didn't accrue the counting stats necessary to command a mammoth deal with a three-goal, 24-assist production line in 64 games.
It will come down to how much the Kings believe in Durzi, and isn't a terrible position for the player.
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