There are still some key lingering contract-related issues around the National Hockey League as September nears, and hockey Insider Elliotte Friedman joined NHL Network on Monday to shed some insight.
Jack Eichel doesn’t need a contract immediately, but the 20-year-old franchise center is headed into the last season of his entry-level deal.
He led the Buffalo Sabres with 57 points despite only playing in 61 games last year, and even bigger things are on the horizon for the second overall pick from the 2015 draft.
“I just think right now they’re grinding towards a deal,” indicated Friedman of contract talks between the team and the player’s camp. “It sounds like there’s a will on both sides. He wants to get it done. They want to get it done. It sounds like there’s been some momentum.
“I remember – geez, right after free agency on July 1 – there were some people saying they thought that there had been momentum to it done.
“So I think they’re grinding their way. I think it’s going to happen. The question is just when. Part of me wonders if the Sabres and Eichel would like to do it at training camp, so they wait until then. But the fact is it sounds like there’s momentum going on and once they finish the grinding part of the contract they’ll get something done.”
Someone in need of a deal much more quickly than Eichel is restricted free agent David Pastrnak, who had the second-most points for the Boston Bruins during the 2016-17 campaign.
Pastrnak exploded for 34 goals and 36 assists, his entry-level deal has expired, and he is now in line for a hefty raise whenever this new pact is figured out.
The literal multi-million dollar question, though, is when will that get deal get done?
“That’s a great question and I think people right now are a little uncertain,” began Friedman. “Again, this was one about six weeks ago there was a lot of optimism that they were moving in the right direction.
“I think a lot of teams look at Boston and they say, ‘Look, we’ve got Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand as our highest-paid skaters and nobody is going to make more than those guys will.’ And I think that’s what Boston hopes to do.
“What I think here is when Connor McDavid signed his big contract in Edmonton, one agent told me, ‘Look, players are going to understand we’re not as good as Connor McDavid, but maybe we’re not $6 million worse than Connor McDavid.’
“And I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s one of the things that happens here. What the McDavid deal has done is it has raised the bar maybe up a little bit, and a number of players who would be below that are saying, ‘Okay, that raises us up a little bit too.’
“And I wouldn’t be surprised if that contract, like it moved up Draisaitl, it maybe is moving up Pastrnak in his own eyes – and that’s creating a little bit of a problem for the Bruins and the player in getting a deal done.”
Friedman alluded to the internal salary structure of the Bruins.
Patrice Bergeron is in the fourth season of his eight-year, $55 million contract that was signed in July of 2013. His cap hit is $6.875 million.
Brad Marchand is beginning the first season of his eight-year, $49 million deal, which was signed in September of 2016. His cap hit is $6.125 million.
The team also has David Krejci going into Year Three of a six-year, $43.5 million contract, with a cap hit of $7.25 million, and that deal was signed in September of 2014.
David Backes also signed that five-year, $30 million contract – with a $6 million cap hit – last summer.
The Oilers secured both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to new deals this summer.
McDavid was signed to a whopping $100-million contract on July 5, and that eight-year deal will carry a cap hit of $12.5 million when it kicks in for the 2018-19 campaign.
Draisaitl’s eight-year, $68 million agreement, which was signed August 16, begins immediately and will cost the Oilers a cap hit of $8.5 million.
Still no team for @68Jagr.
Will he be back on the ice this fall? pic.twitter.com/z70efkWJ8x
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) August 22, 2017
On the unrestricted free agent front, hockey legend Jaromir Jagr is still without an NHL home for 2017-18.
“I know some teams that have kind of talked and taken a look at it,” noted Friedman. “I think Calgary has been one that has kind of looked at it. One of his former coaches, Glen Gulutzan, is coaching up there.
“From what I hear, I think he’s patient enough to wait for the right opportunity because if it doesn’t come in the NHL, maybe it comes overseas. Maybe he goes and plays in the Olympics. Or maybe he starts, as he’s talked about, in his local team from the Czech League, and comes back somewhere during the year.
“I can tell you that there were a couple of teams that said to me today that they’d heard that maybe Anaheim might be interested, but I checked with that and I was told that’s not the case. It kind of made sense to me in some ways because Anaheim is a bit of a grinding team and Jagr could fit into that, but again I was told that the Ducks are not there.
“So the teams are waiting to see what he eventually decides to do.”
Jagr, 45, played all 82 games for the Florida Panthers last season, notching 16 goals and 30 assists.
Jagr’s cap hit on last year’s contract was $4 million, but he also had another $1.515 million attached to his AAV because of performance-related bonus potential.
Drew Stafford, meanwhile, split his time between the Winnipeg Jets and Boston Bruins in 2016-17. The 31-year-old winger had four goals and nine assists in 40 games with the former before being traded to the latter at the deadline in March, where he went on to add another eight points in 18 starts.
He is an unrestricted free agent.
“I’d heard around July 1 there were a couple of teams that were looking at Stafford,” relayed Friedman. “I thought that Stafford is a guy who has put some money away and I think he might be a guy who would look at fit as much as anything else in terms of where he’d play in the NHL next year. I was surprised it’s gone this long for him to find a home. But I understand there have been some conversations in the last week and they’re hoping to get something done.
“I think in a league where it’s so hard to score – maybe Drew Stafford never became the big scorer that people had hoped, but he’s still a talented guy who can get them. I am surprised he’s still without a job at this point in time.”
Stafford is coming off a two-year contract that paid him $4.35 million per season.