The NHL off season is finally starting to slow down. It never completely stops, especially with so many UFAs still unsigned, and
twenty, nineteen, seventeen RFAs set to go to arbitration starting next Monday, but we are entering a cool down stage.
Why hasn’t Cody Franson signed? Will someone actually make it to arbitration this year?
I spoke to a western conference manager yesterday about Franson. “Teams aren’t sure what he is as a player. If they want longer term the team will want less money.”
I asked him to compare Franson to Andrej Sekera. “Sekera is a better defender and stronger in battles. Franson distributes the puck very well, but the concern is how good he defends. If you pay a defenceman long term and at a high price you need to know they can defend.”
Franson’s consistency seems to be the issue and teams are a bit hesitant to hook him in, but as training camp gets closer teams will want to fill holes and Franson’s camp remains patient. I’m very curious to see if a team gives him the long-term deal he wants, or if he settles for a three or four year pact.
The other UFA D-men still available include:
Christian Ehrhoff. He is 32 and made $4 million last year. He suffered mutliple concussions in the second half of last season, but looked great in Pittsburgh prior to the injuries. The Stars, Bruins and Sabres need help in their top-four. The Oilers could use him as well.
Johnny Oduya: He turns 34 in October. He made $3.375 last year with the Hawks. He’d love to stay in Chicago, but the Hawks have no cap space. I was told the Sabres offered him $5 million/year for three years, but he’s still weighing his options. Stars beat reporter, Mike Heika tweeted out this morning he thinks Oduya will make a decision today. The Stars would like him to mentor their young D-men, but it seems the Sabres might have the inside track.
David Schlemko (28), Marek Zidlicky and Lubomir Visnovsky (both 38) are the other players available. Schlemko will get signed eventually. He’d be cost effective.
Alex Semin is still available, but he will likely only get a one-year deal. The Hurricanes bought him out after year two of a five-year deal, and teams are leery of his drive and consistency. But, he has elite level skill and someone will take a chance on him. He could be a steal at $4 million/year.
Curtis Glencross. He struggled in the playoffs for the Capitals and that hurt him. He scored 13 goals and 35 points in 71 games last year between Calgary and Washington. GMs are concerned about his speed, I’m told. He can still contribute, but he will sign a short deal.
Eric Fehr. He scored 19 goals last year and only one on the PP. He only made $1.5 million last year, and I’m very surprised he is still available. The Oilers have had some conversations with Fehr’s camp, but they were very preliminary.
Scottie Upshall, Brad Boyes, Sean Bergenheim, Lee Stempniak and Jiri Tlusty are also available. They are serviceable veterans, but I won’t be surprised if half of them go to camp as in invite and have to earn a contract.
Justin Schultz and Jonathan Bernier are the only two players who are in arbitration at the team’s request. The Oilers cannot offer Schultz less than his qualifying offer, $3.625 million, so do not expect a lower contract. I don’t see any reason he deserves a raise, but he might receive a small bump. Despite his struggles, he still played the most minutes of any Oilers and his camp will bring that up.
Most summers, I wouldn’t expect any of these players to make it to arbitration, but this off-season has been anything but normal. Teams traded players we didn’t expect, GMs have not spent wildly in free agency, and usually most players settle before going to arbitration, but in keeping with the winds of change I expect we will see a few cases go the distance.
P.K Subban went to arbitration last year, but he and the Canadiens agreed to an eight-year extension before the arbitrator made his decision.
The St.Louis Blues and Vladimir Sobotka also went to arbitration, and the Blues received a one-year, $2.725 award for Sobotka when, or if, he returns to the NHL.
Since 2011, only two other cases were settled be an arbitrator.
In 2012, Kyle Cumiskey and the Ducks went to arbitration and he was awarded a one-year, two-way deal worth $744,000 and $105,000 in the minors.
In 2011, Shea Weber and the Preds saw an arbitrator. The Preds offered $4.75 million while Weber asked for $8.5 million. The Preds used Keith Yandle as a comparison, and the arbitrator didn’t buy it. Weber was awarded a one-year deal worth $7.5 million.
GOING TO ARBITRATION
This morning there were twenty players scheduled to go to arbitration, but three signed contracts leaving 17 remaining.
Coyotes: Brendan Shinnimin (signed 1-year, $600,000 today) and Philip Samuelsson (signed 1-year, $600,000 today).
Flames: Lance Bouma (July 22), Josh Jooris (July 28) and Paul Byron (July 30).
Avalanche: Andrew Agozzino (July 20) and Mat Clark (July 22).
Wild: Eric Haula (July 31)
Predators: Craig Smith (July 20) and Colin Wilson (July 28)
Devils: Eric Gelinas (settled this afternoon, two years with $1.575 AAV) and Adam Larsson (July 29).
Rangers: Derek Stepan (July 27)
Senators: Alex Chiasson (July 23) and Mike Hoffman (July 30)
Flyers: Michael Del Zotto (July 21)
Capitals: Braden Holtby (July 23) and Marcus Johansson (July 29)
Oilers: Schultz (July 24)
Leafs: Bernier (July 31)
I’m most intrigued to see what Stepan and Holtby sign for. Stepan was a $3.075 million cap hit the past two seasons. He scored 57 and 55 points, although last year he missed 14 games. He wants big money, and his numbers are solid, but the Rangers only have six million in cap space to sign Stepan, JT Miller and Jesper Fast.
Holtby will get a big raise and he deserves it. He was outstanding last season and has been consistent the past three seasons. I wonder if we see a similar situation to Subban last year where they go to arbitration, but settle before the arbitrator hands down his ruling.
Once the Oilers and Schultz settle their buyout window will open up. They took him to arbitration to ensure he gets signed rather than for the buyout option. His camp wanted more. I know it sounds crazy based off of his year, but he played the most TOI of any defender and they use that as leverage.
Edmonton will not buyout Andrew Ference, which makes sense to me, and I don’t get the sense they will buyout Nikita Nikitin. He can come to camp and compete for a job. It is almost impossible that he’ll be as bad as last year. If he does struggle they can send him to the minors. I get the sense they don’t want to have wasted cap space next season, so they’d rather have him in the AHL and maybe he can regain his confidence if he starts the season in a funk.
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