The calendar has flipped to September. The leaves are turning and there is a long list of RFA’s that are still sitting unsigned. Not only are players like Mikko Rantanen, Mitch Marner, Charlie McAvoy, Patrik Laine, and Matthew Tkachuk still without new deals, there isn’t a lot of chatter suggesting that deals are even close to being done.
Luckily, the Oilers don’t have that issue but the results of these signings could really affect the upcoming season for the Oilers. That’s where I’m starting this week’s look around the NHL rumour mill.
RFA’S STILL UNSIGNED
Dreger on TSN1050 says that after Kawhi left the Raptors, sources told him they believed MLSE would put pressure on Shanahan and the Leafs to do everything to keep Mitch Marner.
It's been previously reported that Shanahan has taken a more active role w/Marner this summer.
— James (@Account4hockey) September 3, 2019
The Mitch Marner saga obviously gets the most attention in the media and recently Kyle Dubas did the media rounds and while your phone may have gotten hundreds of notifications about what he said, there really wasn’t anything substantial. That’s kind of the case with all of these RFA’s. Either nobody is saying anything or the people talking to the media are just delivering basic cliches.
Everyone is stuck in a holding pattern right now and they all seem content with just waiting until the first big name signs and then they’ll go from there. There’s just one problem: if every big name is waiting for the other big names, then nobody will sign.
It’s tough to even peg which RFA is closest to a new deal. It’s just so oddly quiet surrounding every camp. Usually, by this point, there are substantial rumours about a player being close or that two sides are confident they’ll get a deal done. We aren’t even getting much of that.
There was one report this week suggesting that the Winnipeg Jets are preparing for life without Patrik Laine and that sparked some trade speculation. That speculation is a bit of a stretch to me. In my opinion, preparing for life without Laine means they’re ready for a holdout. I really don’t see a scenario where Laine, or any significant RFA for that matter, is dealt at some point in October or November. There are just too many hurdles to clear to make a trade work when dealing with an unsigned RFA.
For the Oilers, the contracts for Charlie MacAvoy, Ivan Provorov, and Zach Werenski will be interesting. Darnell Nurse is an RFA at the end of the next season and I’m not saying that he is worth the exact amount that one of the three current free agents are, but those three will set the bar and provide a decent measuring stick for what Nurse could command next summer.
Also, the longer Matt Tkachuk holds out the longer the Flames will be without one of their best forwards. That’s also good for the Oilers.
THE FUTURE OF JG PAGEAU
Oilers fans have loved to think about the potential of JG Pageau being acquired. As a very competent third-line centre who can contribute on the powerplay and penalty, he would be a perfect fit in Edmonton.
The fact that he’s a pending UFA and currently plays for an Ottawa Senators team that is expected to be basement dwellers and sell-off at the deadline, it appeared to be a fairly realistic idea.
Some recent comments from Pageau are leading me to believe he might stick around the Nation’s capital for a while.
“I’m an Ottawa Senator. This is where my career started. This is the team that showed confidence in me. I’m happy here. I love representing the Senators.” said Pageau.
We know hockey players are loyal and it wouldn’t surprise me if Pageau actually did want to stay in Ottawa. I think this is more than just a player saying the right thing with a microphone in his face. For the Senators, they should be all over the opportunity to keep him around. Not only is he their best centre as of right now but with their young core coming up, they would be wise to keep some young veterans around.
I would have loved to see the Oilers acquire him, but as of right now, I’ll say it’s incredibly unrealistic.
I’m sure the Oilers would love to sign another scoring winger and bolster their top six. There has been some speculation that the team might look at signing a veteran winger with the likes of Patrick Marleau, Jason Pominville, and Thomas Vanek all still available.
If one of those names would cost under $1 million, then I’d be all for it. The Oilers need a centre more than anything but there’s nothing wrong with going after one more veteran piece on the wings. A player who could potentially click with one of the skilled centres and score 15-20 goals is never a bad thing.