One of the NHL’s most active draft day general managers believes the large number of big-name RFAs could stymie draft floor activity next week.
Brad Treliving, who has made several of his most significant moves on draft weekend, said it will be harder for him and many of his colleagues to manoeuvre as freely as they have in the past due to the cost uncertainty associated with unsigned young stars.
“You can’t go out and buy all sorts of cars before you know what the mortgage payment is,” said the Calgary Flames GM, who will arrive at the NHL Draft in Vancouver next Friday unsure how much of his $14.5 million in cap space he will have to allocate for restricted free agent Matthew Tkachuk.
“People have got to take care of that piece. Until you have some certainty there it’s hard to chase a bunch of things.
I think there are a lot of teams going in very cautious because if you don’t have (a significant RFA) this year you probably have one next year.”
Coming off a career year with 34 goals and 77 points, Tkachuk is in line to make anywhere from $7 to $10 million annually, depending on term.
It will also depend largely on what the raft of other RFAs sign for, including Toronto’s Mitch Marner, Tampa’s Brayden Point, Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen, Carolina’s Sebastian Aho, Vancouver’s Brock Boeser, San Jose’s Timo Meier, Boston’s Charlie McAvoy and Winnipeg’s Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine.
Complicating the re-written rules for stars coming out of entry-level deals is the fact it could take plenty of time for the aforementioned to sign their names to what will no doubt continue to be precedent-setting pacts.
No one wants to go first, as everyone in that market hopes to ride the coattails of others who continue to raise the bar like William Nylander and Auston Matthews did last season with respective $6.9 million and $11.6 million deals.
Leafs GM Kyle Dubas said his priority is to have Marner inked by July 1, which few believe will come to fruition given how tight Toronto’s cap situation is and how lucrative the deal will be.
Many GMs are braced for RFA stalemates that extend into the start of the season like the Nylander saga did.
Treliving’s situation is further complicated by the need to sign RFA Sam Bennett, as well as two goalies, including young standout David Rittich who is also due a hefty raise as an RFA.
The draft weekend has long been the most active gathering for GMs who have the best chance to exchange ideas and shape their rosters by using draft picks to sweeten trade offers.
Treliving made the biggest splash at last year’s draft when he swapped Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and prospect Adam Fox to Carolina for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm.
The previous year he landed highly sought-after Travis Hamonic in a deal with the Islanders involving four draft picks.
In 2016 he acquired Brian Elliott for two draft picks.
This year it’s likely he’d be open to discussing swaps for players like Michael Frolik or TJ Brodie, but the Tkachuk signing may prevent him from effecting changes he’d otherwise be looking to make.
“If something happens, great,” said Treliving, who has five draft picks, including the 26th overall.
“But we may just go there and draft some players.”