RFA Watch: Teams ‘kicking tires’ on Huberdeau offer sheet

Watch as Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau scores a Peter Forsberg-like goal in the shootout against the Washington Capitals.

NHL training camps open Thursday, and two significant young forwards still do not have a contract.

Will the unsettled negotiations of restricted free agents Jonathan Huberdeau and Brock Nelson be wrapped up before Thursday, or will these cases hover over camp the way Ryan Johansen’s did last September?

Of the two situations, Nelson’s certainly appears to be the most contentious, with some strong statements coming from the player’s agent this week.

Both players are eligible to sign offer sheets, which adds an interesting wrinkle to their situations.

Here is the latest on the NHL’s unsigned RFAs.

Brock Nelson
Age: 23
Position: Centre
2014-15 cap hit: $900,000

Contract year report: Nelson’s entry-level deal was loaded with bonuses — his AAV in 2014-15 was $2.825 million — and he lived up to them with his first 20-goal campaign and a career-best 22 assists. Nelson potted two more goals in his first taste of a full playoff series and didn’t miss a single game all year.

Latest rumblings: Islanders owner Charles Wang has a rather strict rule that players who do not have a signed contract when camp begins must sit out the entire season. He does not want general manager Garth Snow and Nelson’s agent negotiating after Thursday, which jacks up the pressure here.

According to Newsday, the club is believed to have offered Nelson a two-year contract. Because the Minnesota native has no arbitration rights, the Isles have leverage. Teammate Anders Lee, the 25-year-old centre who also entered this summer as an RFA, is looked at as a comparable. He inked a four-year deal worth an average of $3.75 million annually after his own breakout campaign.

On Monday, Nelson’s agent, Ron Salcer, updated Newsday with some not-so-encouraging news.

“We haven’t heard from them in six weeks,” Salcer told the outlet. “Garth and I talked six weeks ago after they made an offer, which was nowhere near commensurate with what players like Brock are making. Garth said he’d get back to me and that was it. No negotiations whatsoever.

“I don’t want to get into numbers, but for the first year, it’s half of what players similar to Brock are making,” Salcer added. “And in [a] year [or] two, it’s a third of what players similar to Brock are making… We’re not being unreasonable. This is all their doing.”

Salcer, of course, could be using the media to apply pressure on Snow. The agent told Newsday that he called the GM Monday but had yet to hear back.

“Is Brock the guy you want to bring the hammer down on?” Salcer asked. “He’s a great kid; he wants to be in camp to be part of this good thing the Islanders have going. And they’re the ones keeping him from that.”

Jonathan Huberdeau
Age: 22
Position: Left wing
2014-15 cap hit: $894,166

Contract year report: After a wicked sophomore slump, Huberdeau upped his value in 2014-15, putting up a career-high 54 points and becoming a plus player (plus-10) for the first time in his career, earning his AAV of $3.194 million. Still, the promise he showed by capturing the Calder Trophy in 2013 hasn’t quite been fulfilled.

Latest rumblings: General manager Dale Tallon, who has been loathe to depart with members of his young core, told the Miami Herald Friday that he’s confident the sides will settle something before Thursday. (Note that the Panthers do not impose the hard deadline the Islanders do.)

On Tuesday, multiple reports had Huberdeau sitting on a two-year contract offer from Florida but nothing has been finalized. Complicating matters, TVA’s Renaud Lavoie reported that “some teams are kicking the tires” on an offer sheet.

Remaining unsigned RFAs: Stefan Elliot (Arizona Coyotes), Freddie Hamilton (Colorado Avalanche), John Albert (Winnipeg Jets)

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