3 critical RFAs unsigned for opening night: Latest rumours

NHL insider Jeff Marek tells Dean Blundell & Co that based on Jacob Trouba’s age, unique talent, and the fact that he fits all teams’ needs, he’s not sure how the Winnipeg Jets can move him for fair value.

Even with Johnny Gaudreau and Nikita Kucherov signing just a couple days before the Flames and Lightning openers, a few restricted free agents are looking at the very real possibility of starting the season on the sofa.

What’s your level of concern these days, Anaheim, with two key RFAs still unsigned?

NHL training camps have wrapped, the puck drops for real on Wednesday, and yet there are still three important RFAs who do not have a contract. One of them went so far as to ask for a trade out of town.

As we’ve witnessed in autumns past, a nasty RFA contract negotiation can turn the club-player relationship sour taste and lead to a shortened future with the team that drafted him (see: Johansen, Ryan; Subban, P.K.).

If these RFAs are still not signed by Dec. 1, they are ineligible to play the remainder of the NHL season. Yikes.

Jacob Trouba
Age: 22
Position: Defence
2015-16 cap hit: $894,166
The stats: Like several of his teammates, Trouba had a down year statistically. He registered 21 points while setting a career high in penalty minutes (62).
The situation: Fractured, severely. Through agent Kurt Overhardt, Trouba went public with a trade request on Sept. 24, insisting he wants to play for a club where he’ll see top-four minutes as a right shot.

“As an unsigned player, we cannot compel Jacob to report to training camp at this time,” general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff responded in a statement. “However, we will continue to work diligently to resolve this matter.”

The Jets’ Cheveldayoff is famously patient. Former Winnipeg player Evander Kane had asked for a trade every off-season, but it was only when Cheveldayoff got a suitable return that he pulled the trigger.

Hampus Lindholm
Age: 22
Position: Defence
2015-16 cap hit: $894,166
The stats: The sweet-skating Swede scored a career-best 10 goals, added 18 assists and ranked second in Ducks ice time, averaging 22 minutes a night while contributing to both special teams.
The situation: The Ducks re-signed their other improving young D-man, Sami Vatenen, first (for $4.875 million a year) and let RFA Brandon Pirri walk to New York. Still, Anaheim has just $7.52 million in space in order to accommodate Lindholm (the top priority here) and forward Rickard Rakell. Lindholm replaced the injured Niklas Kronwall on Team Sweden’s World Cup roster and is doubtlessly coveted by opposing teams looking to bolster their blueline via trade.

Lindholm won’t attend camp without a contract. Instead, he’s training in Sweden. Lindholm’s asking price is believed to be in the ballpark of $6.5 million annually for a long-term deal. As many as eight years have been discussed. The Ducks would prefer to keep him in the $5.5 million range, comparable to Seth Jones or Morgan Rielly money.

“We are working on a long-term agreement for Hampus,” agent Claude Lemieux texted to the Orange County Register. “We have been negotiating for a while and have exchanged multiple proposals. I will say that we, both the team and ourselves, are working on getting this resolved ASAP.”

Rickard Rakell
Position: Centre
2015-16 cap hit: $894,166
The stats: Enjoyed his first 20-goal season and a career-high 43 points.
The situation: A skilled and young forward Anaheim would love to keep in the fold, but a tight budget is an obstacle here. Rakell was named to Team Sweden’s World Cup squad but needed to pull out and underwent an appendectomy. He still needs a couple weeks to recover and has not joined Ducks camp. Health has taken precedence over contract talks as Rakell recuperates in Sweden.

GM Bob Murray signed UFA centre Antoine Vermette this summer, which raises concerns about Rakell’s role. Anahiem now has five centremen: Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Nate Thompson, Vermette and Rakell.

“It is believed that while the Ducks would prefer to stay lower than Rakell’s six-year, $24-million asking price, they’ve made more headway with the centre’s agent, Peter Wallen,” reports Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register.

“Back negotiating,” Wallen said in an email to Stephens. “More frequently now.”

A deal as long as six years could be reached here, but money is still a sticking point.

(cap info via the excellent General Fanager)

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