The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the NHL was front and centre Wednesday as teams were forced to make some tough roster decisions on their restricted free agents.
Teams had until 5 p.m. ET Wednesday to submit qualifying offers to RFAs and any player who didn’t receive one will now become an unrestricted free agent on Friday.
Qualifying offers allow teams to retain negotiating rights and first right of refusal on offer sheets. Players can continue to negotiate contracts with the team, regardless of whether a qualifying offer was submitted or not, but if a player accepts a qualifying offer, it becomes a one-year contract that at a minimum guarantees the player will receive the same salary they earned last season.
With the flat salary cap from the COVID-19 pandemic creating some of the tightest budgets in recent memory, many teams opted not to risk having a player accept their qualifying offer — or, if eligible, go to arbitration — resulting in more talent than usual hitting the UFA market this way.
Now that the deadline has passed, here are 10 notable RFAs who will be available on the free agent market beginning at noon ET Friday.
All salary figures courtesy of CapFriendly.com.
Anthony Duclair, LW/RW, Senators
Age: 25 | 2019-20 stats: 23-17-40 | 2019-20 salary: $1.65M
Duclair, who represented the Senators at the 2020 All-Star game, had the fourth-most goals among all unrestricted free agent players in 2019-20. A speedy winger, he should have lots of suitors when the market opens.
Andreas Athanasiou, LW/RW, Oilers
Age: 26 | 2019-20 stats: 11-15-26 | 2019-20 salary: $3M
The Oilers acquired Athanasiou at the trade deadline and while the pandemic limited his time in Edmonton, he still struggled to click with either of the team’s MVP centres. He did score 30 goals in 2018-19 though and his speed could help him land somewhere on a discount.
Troy Stecher, RD, Canucks
Age: 26 | 2019-20 stats: 5-12-17 | 2019-20 salary: $2.35M
Stecher, a B.C. native, has been a staple on the Canucks blue line but was deemed expendable as the club tries to re-sign Jacob Markstrom and clear space for future big-money contracts for Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser.
Carter Verhaeghe, C/LW, Lightning
Age: 25 | 2019-20 stats: 9-4-13 | 2019-20 salary: $700,000
Verhaeghe cracked the Lightning lineup for the first time this past season, appearing in 52 NHL games and eight more in the playoffs. While his NHL numbers don’t say much, he had 82 points in 76 AHL games in 2018-19.
Mark Jankowski, C/LW, Flames
Age: 26 | 2019-20 stats: 5-2-7 | 2019-20 salary: $1.67M
Jankowski is a former first-round pick who hasn’t found consistent offensive success at the NHL level. He did, however, score 17 goals in 72 games in 2017-18, which could put him on some teams’ radars.
Vinnie Hinostroza, C/RW, Coyotes
Age: 26 | 2019-20 stats: 5-17-22 | 2019-20 salary: $1.5M
Hinostroza could provide depth at forward for a team, but his offensive production hasn’t been strong enough for the Coyotes to feel comfortable extending him a qualifying offer.
Malcolm Subban, G, Blackhawks
Age: 26 | 2019-20 stats: 9W, .890 SV%, 3.17 GAA | 2019-20 salary: $850,000
Subban was acquired by the Blackhawks in the Robin Lehner trade with the Golden Knights and only appeared in one game for Chicago. He enters a crowded goalie market and may need to start next season in the AHL as a result.
Frederik Gauthier, C, Maple Leafs
Age: 25 | 2019-20 stats: 7-5-12 | 2019-20 salary: $675,000
Gauthier was a player Mike Babcock loved and his role with the Leafs shrunk after Sheldon Keefe took over. He’s a big body at six-foot-four and can win face-offs which should help him find a job on a fourth-line somewhere.
Dominik Simon, LW/RW, Penguins
Age: 26 | 2019-20 stats: 7-15-22 | 2019-20 salary: $750,000
The Penguins have found success with inexpensive wingers filling important roles but Simon didn’t have the same impact as Jake Guentzel or Conor Sheary.
Dominik Kahun, C/LW/RW, Sabres
Age: 25 | 2019-20 stats: 12-19-31 | 2019-20 salary: $925,000
The Sabres acquired Kahun at the trade deadline from the Penguins and he didn’t have much time to make a mark in Buffalo before the pandemic. His agent has said negotiations with the Sabres remain open.
Honourable mentions: Matt Benning, Madison Bowey, Jeremy Bracco, Nick Cousins, Brendan Perlini, Lucas Wallmark