As the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs reach their climax, the NHL’s free agent period begins in just over a month. Compared to previous offseasons, this summer has a deep crop of restricted free agent talent, some of whom could become targets for offer sheets.
Between now and July 1, Sporting News will break down the top free agents around the league. Here’s a look at the top restricted free agents in the Western Conference’s Central Division.
Mikko Rantanen – Colorado Avalanche
The 22-year-old right winger emerged from linemate Nathan MacKinnon’s shadow as a scoring star in his own right. Rantanen could make more than MacKinnon’s team-leading annual average value of $6.3 million, perhaps reaching $9 million per season.
The Avs have only $45.9 million tied up in 13 players, giving them plenty of room to re-sign him. The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers recently reported general manager Joe Sakic is willing to entertain long- or short-term deals for Rantanen.
Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Jacob Trouba – Winnipeg Jets
Over the past two years, these three played key roles in turning the Jets into a top Western Conference team. With over $57.2 million committed to 14 players, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff could have difficulty re-signing all of them.
Laine is completing his entry-level contract. A skilled sniper, the 21-year-old left winger tallied 36 and 44 goals in his first two seasons, respectively. However, his production fell to 30 goals in 2018-19. Dropped from the top line, he struggled to achieve offensive chemistry with second-line center Bryan Little.
The 21-year-old will still receive a substantial raise, perhaps around $7 million per season. Still, the recent decline in his scoring will affect how much he gets and for how long.
Connor, 22, is also completing his entry-level contract. He took over from Laine on the Jets’ top line full-time this season. A smart, versatile winger with two-way ability, he’s a good fit alongside center Mark Scheifele and right wing Blake Wheeler. He’s also coming off consecutive seasons of 30-plus goals.
Those factors ensure Connor receives a healthy raise. He could be looking at something in the $7 million per season range on a long-term deal.
For the second straight year, Trouba is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He’s also a year away from unrestricted free agent status. The 25-year-old matured into a solid all-around top-pairing defenseman. He also tallied a career-high 50 points this season.
Trouba’s previous contract talks were contentious. At one point in 2016, his agent requested a trade. It’s assumed he’ll pursue a one-year deal and depart via next summer’s UFA market. That could prompt Cheveldayoff to trade the 25-year-old at next month’s NHL Draft.
Jordan Binnington – St. Louis Blues
Backstopping his club from last place into the Stanley Cup Final ensures the 25-year-old rookie goaltender has earned his place among this summer’s top RFAs. Like Trouba, Binnington also has arbitration rights.
With over $64.2 million invested in 16 players, the Blues can afford to re-sign Binnington, whose stellar performance could cast some doubt on veteran goalie Jake Allen’s future in St. Louis. Once Binnington’s under contract, Allen could hit the trade block.
Stick tap to Cap Friendly for the salary information.