While the majority of the restricted free agents in the National Hockey League have already been signed, there remains some very big names who still don't have new contracts as we draw very close to the start of the regular season, and even closer to the World Cup of Hockey.
Thankfully Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman is back from his time at the Rio Olympics, and in a recent interview with the NHL Network he shared the latest information on some of the NHL's top young stars. First Friedman touched on Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau, whom he believes is looking for an even bigger deal than teammate Sean Monahan.
“I’m sure that Calgary would like to get Gaudreau in in that area too, but I think Gaudreau is asking higher.” said Friedman as per Nichols on Hockey. “I do think we’re looking at a situation where if you take a look at Gaudreau and what he’s done in the first couple of years in the league, there aren’t a lot of comparables for it. And that’s kind of what we’re looking at here. We’ve got a situation where his offensive numbers – you really struggle to find somebody who would come in at his level of experience and do what he’s done in the first couple of years.
It sounds like the pressure is on for the Flames as well, with Gaudreau putting a soft deadline on negotiations, one Friedman appears to believe is legit.
“I think it’s going to be interesting because Gaudreau has basically said that once he shows up at the World Cup training camp on September 4, there’ll be no negotiations until after the tournament. Now, that doesn’t mean the agent and the team can’t talk, but he doesn’t want it during the event. So it’ll be interesting to see with a soft deadline of September 4 if anything does happen there.”
Some of Friedman's most interesting comments however came in regards to Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov. While it's not an official report, it does sounds like Friedman believes that if Kucherov is looking to stay in Tampa Bay he will need to take a pay cut the way both Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman did.
"I’m really curious to see how close Tampa is going to get to that if they want to go long-term with Kucherov," stated Friedman as per Nichols on Hockey. "I think he’s a guy who you’re looking at when he hits unrestricted free agency, he’s going to have a big number. I think Tampa is going to do with him the same thing they kind of did with Hedman and Stamkos. They’re going to say, ‘Look, this is where we’re looking at and this is where it’s going to be.’ I just think one thing they’ve proven is that’s the way they’re going to go, and that’s the way it’s going to be for Kucherov at this particular time."
For fans of the teams who aren't involved in one of these conversations however, the most interesting situation may be the one surrounding defenseman Hampus Lindholm, and his future with the Anaheim Ducks.
"The Lindholm one, I’ve heard for a while now that that one was tricky. And that there were a lot of different variables there, including a change in agent that we saw last season. They were able to get one of those deals done with the change of agent, but it ended up being a trade to Toronto, right? Frederik Andersen. So I think it says to me that they’re still having a lot of issues trying to pull it down. And again, at this point in time, I’ve got no information that anything is close."
Last but not least came the talk on defenseman Jacob Trouba and despite the fact that both the Jets and Trouba have been working on this for a very long time, it doesn't sound like they are any closer to finding common ground.
“The only other one I’ve heard on at this point in time is Trouba for Winnipeg. Again, it’s been one that we’ve all been kind of waiting to happen. The one thing I can say about him is that he apparently is going to play in the World Cup, just like Gaudreau, whether he has a contract or not. That he’s got the extra insurance and he’s going to play, even if he hasn’t signed with the Jets.”