February 5, 2019 | 3:00pm ET
BY DAVID PAGNOTTA, The Fourth Period
MATTHEWS DEAL SETS TONE FOR OTHER RFAs
TORONTO, ON – Tuesday is a big day for the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise. It’s big not just because the team signed Auston Matthews to a five-year, $58.17 million contract extension. It’s big because the two sides agreed to just a five-year, $58.17 million deal.
Getting Matthews locked into a new contract wasn’t going to shock anyone. The Leafs own his rights, they weren’t going to let him stroll into free agency. He’s the team’s superstar among its stars, and likely the club’s next captain.
The five-year deal at $11.634 million per season gives Toronto the ability to keep its core in place for the foreseeable future.
Toronto’s window is now, and for the time being, it’s got a six-season shelf life.
With the salary cap set to increase next season from this season’s $79.5 million mark, getting Matthews locked up at just $11.634M will allow the team the ability to get Mitch Marner inked to a hefty contract, as well as get pending restricted free agents Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson signed to new deals – providing neither is dealt.
As it currently stands, the Maple Leafs have $7.59 million in available salary cap space for next season – keep in mind, the cap will increase and the Leafs can free up an additional $5.3 million by placing Nathan Horton on long-term IR (he’s not even on LTIR this season – another acquisition coming before the deadline?).
Marner’s next deal will be in the $10 million to $10.5 million range (my best guess). The Leafs want him in the $9 million range on a long-term deal and Marner’s camp will push for $11 million or more. They’ll eventually meet in the middle, dollars wise, but it’s hard to predict where they’ll end up on term – if Marner signs a four-year extension, he can become a UFA after the 2022-23 season, and I’m not sure the Leafs want both Marner and Matthews to become UFAs at the same time after the 2023-24 season.
And that’s just what Toronto has to worry about.
You can be sure today’s Matthews signing has caught the attention of other pending RFAs around the NHL.
Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen, Winnipeg’s Patrick Laine, Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point and Carolina’s Sebastian Aho have all taken notice. And that’s not to say they’ll be signing a contract worth $11.634 million per, but it helps set the tone for their negotiations moving forward.
However, Rantanen’s near 120-point pace this season, after last year’s 84-point performance, definitely puts him in the $11+ million AAV category.
Point is on pace for 103 points this season, while Aho is looking at a 94-point campaign if he keeps it up. Arguments will be made for $10+ million per season – Tampa will use its no state tax card to its advantage, but I don’t think Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon minds dishing out big money for Aho.
Laine’s subpar offensive season won’t take away from his potential output, but the Jets will use this year’s performance as part of their negotiations.
Not everyone needs to get their deal done during the season, though, as players like Vancouver Canucks stud Brock Boeser will wait until the off-season to negotiate an extension.
There are a ton of other top quality RFAs-to-be this summer and it’ll certainly make for a variety of interesting storylines.
LOSE THE LOSING
If the Ottawa Senators want to get Mark Stone and Matt Duchene locked up to new deals, they need to impress the shit out of them with their not-too-long-term plan.
It’s clear Duchene is worried about the team’s immediate future. He wants to win. He wants a shot at the Stanley Cup, and he wants it sooner than later. If Sens GM Pierre Dorion can convince him the team’s on the upswing in a couple more years, he might stick around. But if the Sens can’t sign Stone, what makes them think they can get Duchene locked up?
The losing in Ottawa is taking its toll on players, Stone and Duchene included. Both stars truly like living in the Ottawa-area and playing for the Sens, but the losing will have to stop at some point soon.
And that notion affects for the rest of the team, as well.
The Senators will try to get Ryan Dzingel signed to a new deal, but from what I’m hearing, he’s already got his bags packed and is waiting for a specific phone call.
Bobby Ryan, Cody Ceci, Mikkel Boedker (now week-to-week with a mid-body injury), Magnus Paajarvi, Craig Anderson, Zack Smith and so on and so on... they’ll all been tossed around the trade block along with Dzingel and each one of them could be moved at any point.
How’s that make them and the rest of the team feel?
If the Sens want to stop the bleeding, they need to convince Stone and Duchene they aren’t screwing around and they’re ready to turn the ship around this off-season. It may take another season and a half to get everyone going (Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot and others included), but those are the marching orders.
If Stone and Duchene believe it, and sign, good times are ahead sooner than later. If they don’t, it’s all on Dorion (if he sticks around).
DECISION TIME FOR KEITH
I tweeted yesterday the Chicago Blackhawks were planning on speaking with Duncan Keith about waiving his no-movement clause some time early this week. While I’m not sure if that conversation has occurred yet, I’m told that’s the plan.
On Saturday, Elliotte Friedman reported on Hockey Night in Canada the Hawks had approached Brent Seabook about waiving his NMC and he had declined.
Granted, Friedman didn’t get a chance to say if the request had been made recently or not, but Seabrook denied having that conversation when asked about it by the media on Monday, forcing Friedman to backup his claim by stating that “at some point this season, it happened.”
Not that he needs any backing from me, but I have no reason to doubt Friedman. And having been told the Blackhawks are set to speak with Keith about his NMC, I would certainly believe they’d have done the same with Seabrook.
That being said, Keith will have a decision to make fairly soon – and it doesn’t necessarily mean a move will happen by the trade deadline.
There is interest in Keith and teams want to know if he’d consider joining them. If he does, trade talks will pick up steam over the next 20 days.
Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has watched the last two Anaheim Ducks games and that’s fueled a lot of speculation – the Habs host the Ducks tonight in Montreal. The Ducks are getting calls on a number of their players, so it’s not entirely surprising the Canadiens are one of them. Two summer’s ago, Bergevin tried to pry Cam Fowler from Anaheim. I wonder if that’s his target, as the Habs are looking for a left-defenceman.
The Los Angeles Kings are engaged in a ton of trade talk, as teams try to pounce on a team down in the dumps. Most of L.A.’s tradable assets have term left on their deals – Carl Hagelin, Nate Thompson and Oscar Fantenberg are pending UFAs – and are generating plenty of interest. You’ll hear Ilya Kovalchuk’s name a little more over these next 20 days, as we confirmed earlier today that he’s willing to waive his NMC for the right team (Kings will have to retain some salary). Another name to watch out for: Jonathan Quick. I’m still of the mindset that a trade involving Quick is more likely to occur in the off-season, but if the right dominos fall by Feb. 25th’s 3pm ET deadline, there’s a chance he could be moved.
If the Lightning make a big splash this month, don’t be surprised if Ryan Callahan is moved out to free up cap space. It was an option in the summer and it could be an option again for Tampa, though Callahan hopes to stay.