In today’s NHL Rumors column, are we seeing a shift in how early teams are attempting to extend their restricted free agents (RFAs), plus will the Alex DeBrincat contract affect the 2020 RFA class? How will the Edmonton Oilers handle Adam Larsson’s injury? Also, will the Dallas Stars and New York Islanders be able to find trade partners for Julius Honka and Josh Ho-Sang, respectively?
Effects of DeBrincat Contract
The past offseason was expected to be an exciting one as a number of high-impact players were coming off their entry-level contracts and were RFAs. For the most part, the summer lived up to expectations as Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, and Patrik Laine all dragged out their negotiations late into the offseason. But for as exciting as this offseason was for fans, it was less exciting for the teams and players involved. The 2020 offseason had been shaping up to be another highly-anticipated one with high-profile players like Alex DeBrincat becoming RFAs for the first time.
Now, however, it’s looking like there may be a shift in RFA negotiations. Less than a week into the 2019-20 season, we’ve already seen Samuel Girard, Clayton Keller, and Thomas Chabot all sign extensions, and just yesterday Chicago Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat signed a three-year extension. On a recent edition of TSN’s Insider Trading, Pierre LeBrun mentioned that he believes this could be the start of a trend.
When I’m talking to teams around the league, they don’t really want to be involved in what has just transpired on September 29 with all of the drama involving (Brayden) Point and (Mitch) Marner and (Matthew) Tkachuk and (Mikko) Rantanen, etc.
LeBrun feels there’s a strong likelihood that teams and players look to get extensions out of the way earlier than in recent years. He specifically points to upcoming RFAs Mathew Barzal (Islanders), Pierre-Luc Dubois (Columbus Blue Jackets), and Victor Mete (Montreal Canadiens) as players who could sign extensions in-season. Other notable pending RFAs in 2020 include Nico Hischier, Mikhail Sergachev, and Nolan Patrick.
Can the Oilers Replace Larsson?
In the Oilers’ opening-night victory against the Vancouver Canucks, defenseman Adam Larsson went down with a serious ankle injury and it’s reported that he’ll be out six-to-eight weeks. That leaves the Oilers with a serious hole on the top pair as Larsson plays a lot of minutes in a shut-down role.
On Insider Trading, Bob McKenzie reported that he thinks the Oilers will attempt to replace Larsson internally for the time being. The reasoning? There isn’t a suitable replacement available via trade. He thinks that the Oilers will move Kris Russell up from the third pair and play the recently called-up Evan Bouchard.
Bring in Kris Russell up from the third pair, put him [into] Larsson’s spot with Nurse. Continue to have the second pair that you planned on having with (Oscar) Klefbom and Ethan Bear and away you go.
McKenzie did point out that the Islanders’ Thomas Hickey recently cleared waivers and is available to acquire via trade, but his $2.5-million cap hit would be too much for the Oilers to absorb since they’re already up against the salary cap. Perhaps Larsson’s injury will force the Oilers to be more proactive in moving RFA Jesse Puljujarvi, who’s currently playing in Finland after requesting a trade out of Edmonton.
TSN 1060’s Jason Gregor also reports that Oilers general manager Ken Holland is still looking to add a top-six forward or top-four blueliner. This need is even more prominent with Larsson’s injury, but given the Oilers’ lack of cap space and excess NHL talent, it’s tough to see how Holland will be able to add to the NHL roster.
Ho-Sang Requests Trade from Islanders
After not making the NHL roster out of training camp and clearing waivers, the Islanders’ Josh Ho-Sang has reportedly requested a trade. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Ho-Sang wants a fresh start with a new team even with the understanding that he may have to start in the American Hockey League.
It appears that he wants the opportunity to start over with a new franchise. The question is, though, what team will trade for him, and at what price? The fact that he went through waivers without being claimed shows that there’s little interest in him throughout the league, so his trade value isn’t high. Perhaps a solution is the Islanders trading him for another team’s prospect looking for a fresh start.
Stars Looking to Move Honka
Stars defenseman Julius Honka is the last remaining unsigned RFA. Bob McKenzie reports that it’s nearly a foregone conclusion that the Stars deal Honka in the near future. The 2014 14th-overall pick lost his place in the Stars organization with other puck-moving blueliners John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen outplaying him.
The issue with him isn’t money. It’s not a financial dispute with the Dallas Stars. When you’ve got (John) Klingberg and you’ve got (Miro) Heiskanen, and you’re a puck-moving, sub-six-foot puck-moving defenceman, you’ve kind of lost your way in the Dallas organization.
Honka and the Stars haven’t had a falling out, nor is there a contract dispute. Instead, he, like Ho-Sang, is just seeking a fresh start. The difference between the two players, however, is that Honka still has trade value and could be plugged into an NHL blue line from the start. It’s likely the Stars are seeking a draft pick for him, perhaps a second or third-round pick.