Top-Five Restricted Free Agent Predictions

free agent predictions

The offseason is quickly dying down. It is now time for the few remaining RFA’s to sign on for the upcoming campaigns. While most teams are lucky enough to have either all or almost all of their team signed, a team like the Dallas Stars is in a very tough spot. With two core pieces of their roster (Jason Robertson and Jake Oettinger) unsigned, they will need to make serious commitments to keep their team intact for the upcoming season. Along with the two Stars RFAs, we look a three other RFA’s in need of new contracts and make some restricted free agent predictions.

Restricted Free Agent Predictions

Jason Robertson

The biggest name currently sitting as a restricted free agent is Jason Robertson. The 40+ goal-scoring point-per-game winger has established himself as a top young talent in the league, and will rightfully be demanding a lot of money. With players such as Nick Suzuki, Brady Tkachuk, Joshua Norris and Robert Thomas all earning long-term deals in the realm of $8 million annually, it is expected that Robertson will expect a contract beyond that. One contract comparable could be Matthew Tkachuk, who was recently involved in one of the biggest trades in cap-era history. Tkachuk signed an eight-year, $76 million deal with Calgary prior to being traded to Florida. Any long-term deal with Robertson would logically be in the range of $9 million annually, which isn’t plausible for the Stars at the moment.
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Continuing the comparison with Matthew Tkachuk, who signed a three-year, $21 million bridge deal with the Flames prior to this contract, Robertson and Tkachuk had very similar performances in the last years of their ELC.

Tkachuk in 2018-19 scored 34 goals and 77 points in 80 games. This was good for about .963 points per game. Robertson in 2021-22 scored 41 goals and 79 points in 74 games, for about 1.068 points per game. Tkachuk’s deal cap-adjusted would equal just about $7.1 million annually. With Robertson’s slightly better performance, I expect a bridge deal slightly above that number.

Prediction: Three-year deal, $7.45 million AAV.

Jake Oettinger

Jake Oettinger’s short time in the NHL has been incredibly successful. There are few goaltenders that have found as much success on their ELC as Oettinger has. That includes a stellar 2022 playoffs. While the Stars lost their first-round series to the Flames in seven games, Oettinger was the reason the Stars even saw seven games. He carried Dallas on his back for seven games putting up an insane .954 save percentage.

Oettinger, in 77 career games, has a .913 save percentage. There are few true comparisons to Oettinger, who will be Dallas’ bonafide start this year. One recent case of a goaltender signing for decent money after his ELC is Carter Hart, who signed a three-year $11.937 million deal that began last season. This was after a 2020-21 campaign where he put up a disappointing .877 save percentage. However, this is still the best comparison for Oettinger’s situation.

One other comparable is Matt Murray, who signed for 3 years with an annual average value of $3.75 million for the 2017-18 season. With Oettinger being such an important piece of Dallas’ future, he will rightfully command significant money, however, with Dallas needing to re-sign Robertson as well, a long-term deal isn’t too plausible. With Jamie Benn‘s monster contract expiring in three years, expect Oettinger’s big-money deal to come for the 2025-26 season.

Prediction: Three-year deal, $5.35 million AAV

Rasmus Sandin

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Toronto has built a reputation as a team who seldom has any cap flexibility. Due to this, they have struggled to keep key depth players to support their stars. Lucky for them, Mark Giordano came to terms on a team-friendly two-year, $800 thousand dollar deal, well under his market value – leaving some space for Sandin. Sandin’s best comparisons are Alexander Romanov and Henri Jokiharju, who both signed $2.5 million dollar deals recently. However, Sandin has less NHL experience than the pair, and Toronto can feasibly sign him for slightly less.

Prediction: Two-year deal, $1.95 million AAV

Kirby Dach

Acquired in a blockbuster draft day trade, Kirby Dach, a former third overall pick, is looking to sign his next professional contract, now with the Montreal Canadiens. Underwhelming so far, Dach won’t be able to demand too much money. With 59 points in 152 NHL games, the high-upside playmaker still has the potential to become an impactful NHL forward. A similar case is Filip Zadina, the sixth overall pick from 2018 who hasn’t yet lived up to his potential. Zadina signed a three-year deal with an average annual value of $1.825 million. Another case is that of Kaapo Kakko, who was selected right before Dach, second overall in the 2019 draft. Kakko signed a two-year contract with an annual average value of $2.1 million. Dach sits firmly in this realm of unproven high draft picks, and will likely be paid as such.

Prediction: Two-year deal, $1.75 million AAV

Sean Durzi

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The case of Sean Durzi is incredibly interesting. A second-round pick from Toronto in 2018, Durzi was part of the trade that brought Jake Muzzin to the Leafs. After putting up 16 points in 13 AHL games, Durzi took advantage of his NHL chance. With 27 points in 64 NHL games, Durzi finished the season playing second-pair minutes for the Los Angeles Kings. With the crazy defensive market at the moment, Durzi could be looking for a bigger deal. Similarly to Rasmus Sandin, players like Alexander Romanov are close comparisons, however, the Kings have more cap space than the Leafs. Durzi has the potential to grow into a bonafide top-four defenseman. That potential could be a motive for Los Angeles to approach a longer-term deal with a higher AAV.

Prediction: Three-year deal, $2.25 million AAV