Talk of this summer's star-studded horde of restricted free agents was inescapable. There were rumblings of historically rich contracts, offer sheets, and extended holdouts. In actuality, it was a whole lot of waiting around until a flurry of deals came to fruition once training camps started.
The drama finally ended Sept. 28 when Mikko Rantanen and Kyle Connor became the final members of an unfathomably deep group of young phenoms to put pen to paper. With the biggest story of the offseason finally settled, let's take one last look at each RFA deal and hand out some grades before these players take the ice to do what they do best.
Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes
What we projected: 8 years, $82 million ($10.25M AAV)
What he signed for: 5 years, $42.27 million ($8.54M AAV)
Aho was the lone recipient of the vaunted offer sheet as the Montreal Canadiens attempted to poach him with a contract the Hurricanes quickly matched. Aho reportedly wasn't getting the offers he wanted from Carolina, so he leveraged his way to a richer deal while leaving the door open for another lucrative contract before his age-27 season.
One could easily make the case Aho is worth much more than $8.54 million per season, and he'll almost certainly be considered a bargain as this deal progresses. We can't give the Hurricanes full marks, though, since it was technically Montreal that created his very reasonable cap hit.
Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
What we projected: 7 years, $51.45 million ($7.35M AAV)
What he signed for: 3 years, $17.625 million ($5.875M AAV)
We figured Boeser would get a long-term deal, but the Canucks didn't have the cap room to swing a big-ticket extension without moving bodies. So, the two sides agreed on a feasible bridge settlement as negotiations lingered into September.
Paying a 30-plus-goal player less than $6 million per year is a win for the team, but there's a good chance the Canucks face some serious financial headaches when it's time to re-sign Boeser. Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes will need new contracts before his next deal, while presumptive captain Bo Horvat will be eligible for an extension come 2022.
Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets
What we projected: 6 years, $43 million, ($7.167M AAV)
What he signed for: 7 years, $50 million, ($7.14M AAV)
Connor earned one more year than we anticipated, but the cap hit is nearly the same. The seventh year is a big positive for the Jets, who bought three UFA seasons for a player who's emerged as a major piece of their future.
The 22-year-old has scored 30-plus goals in each of the past two seasons and has a good opportunity to hit another level of production if he keeps his spot beside Mark Scheifele. At just over $7 million a season, this one could age very nicely for Winnipeg.
Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets
What we projected: 7 years, $54.6 million, ($7.8M AAV)
What he signed for: 2 years, $13.5 million, ($6.75M AAV)
A stronger contract year from Laine might have seen the Jets back up the Brinks truck for the Finnish sniper. But inconsistency down the stretch last season made a bridge deal the only sensible resolution for each side.
Make no mistake: Laine's 50-goal potential is still there, and betting on himself with a two-year pact could make him a very rich man in the summer of 2021. That said, Winnipeg did the right thing in making him prove it.
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs
What we projected: 6 years, $55.5 million, ($9.25M AAV)
What he signed for: 6 years, $65.358 million, ($10.893 AAV)
This negotiation was easily the most talked about, and once Marner put pen to paper, the rest of the class quickly followed suit. Marner came in considerably higher than we projected, but he wanted to be paid like teammates Auston Matthews and John Tavares, and he earned that right after leading the club in scoring two years in a row.
The Maple Leafs may have overpaid, but it's better to reward stars than depth pieces, and the six-year term ensures all the club's big forwards are locked in long-term. If Marner goes out and puts up another 90-point season, complaints about his cap hit will quickly fade. They're sure to reappear in future offseasons, however, as Kyle Dubas delicately maneuvers around a salary-cap structure with minimal wiggle room.
Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins
What we projected: 7 years, $54.6 million, ($7.8M AAV)
What he signed for: 3 years, $14.9 million, ($4.9M AAV)
Death, taxes, and the Bruins paying their star players peanuts. McAvoy has missed significant time in each of his first two seasons, which likely made Boston wary of committing big dollars long-term, but $4.9 million per season for a player of his caliber is a steal.
At only 21 years old, McAvoy is already the complete blue-line package, and the sky is the limit over the duration of this deal. He's the Bruins' No. 1 defenseman of the future and Boston will have plenty of room to compensate him adequately when it's time to pay him again in 2022. It's hard to find any flaws in this contract.
Timo Meier, San Jose Sharks
What we projected: 6 years, $37.8M, ($6.3M AAV)
What he signed for: 4 years, $24 million ($6M AAV)
Meier quietly signed a nice extension amid the free-agent flurry of July 1, coming in at only $6 million a year following a breakout season in which he posted 30 goals and 36 assists as a 22-year-old.
The Sharks were right up against the cap this summer and succeeded in keeping Meier's number stomachable. The young winger will still be an RFA when this deal expires, but San Jose should be in good shape to hand him a considerable raise should he maintain his superstar trajectory.
Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning
What we projected: 5 years, $42.5 million, ($8.5M AAV)
What he signed for: 3 years, $20.25 million, ($6.75M AAV)
Point is arguably the best player of the bunch - a two-way stud fresh off a 41-goal, 92-point season in the final year of his entry-level contract. We figured he'd earn a five-year deal, but the Lightning have a ton of long-term money tied up already, and a lengthier pact likely would have put Point in the same cap-hit stratosphere as teammates Steven Stamkos ($8.5 million per year) and Nikita Kucherov ($9.5 million annually).
That wouldn't work within the confines of the Bolts' books, and a bridge doesn't hurt Tampa in the slightest. The Lightning are still Stanley Cup favorites, and a three-year window in which their top-line pivot earns less than $7 million a season is a successful outcome any way you slice it.
Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche
What we projected: 8 years, $80 million, ($10M AAV)
What he signed for: 6 years, $55.5 million ($9.25M AAV)
The Avalanche needed term and security on Rantanen's deal, and they got both by locking him in for six years. Colorado is a young, exciting squad on the rise, but it won't have cap room forever; Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, and Gabriel Landeskog will all need fresh contracts over the course of Rantanen's new pact.
A $10-million cap hit makes Rantanen the 16th-highest-paid forward in the league, but he's proved he's worth the dough after seasons of 84 and 87 points on the Avs' top line. Colorado is widely expected to grow into a contender quickly, and Rantanen will be a huge part of that.
Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames
What we projected: 6 years, $51 million, ($8.5M AAV)
What he signed for: 3 years, $21 million, ($7M AAV)
Tkachuk's contract is the richest three-year bridge ever signed, surpassing the deal Point inked two days prior. We projected Tkachuk would get a long-term pact, but the cap-strapped Flames opted for a shorter agreement with the gritty winger in order to keep their current roster intact.
Getting Tkachuk under contract before the start of the campaign was an undeniably huge priority for Calgary, but moving a body to lock him up for a few more seasons might have been the better course of action in the grand scheme of things. Tkachuk's new deal expires in 2022, the same year Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano are scheduled to hit free agency. The Flames better make the most of their current window.
Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets
What we projected: 8 years, $66 million, ($8.25M AAV)
What he signed for: 3 years, $15 million, ($5M AAV)
They opted instead for a three-year bridge, with Werenski's $5-million annual cap hit providing Columbus a nice temporary discount for his services. Werenski has been a staple on the Jackets' blue line since entering the league as a 19-year-old in 2016, and he's only going to get better. Given the club's current salary-cap picture, there should be no issues locking him down long-term on his next deal.
Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.