The summer of 2019 has felt especially long. While many love the days of heat and sunshine after a long Canadian winter, I long for the next season of NHL hockey.
Hello whoASKD Heroes. Are you ready for hockey?
To say that I have been anticipating the 2019/20 season of NHL hockey would be an understatement. I spent hours on YouTube watching prediction videos, reading articles about all the transactions involving trades and free agent signings, and so many message forum discussions about why the likes of Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, Mikko Rantanen, and so many talented RFAs are still without a contract.
I will not pretend to be any different. I have done my share of predictions (the Edmonton Oilers will make the playoffs this season), been intrigued by all the movement of the players and all that. Most importantly, I am astonished to see almost zero movement in the RFA market and that is what I am going to rant about.
Let’s start with the big one: why the Hell have the Toronto Maple Leafs not signed Mitch Marner yet? I get it. You are paying both Auston Matthews and John Tavares $11 million dollars AAV and you just don’t have all that many $11 million dollars AAV cap space to throw around. Understand this, though: Mitch Marner is a better player than either of them. Just because he is a winger does not diminish the fact that his talents are superior to that of Matthews or Tavares. Now, you may be asking why I would consider this one the big one. Simply put, Toronto has really cornered themselves by not signing Marner prior to this season and there is a huge spotlight on this team after lining up a bevy of great forwards. The hometown boy who led the team in scoring does not have a contract.
Next: IMO, the best RFA is also the most low-key. I am speaking of Brayden Point. It is easy to say that Point plays with high calibre players like Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, thus his astonishing 41 goals, 92 points season are the result. I consider that underrating a rare talent. If anyone has seen what a superstar Nathan MacKinnon has become, I give you the next MacKinnon. Centres are a commodity in this league, but right-shot centres are especially rare. The amount of speed, poise and intelligence Point has displayed should shape every coach’s shutdown strategy.
Speaking of Nathan MacKinnon: can we get some money for his wing man? While I fully believe that Mikko Rantanen is elevated by MacKinnon and vice versa, I also don’t want to take away anything from Rantanen. The number of highlight goals Rantanen has scored should be no surprise, because the kid has hands. It is not a fluke that Nathan MacKinnon has put up back-to-back 95+ point seasons since Mikko Rantanen came into the picture.
I can fully see why Winnipeg is having a difficult time, as they have two marvelous players to take care of. While 2018/19 was no doubt a down year for Patrik Laine, the potential for Laine is through the roof. You are very much looking at the next 50+ goal scorer for the next 10 years. While Laine is the one everyone will most likely talk about first, Kyle Connor is the dark horse RFA to keep. 30+ goals scorers don’t come around too often in today’s NHL, let alone 30+ goal
scorers who have done it in straight seasons. In his first two full seasons, Connor has done exactly that. I do not envy Tim Cheveldayoff right now.
Columbus, you lost a lot this off-season. I am wondering why you haven’t locked up the long term future of Zach Werenski as a Blue Jacket? You already have Seth Jones. Let’s get the Werenski deal done.
It is unbelievable that I have more RFAs to talk about, but I run the risk of going on and on. Brock Boeser is going to have an amazing 19/20 season with a more experienced Elias Petterson. Matthew Tkachuk has that rare quality of grit and creativity. Calgary needs Tkachuk from the very first game if they want to stay at the top of the Western. Ivan Provarov, Charlie McAvoy, Travis Knoecny…the unsigned RFA from this off-season could form an all-star team.
I am eagerly awaiting training camp and pre-season hockey. However, it would be a shame if training camp began without all these wonderfully talented, young NHL stars.