NHL Rumors Roundup: Mika Zibanejad contract; Jack Eichel trade; Stars; Sharks, and holdout RFAs

Hockey fans rejoiced as the NHL kicked off the pre-season with a handful of games yesterday. That action continues today with more games on the docket.

Many teams will use this time to make some important decisions. Players like James Neal and Jimmy Vesey are on PTO and fighting for contracts. Meanwhile, some key RFA’s are still holding out.

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NHL Rumors: RFA holdout updates

The three big names unsigned are the Senators’ Brady Tkachuk and the Canucks’ duo of Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. All three are currently in Michigan skating together getting ready for the season.

Brady Tkachuk: The 22 year-old scored 36 points in 56 games last season. According to GM Pierre Dorian talks are progressing even though Tkachuk is now officially a hold out. Reports indicate that the hold up has more to do with contract structure and no-trade protection. It also appears that Brady has firmly planted his feet and will not compromise any further. If this is to end, it’ll need to be the Senators that give in.

Elias Pettersson: The 22 year-old center registered 21 points in 26 games after an early slump where he scored only 2 points in his first 8 contests. Talks continue, with early reports indicating a bridge deal. Unfortunately for the cap-crunched Canucks, Kirill Kaprizov’s 5 year-deal worth $9M AAV, likely makes things real tough for Vancouver.

Quinn Hughes: This 21 year-old defenseman is already one of the game’s best. He scored 41 points in 56 games last season and has Norris Trophy potential. He may not get Cale Makar money, but Rasmus Dahlin’s recent 3 year-deal worth $6M AAV per season is a good starting point. I would expect Hughes to be the next RFA signed.

Mika Zibanejad talks (or doesn’t) about extension

zibanejad contract
Apr 20, 2021; Uniondale, New York, USA; New York Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov (40) makes a save on a shot by New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) during the second period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Zibanejad, 28, earns $5.35 million and is due for an increase. In the last two seasons he has scored 65 goals and 125 points in 113 games. That’s worth big time money, and if he hits the open market next summer he could get 7 years at $10 million per season. However, that’s not going to distract him.

“I’m focusing on what I do on the ice,” Zibanejad said in response to his contact talks. “I have an agent for a reason as well to deal with this, so it doesn’t have to take my focus and time away from what I have to do on the ice and prepare for the season.”

Mika did allude to the fact that the two sides are talking. “Right now they are taking care of business,” he said. “So I am taking care of my own.”

Before camp, Larry Brooks noted that work was being done on a longterm deal. The Rangers top center indicated his desire to stay during his presser. “I love it here. I love the direction we’re going in,” Zibanejad explained. “I’m just excited to be back, competing with and against my teammates preparing for the season.”

Rumors persist that he is looking for an 8 year deal with $10 million per season, but the Rangers are hoping for something around $8 million.

A Jack Eichel trade with conditions?

NHL Insider, Nick Kypreos recently put out an eyebrow raising tweet.

“Eichel has made it clear he’s willing to go anywhere to facilitate a trade,” he wrote. “One of 1/2 doz teams involved tell me a trade is doable as long as the Sabres are willing to add “conditional” clauses around how he performs after surgery. ie .. games played, scoring etc.”

This makes sense, but means the Sabres will have to do what they’ve been unwilling to do since this started. That is take a lesser package than they feel Eichel is worth.

“Jack is one of the best players in the world,” GM Kevyn Adams said at the opening of camp. “This is an elite franchise player, in his prime, under contract. We need to move forward, and we can’t compromise in what we believe.”

Just what kind of conditions would Adams be willing to do, if any at all? Maybe, instead of a first round pick in 2022, he’d take a third round pick if Eichel is unable to play say 50 games?

Could this be done with future considerations? Possibly player A if he returns and scores a point per game in X number played, or player B if it’s .75 per game, all the way down to player C if it’s less than .50? All seem like possibilities.

Truth is no one is giving the rumored two top prospects and a first rounder to Buffalo for an injured player who needs surgery. And those pieces are just to start the conversation! It has executives shaking their heads behind closed doors all over the league.

Tomas Hertl willing to take a discount?

Hertl will be 28 years-old when his current deal with a $5.625M cap hit expires. Last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games. Coming into camp, he downplayed his situation.

“I’m not thinking about what will happen next season, will the Sharks extend me or if they don’t want me there,” he said. “I’m just going to play my best hockey and help my teammates.”

Recently, Hertl wanted to let the Sharks know that he’s more concerned about winning than money. He even referenced how his old teammate, Joe Thornton took less to play for a winner.

“I like that idea. You can go somewhere else, sign the maximum, even maybe too much, but you’re losing for the next eight years,” Hertl explained. “I don’t want to be in this position. I just don’t want to say I will take less and just take it for the team, but I think I’m a little bit for that idea.”

What’s John Klingerg’s future in Dallas?

Matthew DeFranks of the Dallas Morning News recently touched on the topic of defenseman John Klingberg. The 29 year-old scored 36 points in 53 games last year, and is headed towards UFA status next summer.

Based on some of the monster deals free agent defensemen have been signing, he believes that this could be Klingberg’s final run in Dallas.

With Dallas signing Miro Heiskanen (eight years at $8.45 million), Esa Lindell (four years remaining at $5.8 million) and Ryan Suter (four years at $3.65 million), re-signing Klingberg would give the Stars one of the most expensive blue lines in the league.

The Dallas Morning News

If Klingberg hits the market, he will be a sought after commodity.