NHL teams have officially reached the final days of their rookie camp sessions this week, skating into the last few games at their various prospect tournaments full of sneak peeks at the future and plenty of impressive goals scored ahead of full team training camp.
Of course, a handful of teams won’t truly see their full rosters report to training camp — because there are still over a dozen restricted free agents who have yet to come to terms on contract extensions with their respective clubs.
The Avalanche are one of those, of course, with Finnish winger Mikko Rantanen still unsigned as training camp looms closer. He won’t get a chance to join the team at media day unless an extension gets inked between now and Thursday, which leaves Colorado short one of their most dynamic players with opening night getting ever closer.
One of the remaining RFA’s around finally got something worked out, with defender Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets inking a new three-year deal worth $5 million per season. [1st Ohio Battery]
The deal may stand out in particular because of the fact that it’s yet another shorter-term bridge-esque deal for an RFA this year, joining players like Sebastian Aho and Auston Matthews (who both locked in on five-year deals, rather than inking big money for the next decade).
The reasoning? According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, it’s all about the salary cap:
With the modest cap increases we’ve seen lately, there’s a perception that between upcoming NHL U.S. national TV deal and legalized gambling revenue, that the financial landscape could improve significantly in years to come. Hence, an aversion to 7 or 8 year deals in many cases.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) September 9, 2019
Werenski was the only signing on Monday, but there was some additional news of sorts — and it got people talking.
Pavel Zacha, the 22-year-old center for New Jersey that’s still working on getting his own RFA status settled with a new deal, reportedly agreed to terms with Avangard of the KHL for the upcoming season:
Igor Eronko tends to serve as a pretty reliable source out of Russia, so it’s hard to think that he’d push a report that wasn’t in some way reputable — and it would follow the trend of European players taking off for a year at home before attempting to work their way back to North America. Edmonton’s Jesse Puljujarvi has done just that, returning to Finland with Kärpät of Liiga. During their Champions League games, he was good for two goals and four points in four games — and it’s likely that Zacha, who put up just 25 points last year in his own less-than-stellar contract year, would be able to do something similar if he returned to Russia.
The kicker? The move seems to have struck a nerve with GM Ray Shero — who didn’t hold back when saying what he thought:
Devils GM Ray Shero to AP’s @john_wawrow on restricted free agent Pavel Zacha: “I don’t give a (expletive) if he signs with the KHL or if he signs with (expletive) Brampton. I don’t give a (expletive) where. We hold his rights.” https://t.co/4mRe5Yh126— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) September 9, 2019
UPDATE: It looks as though the reports of Zacha to the KHL were inaccurate