NHL training camps have begun. Players have reported to their respective facilities as the league gears up for the 2022-23 season.
But a few players have not yet shown up because of contract issues. Five restricted free agents are without a deal.
Restricted free agents do not have the same luxury as unrestricted free agents. While UFAs can sign with any team whenever they want, that’s not the case with RFAs. Restricted free agents remain under team control even without a deal as the club owns the player’s rights.
Plenty of RFAs got deals done this offseason, through long-term extensions, shorter bridge deals or accepting qualifying offers. While it’s not common for NHL players to hold out, two RFAs have not yet reported to camp.
Stars forward Jason Robertson and Maple Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin were not at their respective facilities for the first day of camp.
Players can hold out for quite some time. The deadline to sign RFAs is Dec. 1. But if no deal is done by then, then the RFA cannot play in the NHL that season.
Which restricted free agents remain unsigned?
As of Sept. 21, five NHL restricted free agents remained unsigned.
Jason Robertson, F, Stars
Robertson is the biggest name among the RFAs without a deal. The 23-year-old is coming off a 79-point season that included a team-leading 41 goals. He finished second on the team in points.
He has emerged as a star in his three seasons with the team and is averaging just under a point per game in his career (125 points in 128 games). He is the future of the franchise along with Jake Oettinger and Miro Heiskanen.
Nill said that the team does not need to make other moves to fit Robertson’s new contract under the cap. Oettinger took a short-term deal this summer as an RFA; perhaps a similar bridge deal will be put in place for Robertson.
Rasmus Sandin, D, Maple Leafs
He’s not the biggest name, but Sandin seemed to be the most frequently discussed RFA for a majority of the summer. Despite the chatter, Sandin does not yet have a new contract and is not listed on Toronto’s training camp roster.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the Maple Leafs wanted to give Sandin the same deal they gave RFA Timothy Liljegren — two years at $1.4 million a year. Liljegren accepted but Sandin declined.
The 22-year-old has spent three seasons with the Maple Leafs. He skated in 51 games, recording 16 points, in 2021-22. Sandin has the potential to be an effective top-four defenseman, but he hasn’t shown it yet.
Nicolas Hague, D, Golden Knights
It’s perhaps not surprising that Golden Knights do not have the ability to re-sign one of the top young players as training camp begins.
Talks between Hague’s camp and the team continue, but Hague will not report to training camp without a contract. According to Vince Sapienza of Las Vegas TV station KVVU, Hague’s side understands that “Vegas has cap concerns, but that isn’t Nic’s doing or his responsibility.”
Cap constraints are nothing new with the Golden Knights. The team has been jumping through cap hoops for a couple of seasons now. But Hague has emerged as a shutdown defenseman while skating in 52 games for the team the last two seasons.
Vegas has one of the deeper blue lines in the league, but possibly losing Hague because it did not have enough cap room is another major error by the front office.
Ryan McLeod, F, Oilers
McLeod is the most likely player on this list get a deal done first. The Oilers don’t start camp until Thursday, and while no agreement is in place, McLeod has already taken his physical.
Oilers GM Ken Holland said he’s “hopeful” the 23-year-old will be on the ice for the first day of camp. Holland met with McLeod’s agent on Wednesday. The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman reported that Holland wanted to sign McLeod to a two- or three-year contract but expects it to just be a one-year contract because of the Oilers’ cap constraints.
McLeod finished his second season with Edmonton skating in 71 games and recording 21 points.
Alex Formenton, F, Senators
Formenton is one of the more controversial names on the list. The 23-year-old played in 79 games for the Senators last season, recording 18 goals and 32 points. But he is not on the team’s training camp roster.
Formenton played for Canada at the 2018 World Junior Championship. A woman alleged in a lawsuit this year that several members of that team were among eight CHL players who sexually assaulted her after a WJC event in London, Ont., in June 2018. None of the players’ names have been made public.
Hockey Canada hired an independent investigator last August to look into the incident after TSN.ca reported in May that Hockey Canada settled with the woman. She had asked for $3.5 million CAD, but it is not known how much money she received.
Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion has said that he cannot comment on the matter but the investigation has not impacted contract negotiations or roster decisions. He said Wednesday that talks between the team and Formenton’s agent are ongoing.