Labor Day has officially passed, which means players are starting to trickle back to their respective cities in preparation for the 2019-20 NHL season. But there are still plenty of housekeeping items on the agenda for general managers across the league.
Brock Boeser, Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, Mikko Rantanen and Matthew Tkachuk are all notable restricted free agent forwards who have yet to sign with their respective clubs and may not have a deal before training camp opens. Same with defensemen Charlie McAvoy, Ivan Provorov and Zach Werenski. These are significant names.
The holdup among the upper tier forward group appears to be Marner, who could reset the market for wingers because he feels he deserves to be paid as much as, if not more than, teammates Auston Matthews and John Tavares — $11 million average annual value. And if he gets close to that, you better believe the camps of Point and Rantanen will argue they should be in the same ballpark.
But the trickle-down effect shouldn't have a direct impact on the middle- to lower-tier RFAs who are seeking bridge deals. So what's holding up the contract negotiations between Brendan Perlini and the Blackhawks?
First off, it doesn't appear to be cap-related. The Blackhawks have room to squeeze in whatever Perlini's number comes in at so it's not like they have to move salary out to make it work. The question is whether the organization feels he's worth whatever he's asking for or whether they're better off going with a cheaper option who could provide just as much value if the two sides can't agree on an extension.
There have been three signings over the past week that we could point to as potential comparables, as we discussed on the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Ivan Barbashev (two years, $1.475 million cap hit), Anthony Beauvillier (two years, $2.1 million cap hit) and Adrian Kempe (three years, $2 million cap hit). All three of those players are coming off their entry-level contracts and have produced at a similar rate as Perlini over their first three seasons:
— Barbashev: 26 goals in 163 games, 0.31 points per game
— Beauvillier: 48 career goals in 218 games, 0.40 points per game
— Kempe: 30 career goals in 187 games, 0.38 points per game
— Perlini: 45 career goals in 199 games, 0.36 points per game
The two players we should be looking at are Beauvillier and Kempe, both of whom were first-round draft picks and play top-nine roles for their respective teams. Barbashev is viewed as more of a bottom-six forward, but we mentioned him in here because Perlini's camp could argue that their client deserves at least as much as Barbashev and his $1.475 million cap hit.
But now look at it from the Blackhawks' perspective: While Perlini finished with 21 points (14 goals, seven assists) in 68 total games in 2018-19, eight of those 14 goals and 10 of those 21 points came during a seven-game span in March when he had an offensive explosion. The other 61 games? 11 points (six goals, five assists) for a points-per-game average of 0.18.
Which Perlini would the Blackhawks be getting? The team is probably hoping for somewhere in the middle on a nightly basis, but they can't afford to healthy scratch a player who's making $2 million per year (or somewhere in that range) like they did on multiple occasions last season if the production isn't there.
With training camp starting on Friday, Sept. 13, we should get more clarity on the situation soon, one way or another.