Mackenzie Blackwood, Jesse Puljujarvi among RFAs who might not receive qualifying offers this offseason

      Which RFAs will be hard to justify keeping around at their current qualifying offer prices?

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      Every spring, there are untold hours spent speculating and words spilled with projections for contracts for big-name Restricted Free Agents. Alex DeBrincat and Pierre-Luc Dubois are no stranger to that speculation and their names have already made their way through the rumor mill multiple times.

      Further down the food chain, there is another subset of RFAs that are of intrigue to both fans and GMs looking to fill out rosters: players who may not be qualified by their respective club and could therefore become UFAs. Can a diamond be mined from the rough? Can one team’s trash be another team’s treasure?

      There is always an almost audible gasp when the news hits Twitter when one team makes a surprising decision to cut ties because they either aren’t willing or can’t afford to keep an RFA. Washington parted ways with Ilya Samsonov in that manner one year ago, he was one of 100 players made a UFA last summer by virtue of not being made a qualifying offer.

      Now, not every player who is not issued a qualifying offer will automatically become a UFA. In some cases, that is decided by team and player jointly as a negotiating path and they’re actively working on a longer-term deal that may pay the player below the face value number that they are guaranteed for one season.

      Teams have until June 30 at 5 o’clock ET to issue qualifying offers. For more information on the process and what it means, click here to read a synopsis from CapFriendly.

      DeBrincat, Dubois, Jesper Bratt and Timo Meier are all due significant qualifying offers. There is no doubt they will be the talk of the hockey world. But here are 10 players, who for different reasons, are RFAs to keep an eye on over the next few weeks:

      Too Rich to Keep?

      These players are due qualifying offers whose play has not been commensurate with the number owed to them on a one-year deal: (all data courtesy of

      1. Mackenzie Blackwood
      Goaltender, New Jersey Devils
      Qualifying Offer Due: $3.36 million
      Scoop: Blackwood is far and away the most likely player to not be issued a qualifying offer this spring. Seen as recently as two years ago as one of the promising, up-and-coming young goaltenders, Blackwood’s stock has dropped steadily by combination of injury and inconsistent play. Over the last three years, he’s appeared in 82 games with an .897 save percentage. It’s possible the Devils could try to find a suitor ready to rehab Blackwood for a late-round pick, but every team knows he’s set to become a UFA otherwise.

      2. Jesse Puljujarvi
      Right Wing, Carolina Hurricanes
      Qualifying Offer Due: $3 million
      Scoop: It was a worthy gamble for the Hurricanes, acquiring Puljujarvi for next to nothing, to see if he could find magic with some fellow Finns. It didn’t work out. He didn’t score a single goal in 24 total games and was a healthy scratch for eight of Carolina’s 15 playoff contests.

      3. Denis Gurianov
      Right Wing. Montreal Canadiens
      Qualifying Offer Due: $2.9 million
      Scoop: Similarly, the Habs took a flier on Gurianov at the deadline, moving the expensive but expiring Evgenii Dadonov for Gurianov – who is under team control as an RFA. It made sense. Now, Montreal has a decision to make. Gurianov’s qualifying offer is higher than his value relative to last season’s point production (17). But it’s in line with what he produced the three prior seasons. So, is it worth trying for another year to see if he can get back to that level?

      4. Max Comtois
      Left Wing, Anaheim Ducks
      Qualifying Offer Due: $2.45 million
      Scoop: Comtois has all of the tools to be a solid NHL player, but he’s struggled to put it all together in his first four seasons. His game has regressed in the last two seasons. He appears to be frustrated at times and a change of scenery might fit. The only question is whether the Ducks wonder if they can get more out of him with new coach Greg Cronin. If that’s the case, he might be worth the bump in pay to find out.

      5. Ethan Bear
      Right Defense, Vancouver Canucks
      Qualifying Offer Due: $2.2 million
      Scoop: Bear is likely to be issued a qualifying offer. He’s been well featured in a lot of Vancouver’s marketing materials, an indication they see him as part of the future. But Bear’s play has been spotty and inconsistent, and his qualifying offer is expensive relative to his impact. But the Canucks spent an asset to get him and Vancouver needs him to play a lot and play well.

      Arbitration Case Looming

      Sometimes, teams will not offer qualifying offers to players who have a larger arbitration award looming. Trades sometimes develop from these situations. A player who is issued a qualifying offer but declines to sign it may elect for salary to be awarded by arbitration:

      1. Trent Frederic
      Left Wing, Boston Bruins
      Qualifying Offer Due: $1.15 million
      Potential Arbitration Range: $2.25 to $3 million
      Scoop: Frederic is a really intriguing piece and one of those ‘energy’ guys you think about when you consider the Bruins’ success. They could really use to keep him, but they’re in salary cap jail. They’re carrying a $4.5 million bonus overage and would like to keep other free agents. Would Frederic take a longer term deal at a smaller cap hit to stay? We’ll see, but he’s a potential trade chip as a salary cap casualty.

      2. Will Borgen
      Right Defense, Seattle Kraken
      Qualifying Offer Due: $945,000
      Potential Arbitration Range: $2.5 to $3 million
      Scoop: Borgen is a pretty unheralded, underrated piece in the Kraken organization. He played 16:22 per night last season and collected 20 points, all at even-strength for Seattle. He’s likely to triple his salary this summer if were to ever get to an arbitration case. Andrew Peeke ($2.75 million) and Oliver Kylington ($2.5 million) are pretty decent recent contract comps. The Kraken aren’t tight to the cap but need to pay Vince Dunn and make a decision on Carson Soucy.

      3. Tyson Jost
      Center, Buffalo Sabres
      Qualifying Offer Due: $2.25 million
      Potential Arbitration Range: $2.5 to $3 million
      Scoop: Here’s the thing: Jost’s arbitration case, where games played is a big factor, is an excellent one. In 413 career games, he’s got 54 goals, 80 assists for 134 points. Andrew Copp was at 413 games in 2021 for his arbitration case with similar numbers (61 goals, 88 assists for 149 points) and Copp earned $3.64 million in that arbitration. The Sabres have the cap space and can make a deal, but he’s due a decent raise coming off a seven-goal season in which he was claimed on waivers.

      4. Noah Gregor
      Left Wing, San Jose Sharks
      Qualifying Offer Due: $997,500
      Potential Arbitration Range: $1.25 to $1.75 million
      Scoop: It was a tough year for Gregor that finished strong. His arbitration case and pending payday aren’t overwhelming by any stretch, but the Sharks nonetheless have a decision to make on a guy who otherwise is open to a change of scenery. Gregor has speed to burn and after sitting for a while as a healthy scratch, managed to make it to double digit goals for the first time in his career.

      5. Zack MacEwen
      Right Wing, Los Angeles Kings
      Qualifying Offer Due: $971,250
      Potential Arbitration Range: $950,000 to $1.25 million
      Scoop: Similar to Gregor, MacEwen is a guy who drew some interest last season for his physical brand of hockey. The Kings spent a fifth-round pick and Brendan Lemieux to grab him, then he was a healthy scratch for most of their first-round series against the Oilers. The Kings are going to have to pay a bunch of their young players in the future, so the calculus with a lot of these restricted free agents potentially due a bump in pay is to gauge whether they may be replaced with someone younger and cheaper.

      Organizational Depth

      Other players who may not be issued qualifying offers: Dylan Coghlan, Carolina; Logan Brown, St. Louis; Kieffer Bellows, Philadelphia.



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