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NHL Restricted Free Agents still going to arbitration, dates and details

With Juuse Saros re-signing in Nashville this morning on a four-year, $20 million contract (a deal that aligns nicely with Yaroslav Askarov’s development), there are just four (three) names remaining in the NHL arbitration pool. Here’s a look at the four (three…) remaining names.

🚨🚨🚨Breaking News: As reported by @FriedgeHNIC the #Preds and G Juuse Saros have agreed on a 4 year extension worth $5M AAV to avoid arbitration. — Hockey Hound (@HockeyHoundShow) August 16, 2021

While writing this, the Minnesota Wild went ahead and took care of business and locked up Fiala, so instead, we’re going to talk about the Kaprizov situation.

Fiala, until 30 minutes ago, was the biggest arbitration-eligible player still unsigned (cough, cough). The Minnesota Wild faithful had been waiting all summer to hear that Fiala (and Kirill Kaprizov) has re-signed. But now, everyone can shift their attention solely to Kaprizov, right? Nope, not just yet.

If you look at the Fiala contract, it’s another bridge deal. $5.1 million for just one year of work. So, this time next year, Fiala and the Wild will once again do the dollar dance. It’s a bandaid that buys General Manager Bill Guerin some more time, that’s all it is.

Kevin Fiala's contract with the #mnwild is 1 year, $5.1M and all base salary, no signing bonuses. He will once again be an arbitration-eligible RFA at the expiry of this contract — CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) August 16, 2021

In painfully related news, it’s believed that Kaprizov is seeking a short-term, eight-figure payday. And rumor is that Guerin is holding out hope that Kaprizov will take a long-term, seven-figure cashout. However, no dice to date. Kaprizov has instead created a backup plan for himself by returning to his former team in the KHL, CSKA Moscow, on a one-year, $10 million deal.

Without Fiala and Kaprizov, what does Minnesota have? A 33-year-old Mats Zuccarello, Jordan Greenway, and Joel Eriksson Ek can’t power you back to the playoffs alone. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise are gone and Jared Spurgeon and the D-core can only do so much. Someone has to score. Get it done, Guerin.

Dennis Gilbert – Aug 21st

Gilbert has been in the NHL for less than a cup of coffee at this point with just 25 games under his belt. So, I know just about as much as you do about the guy.

#VegasBorn Keegan Kolesar and #GoAvsGo Dennis Gilbert drops the gloves in this late night game. Good scrap! 👊 — Hockey Hound (@HockeyHoundShow) February 17, 2021

Every clip you find of him online is him in a tussle including the one above. He’s not known for his offense and in his three games played with the Colorado Avalanche, he has just five penalty minutes (see above).  You have to wonder why Gilbert hasn’t signed yet. Is Gilbert trying to make more than the league minimum on such a small sample size?

UPDATE: Gilbert has reached an agreement just after publication with a $750,000 deal

Travis Sanheim – Aug 26th

Despite coming off a rough season with the Philadelphia Flyers, Sanheim is still currently a top-four defenseman for most teams. However, the Flyers went out and brought in three other defensemen this offseason: Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Keith Yandle. So, where does Sanheim fit into the Philly equation?

You’d have to think when completely healthy the Flyers’ defense would look like this, no?

The problem is and likely always will be money. According to the dear folks at, the Flyers only have $4.03 million in cap space remaining. That might not be enough and it doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room to operate.

Could a trade be coming? Could Sanheim be traded?

There’s still time between now and Sanheim set arbitration hearing on August 26th, but Sanheim might be in for a rude awakening. My guess is that he’ll likely see something similar to the $3.25 million he had for the past two seasons, especially after the other acquisitions and his down year. Another bridge deal is my bet.

Nikita Zadorov – Aug 26th

You don’t trade for a guy and then not sign him to an extension. That’s just poor asset management. Zadorov will sign in Calgary but for how long and how much. The entire team appears to be in limbo right now and a major shakeup seems to be inevitable.

Zadorov is by no means an offensive force but he’s a physical mutant who can pot a goal here or there and then put you through the glass.

Nikita Zadorov (@zadorov61) absolutely wired the puck. 😳 🇺🇸: @NHLonNBCSports — NHL (@NHL) March 1, 2021

WINNER: Nikita Zadorov's huge hit on Jayce Hawryluk advances to the next round with 58.4% of the total votes!@BacardiCanada | #SpiceThingsUp — Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 4, 2021

Calgary lost Mark Giordano to the Seattle Kraken and now they need to fill the defensive void. Again, he’s not close to Giordano, but he would be a top-four minute-munching physical defenseman who specializes in defensive zone possessions. Just look past his Corsi and Fenwick numbers.

The Flames have just over $11 million in cap space available, yes, but they still need to re-sign Zadorov, Dillon Dubé, Jusso Välimäki, and a few other depth RFAs. Zadorov has signed back-to-back one-year, $3.2 million deals and is likely seeking a long-term deal. Perhaps he takes an AAV cut in exchange for a longer term. But. We shall see.

So that’s who’s left from this year’s RFA list. Should Sanheim make more than $5 million? Will Zadorov get longer-term? And who is Gilbert?

Find out on Twitter @dcblanda.

Featured Image via USA TODAY

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