A list of the five noteworthy restricted free agents, and the latest on Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen.
NBC SPORTS PRO HOCKEY TALK: Ryan Dadoun lists Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri, Rangers center Derek Stepan, Sabres center Cody Hodgson and Capitals left wing Marcus Johansson as the five noteworthy restricted free agents worth watching as training camp nears.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s possible the five could be under contract when training camps open on September 11, but if they remain unsigned by then, interest in their respective statuses will pick up in the rumor mill. All five are coming off entry-level contracts, so the only leverage they have is to stage holdouts.
Pietrangelo recently said he wasn’t thinking about a holdout. Kadri – after denying a rumor he was seeking a six-year, $36 million deal – has declined to speak about his contract status. Stepan recently acknowledged negotiations take time to reach an agreement, while Hodgson and Johansson have kept mum about their contract talks.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Dave Molinari reports the Penguins salary cap concerns could make defensesman Matt Niskanen expendable. The Penguins are roughly $1.1 million over the salary cap, leading to speculation Niskanen (in the final year of a two-year, $4.6 million contract) could be shopped. His experience could make him a valuable commodity for clubs in need of experienced blueline depth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Niskanen also lacks a “no-trade” clause. The Penguins could demote a player or two, but trading someone like Niskanen appears the likely move. The Penguins can remain above the salary cap throughout pre-season, but must be cap compliant when the season opens on October 1. Niskanen could be moved in late-September when teams have had time to evaluate their rosters.