NHL Deadline Passes For Restricted Free Agent Goaltenders
This year’s deadline for NHL teams to extend contract offers to their restricted free agents was on June 25th. Teams have the option to either offer a contract, or non-tender a player (which effectively releases them to unrestricted free agency). For a more detailed breakdown of the process, here’s what we wrote in a previous article:
Typically, a player that is under the age of 27 and has played fewer than seven years in the NHL is a restricted free agent. There are exceptions, but for simplicity, that is the normal scenario.
A restricted free agent is not allowed to sign with a new organization. The team that owns their rights has the option to send them what is called a ‘qualifying offer,’ which is one year in length, or choose to grant them unrestricted free agency.
If the player’s contract was worth $659,999.99 or less at the NHL level, the qualifying offer must be at least a 10% increase in value.
If their contract was $660,000.00 to $999,999.99 at the NHL level, it requires at least a 5% increase, but their total contract cannot exceed $1M.
If the player was already making $1M or more, their contract does not have to be increased, but it cannot go down in value.
The player then has three options to choose from:
1. Accept the qualifying offer,
2. Leave North America (if they can make more money overseas) and have their rights retained by the team, or
3. Negotiate a longer extension.
Some players have a fourth option, which is salary arbitration.
It is fairly uncommon for it to get to that point, but if a player has been around long enough (depending on when their signed their entry-level contract) they can elect to fight to have their salary increased. A third party will hear arguments from both sides, and will decide on a contract value for the player.
It’s a risky process, so both sides normally like solving the issue outside of arbitration – but the process does occur occasionally. Teams can still come to terms on a new contract with a player even after they have filed for arbitration.
This year 36 goaltenders required qualifying offers. Here’s a list of each goaltender that has been qualified or not qualified:
ANA Kevin Boyle
ARI Marek Langhamer
BOS Zane McIntyre
BOS Malcolm Subban
BUF Robin Lehner
CGY Jon Gillies
CGY David Rittich
MIN Steve Michalek
MTL Charlie Lindgren
NAS Marek Mazanec
NJD Scott Wedgewood
NYI Christopher Gibson
OTT Chris Driedger
PHI Alex Lyon
PHI Anthony Stolarz
STL Jordan Binnington
TBL Kristers Gudlevskis
TOR Garret Sparks
WAS Philipp Grubauer
WPG Connor Hellebuyck
ANA Ryan Faragher
CAR Daniel Altshuller
CBJ Oscar Dansk
DAL Henri Kiviaho
DAL Maxime Lagace
DET Jake Paterson
EDM Eetu Laurikainen
FLA Colin Stevens
FLA Adam Wilcox
NAS Jonas Gunnarsson
NYI Stephon Williams
NYR Mackenzie Skapski
OTT Matt O’Connor
TOR Antoine Bibeau
SJS Mantas Armalis
VAN Michael Garteig
Most of the qualified goaltenders were no-brainer decisions. Robin Lehner in Buffalo is still expected to be their starter. Jon Gillies in Calgary is a high-end prospect who could be breaking into the lineup this season. Anthony Stolarz in Philadelphia is their goaltending prospect that is closest to reaching the NHL. Finally, Connor Hellebuyck, despite having a tough season, is still very much in the future plans of the Winnipeg Jets.
Some of the non-qualified goaltenders were a bit surprising. Oscar Dansk in Columbus is a former 31st overall draft pick who is still only 23 years old and has NHL aspirations. Adam Wilcox in Florida struggled a bit in his first two seasons of professional hockey, but finished the year with a .932 save percentage in Springfield. Mackenzie Skapski battled injuries this past year, but showed well in an NHL stint with the Rangers two seasons ago. Antoine Bibeau of Toronto seemed to have a lot of promise, but was simply outplayed by Garret Sparks and Kasimir Kaskisuo with the Marlies. Michael Garteig of Vancouver spun his wheels a bit in the AHL and ECHL, but it was his first season in professional hockey and certainly did not look out of place.
All of those players will now become unrestricted free agents and can sign with any NHL team. It will be interesting to see where they end up starting on July 1st!