When Don Sweeney was asked back in June about the status of Boston’s crop of restricted free agents, the Bruins’ general manager was quick to note that there would be no set deadline for his club’s top offseason priority to be resolved.
“We have to deal with our RFA players," he said. "As I’ve said all along, I don’t have a timeline for that, but they’ll be playing for Boston at some point in time this year prior to December 1. That’s the only real deadline we face, but we’ll be at it. We’ve been at it for a while with those guys.”
But now, with most of the free-agency frenzy in the rearview mirror and Boston still stuck in a holding pattern with a little over $8 million in cap space to work with, Sweeney likely wishes that both Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo were brought in the fold much sooner.
While Danton Heinen — the only one of Boston’s three RFAs eligible for arbitration — was eventually re-upped on a two-year contract extension last week, negotiations are set to continue between the club and McAvoy/Carlo, with that December 1st date standing as the one true deadline that both parties will be bound to.
(Any restricted free agent who does not sign by Dec. 1 cannot play for the remainder of the NHL season.)
The Bruins certainly don’t expect such a contract impasse to carry over into the regular season, let alone into the closing weeks of November. But given the fact that other RFAs such as Brayden Point, Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantanen, Matthew Tkachuk, Brock Boeser and more have also yet to sign the dotted line with their respective clubs, it looks as though the 2019 NHL offseason is going to be best characterized as a waiting game for a number of teams — some of whom are already dealing with a major cap crunch.
“Very prominently,” Sweeney said of how the status of his RFAs would affect the rest of Boston’s offseason plans. “It was a reason why we had tried to be in front of things, but as I said, there’s no timeline to find a deal. Two sides have to find it, and there’s been a patient overall plan, but it’s pretty apparent around the league that the RFAs are being patient in that regard.”
It's largely been radio silence when it comes to RFA negotiations across the league, with TSN’s Bob McKenzie noting on Monday morning that he expects it to be a slow summer on that front, with a “vast majority” of RFAs still likely to be unsigned come the start of September.
The Bruins are only a few years removed from being a similar position to the one that McKenzie predicts many clubs will face in the coming months — with Boston and David Pastrnak stuck in a contract stalemate that remained unresolved through the start of training camp.
Eventually, Pastrnak and his camp blinked first, eventually signing a six-year, $40-million contract on September 14, 2017 that — with a $6,666,666 annual cap hit — continues to look more and more like one of the top steals in the NHL.
In a perfect world, Boston would have liked to have both McAvoy and Carlo re-upped and under contract over a long-term basis before free agency even got underway on July 1 — allowing Boston to reassess its cap situation (as little as it would have been) and get a better grasp of where it stood on the UFA market.
But such a scenario sailed past the B’s long ago. Now, as was the case with Pastrnak just two years ago, the waiting game might be the best course of action when it comes to re-signing both McAvoy and Carlo.
Obviously, resolving this RFA dispute seems to hinge upon