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Hradek: Young free agents go down to the wire

Tuesday, 09.13.2011 / 5:21 PM / E.J. Hradek's Analysis

By EJ Hradek - NHL.com Analyst

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Hradek: Young free agents go down to the wire
NHL.com's E.J. Hradek looks at the negotiations going on between some of the top young free agents and their teams.
In Los Angeles, they wait for Drew Doughty. In Toronto, they're leaving the light on for Luke Schenn. And in Boston, they're eager to see their Stanley Cup hero, Brad Marchand.
 
By "they" (or them, to be more grammatically accurate), I mean you, the fan.
 
This year, it's your turn to worry as the clock ticks down to the start of training camp, the start of the season. You wonder - will my guy sign? When will it get done? Will they have to trade him?
 
You aren't the first folks to be asking these questions. You're just the latest.
 
Last September, Ducks fans were concerned about the Bobby Ryan talks (he signed on Sept 14). Rangers rooters were asking about Marc Staal (who inked a new deal on Sept. 15). And, as the calendar flipped from August to September, Canadiens fanatics still weren't certain about Carey Price's contract status (he agreed to terms Sept. 2).
 
In September 2009, the Phil Kessel drama played out in Boston (he was traded to Toronto on Sept. 19), while young forward Brandon Dubinsky missed eight days of training camp with the Rangers before signing a new contract on Sept. 20.
 
So it's not unusual to have a handful of key restricted free agents -- guys who don't really have any negotiating leverage beyond just staying home -- in this situation as the clock ticks toward the opening of training camps.
 
Here's what we know about each of those three situations.
 

EJ's Instant Analysis

Every Tuesday and Friday, NHL.com analyst EJ Hradek shares his take on all the offseason news.

Drew Doughty. On Sunday, at the Kings' Fanfest, GM Dean Lombardi confirmed a report that his star defenseman had rejected a nine-year deal earlier in the summer. Subsequent reports say that offer was worth $61.2 million. That would work out to a $6.8 million cap hit -- identical to the club's top center, Anze Kopitar. If that was the case, it would indicate the club's desire to keep Doughty on the same pay grade with Kopitar.
 
In conversation with the Doughty camp, there just wasn't any interest in a deal that long. Actually, there was no interest. I suspect a five-year deal was about the max term they're interested in. On a shorter deal, however, the Kings seem less inclined to get to the same average annual salary number. So there's the rub.
 
The two sides continue to talk. They face harder deadlines now with training camp ready to open on Friday and the club scheduled to begin the regular season against the Rangers in Stockholm on Oct. 7.
 
As I've said all summer, I believe the two sides eventually will find common ground. It might not be before Friday, though.
 
Luke Schenn. Leafs GM Brian Burke, via email, today declined to discuss the on-going negotiations. It appears, however, that Schenn (like Doughty, represented by Don Meehan's Newport Sports Agency) is seeking a deal similar to the one signed by Marc Staal last September. That would be a five-year package with a cap hit of $3.975 million.
 
While I believe Staal is a better player, I can certainly see the comparison (from a contract standpoint). Schenn might not get that much, but I figure he'll be in the ballpark on a similar term.
 
Brad Marchand. After a breakthrough season and a terrific performance in the club's Stanley Cup run, Marchand's representative (Wade Arnott, Newport Sports) was seeking compensation in the neighborhood of $3 million to $3.5 million per season. The club, meanwhile, was thinking something along the lines of $2 million per year.
 
Recently, there have been reports that the Bruins might shop him if they don't feel they can come to agreement.
 
Marchand made a statement about his desire/plans to stay in Boston, telling ESPNBoston, "We're working every day and hopefully something will be done before camp."
 
I could see Marchand on a two-year deal on a cap hit around $2.5 million. That seems to be logical for both sides. If Marchand can build on a strong 2010-11 season, there will be more money in his future.
 
Among the other interesting RFA's still seeking new deals are Winnipeg defenseman Zach Bogosian, Phoenix center Kyle Turris and New York Islanders center Josh Bailey. Of those three players, Bogosian stands as the most intriguing. I think the Jets would be best served finding some sort of compromise on a two-year deal. Bogosian has shown flashes during his first three seasons in a very tough situation. I still see him as someone who can be a big part of the club's future.
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