NHL training camps got underway a week ago, but not all players have shown up. There are still three notable restricted free agents who have yet to sign with their respective clubs and there’s no telling when the impasses will end. The Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t come to terms with winger William Nylander on a new contract and the same goes for defenceman Shea Theodore of the Vegas Golden Knights and Anaheim Ducks’ winger Nick Ritchie. All three of them have played out their entry-level contracts and they aren’t eligible to qualify for salary arbitration.
The 22-year-old Nylander reportedly wants to sign a long-term deal with the Leafs for approximately $8 million per season while the club doesn’t really want to go over $6.5 million or would rather sign him to a shorter bridge contract. While the Leafs don’t have any issues staying under the salary cap in 2018/19, things will change drastically next year when core players such as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Jake Gardiner will need to be re-signed or moved. And let’s mot forget Toronto signed free agent centre John Tavares this summer to a seven-year deal worth $77 million.
Of course, even if Toronto plans on trading one of their young stars they will still need to sign them first to get the return the club would be looking for. Nylander was the eighth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft and has posted 48 goals and 87 assists for 135 points in 185 regular-season games up to now. This includes two consecutive 61-point seasons along with campaigns of 22 and 20 goals. He’s also chipped in with 15 power play markers and 11 game winners. But while he remains unsigned, the Leafs appear to be happy with newcomer Tyler Ennis playing on the squad’s top line with Matthews.
As for Shea Theodore, the 23-year-old blue liner was originally drafted 26th overall by the Anaheim Ducks back in 2013. He was one of the Vegas Golden Knights’ best defencemen in their inaugural season with six goals and 23 assists. He now has 114 regular-season games under his belt and has accumulated 11 goals and 34 assists for 45 points with his first two seasons coming in Anaheim. Theodore averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time in the desert last season and will be sorely missed in Vegas, especially since fellow defender Nate Schmidt is suspended for the first 20 games this season.
Out in Anaheim, 22-year-old Nick Ritchie was drafted 10th overall by the club in 2014 and has produced a total of 26 goals and 33 assists for 59 points in 186 regular-season contests. He scored 10 goals and 17 assists in 76 games last season and had 14 goals and 14 assists the year before. Ritchie hasn’t been a big point producer in Anaheim and hasn’t really had a breakout season as of yet. Therefore, the club may not be in any rush to ink him to a new deal. Still, he’s not going to take a step forward as an NHL’er if the Ducks don’t re-sign him.
In the meantime, Nylander, Theodore and Ritchie need to stay in shape while the rest of their teammates play preseason games and continue their training camps. Nobody wants to miss any of the actual season, but so far neither the players’ agents or their clubs have budged when it comes to new contracts.