Training camp is calling.
The majority of NHLers have already returned to their hockey homes.
And yet? Eight restricted free agents are still twisting in the wind.
The last of the unsigned have plenty in common.
None have celebrated their 24th birthday. None had arbitration rights. All are eligible to sign an offer sheet, essentially their only leverage outside of failing to report for camp or threatening to take their services overseas.
With camp set to open next week, here is where things stand with the remaining RFAs of 2022.
Let’s play hardball.
1. Jason Robertson
Position: Left wing / Right wing
2021-22 salary cap hit: $795,000
What’s the deal? A major reason Jim Nill opted not to re-sign defenceman John Klingberg is because the Dallas Stars GM is seeking to invest a greater portion of his limited cap space in youth.
Starting goalie Jake Oettinger was bridged on Sept. 1 with a three-year, $12-million contract, shifting all eyes to Robertson.
The 2021 Calder Trophy runner-up has been a godsend, establishing himself as a top-line threat and picking up slack from aging leaders Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.
Nill faces a compelling question: Try to lock up as much of Robertson’s prime now in hopes he looks like a bargain later, the way he did with a young Klingberg and 2021 RFA Miro Heiskanen? Or go with a bridge deal and risk handing Robertson increased leverage down the road?
With injured goaltender Anton Khudobin buried on LTIR, Nill has roughly $7 million to work with here.
"These RFA deals will often sit and wait, that's kind of the nature of it,” Stars owner Tom Gaglardi said on the Cam & Strick Podcast. “We've got the cap space sitting, waiting for these guys. And so no, we're not concerned about it.
"Those conversations are happening. I can't tell you that a deal is imminent.”
Gaglardi seems to love the player but hate the trend.
"A kid in the third year of his entry-level (deal) puts up 40 goals, and now he wants to make $7 million," Gaglardi said. "If you want term with that player, he's going to take you higher than that ... The stars are taking all the money, and the guys in the middle are getting squeezed."
Wonder what Gaglardi thinks of the Tage Thompson and Tim Stützle extensions.