There are no hard and fast rules about extending a player during the NHL season. Some pending UFAs prefer to halt talks once the season is officially underway. Others don’t care and keep the dialogue going.
But generally speaking, it is rare for the higher-end pending UFAs not to want to put their mind at ease with an extension as soon as possible if their intention is to stay put.
So that’s why you might extensions announced over the next month or two early enough into the season. But then as the season goes on, those who haven’t signed likely will wait until after the season is over.
Let’s dig in on a few notable pending UFAs to see where things are at.
Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers: Last season’s Selke Trophy winner has expressed a desire to cement his future with the only NHL club he’s ever played for and it goes without saying that the Panthers want exactly the same for their franchise centre. To that end, negotiations have been going on slow and steady without much fanfare this offseason; the feeling right now is that it’s likely headed toward an extension sometime over the next month or so which would be gigantic news for the Panthers. And talk about breaking the hearts of GMs around the NHL. Imagine the thought of this 26-year-old centre, one of the most complete players in the NHL, hitting the market on July 13. It would put the frenzy back into Free Agency Frenzy on TSN. But alas, doesn’t sound like he’s going to be there.
Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks: He’s not at Barkov’s level as a player but he’s a very talented centre and it’s rare for centres of his calibre to be available in-season. If the Sharks are out of playoff contention closer to the March 21 trade deadline, they will have little choice but to listen to trade offers given the potential return. However, San Jose has not lost hope in trying to extend Hertl and my sense is teams that have inquired this offseason were told that the Sharks were focused on signing him this season if possible. But at this juncture, I get the sense Hertl isn’t likely to sign. These things can change, but if they don’t, we’re looking at a pretty big name potentially available come the trade deadline.