One down. So many more to go.

On Thursday, Calgary hockey fans breathed a huge sigh of relief as newly acquired defenceman Noah Hanifin signed a six-year extension with an average annual cap hit of $4.95-million. It was almost a million less than what ex-Flame Dougie Hamilton was earning.

But if you’re a fan of the Edmonton Oilers, the more appropriate comparable is Darnell Nurse.

With less than two weeks before the start of training camp, Nurse remains one of several big-name players who are still without a contract for next season.

Expect that to change now that the first domino has fallen. While Hanifin and Nurse play a different style and are two years apart, they put up similar numbers last season — Hanifin scored 10 goals and 32 points, while Nurse had six goals and 26 points — and project to be as important as the other to their respective team.

In other words, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli could save himself a lot of paperwork by photocopying Hanifin’s contract and simply scratching out the names.

When it comes to Toronto’s William Nylander, Buffalo’s Sam Reinhart and the other restricted free agents, the process becomes a bit more difficult.

Here is a look at who’s still out there and what they might be looking for:

William Nylander, Toronto

The first of the three youngsters that the Leafs have to sign is perhaps the most perplexing.

Forget Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. The question that GM Kyle Dubas should be asking is whether Nylander is the next David Pastrnak or Nik Ehlers?

When it comes to contracts, the answer is about the same.

A year ago, Pastrnak signed a six-year deal worth $40-million. Ehlers signed for seven years and $42-million. Both were drafted in the same year as Nylander and both have put up similar numbers.

Ehlers, who signed his extension before the start of last season, has now combined for 69 goals and 162 points in 236 games. Pastrnak, who has now played four years in the league, had combined for 59 goals and 123 points in 172 games at the time of his signing.

Nylander has combined for 48 goals and 135 points in 185 games.
In other words, expect something in the $45-million range. The only question is whether it’s spread over six or seven years.

Josh Morrissey, Winnipeg

The 23-year-old defenceman is the same age as Nurse, but he’s got one less year of experience. That’s another way of saying that we don’t really know exactly what Morrissey is going to be at the NHL level.

Last season, he ranked fourth amongst Jets defencemen in ice time and was behind only Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers with 26 points. Not bad, considering he barely saw any time on the power play.

When Jacob Trouba came out of his entry-level deal, he signed a two-year deal with a $3-million annual average. That’s not a bad option for a player with a small track record and whose role is expected to expand even further now that Toby Enstrom has returned to Europe. Then again, Trouba’s next contract cost the Jets $5.5-million, so the safer option might be getting Morrissey signed to a long-term deal that looks better with every year.

Sam Reinhart, Buffalo

After two middling seasons, Reinhart exploded offensively with 25 goals and 50 points.

And yet, it didn’t feel like a career year. Not with Reinhart posting a minus-24 rating on a team that finished with the worst record in the NHL. Nearly half his points came on the power play and they mostly came in the second half, when he moved from centre to wing and saw a bump in production and playing time after the Sabres traded Evander Kane.

Buffalo won’t be as thin up front this season. While Ryan O’Reilly is gone, the team acquired Jeff Skinner, Patrik Berglund and Connor Sheary in summer trades and will be holding out a spot for rookie Casey Mittelstadt.

So where does that leave Reinhart? As a No. 2 overall pick who has put up 140 point in 249 games, the six-year and $33-million that No. 3 overall pick Jonathan Drouin (141 points in 241 games) signed last season looks like a fair comparable.

Nick Ritchie, Anaheim

After scoring 20 goals and 38 points this season, the Ducks rewarded winger Ondrej Kase with a three-year contract extension worth $7.8-million. Kase was a seventh-round pick in 2014, the same year that Ritchie was selected 10th overall.

But while Kase improved on his numbers from a year ago, Ritchie took a small step backwards last season. He had just 10 goals and 27 points in 76 games with Anaheim. And while the 6-foot-2 and 234-pound Ritchie provides the sort of physical intangibles that Kase and others simply cannot bring, he needs to show that he can score at the NHL level and play amongst the top-6 before the Ducks reward him with the sort of contract that Washington’s Tom Wilson (six years, $31-million) signed this summer.

For that reason, a bridge deal might be the best option for Ritchie. It allows him to refine the offensive part of his game and prove that he can be the third wheel on one of the top lines.

Shea Theodore, Vegas

Theodore went from being a seventh defenceman in Anaheim to being minute-muncher on a team that reached the Stanley Cup final. Toss in the fact that he had 29 points in 61 games and you’d figure the 23-year-old is in line for a major payday.

So why the hold up? Well, it probably has less to do with Theodore and more to do with putting aside money just in case a certain Norris Trophy winner becomes available.

With Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson still on the trading block, the Golden Knights might not be able to sign the 23-year-old to the sort of long-term deal that Florida’s Michael Matheson (eight years and $39-million) recently received — especially with Nate Schmidt’s contract expiring at the end of this season. At the same time, you don’t want to have to re-negotiate with Theodore two years from now if Karlsson ends up elsewhere, because it could end up costing you twice as much.


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