With about a week until most teams kick of training camps, there are still a trio of very important defensemen waiting for a deal with their respective teams. The three 2008 draft picks, LA’s Drew Doughty (2nd overall), Zach Bogosian (3rd) of the Jets and the Maple Leafs’ Luke Schenn (5th) all remain unsigned. It seems to be a matter of which team will cave first, and thus set the salary bar for the other two.
Doughty is the most valuable of the three, as he is LA’s kingpin and possibly its team MVP. Schenn has become a valuable piece of the Toronto blue-line, which might be the strongest unit in the league. Bogosian, on the other hand has been subject of numerous trade rumours, this off-season, but it would be crazy to give up on him at this stage in his career. He seemed to take a slight step backwards in 2010-11, but he still has world-class skills and might be a victim of the early success of Doughty, who was selected one spot ahead of him.
This is a tricky situation for the respective General Managers, as they do not want to overpay on this contract, lest they be maligned by the others. However, someone will eventually have to bite the bullet first, and make the move to get their player under contract. You would have to think Doughty will sign in the $5-7 M range, with Schenn in the $3.5-4.5M with Bogosian “settling” for $2-3 M. However, if the first of the three to sign gets a deal either markedly above (or even below) those values it will affect the signing of the other two. The trickiest part might be the length of the contracts. As RFAs this is supposed to be the “bridge contract” to take players into their prime and it might cost clubs extra cash to “buy” some UFA years from the players. In fact, it could take a 9 or 10 year deal to get Doughty’s name on the dotted line, while in Schenn’s case Brian Burke has been adamant about not giving out super-long contracts in that vein.
What complicates matters even more, is that both Doughty and Schenn are represented by the same agent, Don Meehan. Meehan is one of the toughest negotiators among the agents, and he won’t be afraid to use the bargaining position of both of his clients against their respective clubs.
A couple of other RFA’s of note still to sign in a dwindling group are playoff hero Brad Marchand (Boston), Phoenix’ Kyle Turris and the Islanders’ Josh Bailey.
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