Which Of The 4 Remaining Unsigned RFAs Get A Contract First?

We are well into the preseason and hockey starts in less than two weeks, but there remain four restricted free agents without contracts. These include Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale of the Anaheim Ducks, Shane Pinto of the Ottawa Senators, and Tim Berni of the Columbus Blue Jackets. So who gets a contract first and who will start the season in the lineup for their team?

We'll start with an easy one. While you would think that a player like Berni, who would have had a very tough time making the Blue Jackets' team this season without injuries, could get a new contract done easily, that hasn't been the case. Columbus has more defense than they know what to do with. However you look at it, they will be limiting opportunities in the NHL for a number of players who got time last season. Berni is 23 years old and isn't exempt from waivers anymore. He played 59 games last season, but averaged fewer than 17 minutes a game. The likely holdup is a one-way/two-way contract, but he isn't getting anything higher than league-minimum at this time. I don't think the Blue Jackets are overly concerned with the depth that they have.

The Senators and Pinto still aren't close on a contract, and that's because the attempts to clear cap space and open up the necessary room to sign Pinto to an acceptable deal just hasn't been done. The only logical way the two sides will come to an agreement is if the Senators trade Mathieu Joseph and free up that cap space. Pinto is looking for multiple years and more money than he's being offered right now. This could drag out into the season.

The Ducks are an interesting and confusing one. It isn't confusing on the side of the players, but rather on the side of management. The team has over $16 million in cap space this season and could easily sign both Zegras and Drysdale for a few years or long-term at a price both sides could be happy about. The Ducks are being extremely cheap and disrespectful offering such low AAVs and contracts not indicative of what each has and will provide to the team.

I think Drysdale, after coming off a season he spent injured, will get a deal done the quickest of the four, and then Zegras will come soon after. The team has the space and will fold when they don't have two of their best players in the lineup or ready to go for the season. The Senators can't afford to keep Pinto out of the lineup for too long either.

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