The shiny, new contracts handed out to the Golden Knights’ free agents this summer brought back memories of the famous Oprah car giveaway.
William Karlsson got a contract. Colin Miller got a contract. William Carrier, Tomas Nosek and Ryan Reaves got contracts. Everybody gets a contract!
OK, not everybody.
Restricted free agent Shea Theodore remains unsigned less than three weeks from the start of training camp on Sept. 13, and the situation is inching toward the danger zone for a possible holdout by the 23-year-old defenseman.
“We’ll hopefully have Shea under contract soon, and we’ll see how that goes over the next few weeks,” general manager George McPhee said Aug. 8 in an interview on Fox 1340 AM. “He’s in a unique position in that he doesn’t have arbitration rights. … So, this might be a little bit different. It might take a little longer, but it’s something that certainly he would like to have done and we’d like to have done.”
Since McPhee made those comments, not much has changed.
It’s unclear if the two sides are far apart on salary or whether the stalemate centers on Theodore’s desire for a long-term deal similar to the one defenseman Brady Skjei received from the New York Rangers this summer (six years, $31.5 million) or defenseman Damon Severson signed with New Jersey in September (six years, $25 million).
Theodore’s agent, Craig Oster, did not return multiple messages Thursday and Friday.
McPhee, who is currently in Russia, declined to comment through a team spokesperson Friday.
Theodore posted six goals and 29 points in 61 games and was second on the Knights in average ice time (20:21). Severson, by comparison, had 31 points and was third on the Devils in ice time (20:21) in 2016-17, the final year of his entry-level deal before signing his lengthy extension.
Should Theodore develop into a top-pairing defenseman, he would be a bargain during the back end of a long-term contract.
But the smaller sample size — Severson played 203 games during his entry-level contract, while Theodore made 114 appearances for the Knights and Anaheim — could lead the Knights to opt for a shorter “bridge” contract.
The Ducks signed restricted free-agent defenseman Brandon Montour to a two-year, $6.775 million “bridge” contract this summer, and that deal could offer a glimpse into Theodore’s eventual tax bracket.
Montour followed a similar career arc to Theodore and had comparable numbers (32 points in 80 games, 20:28 average ice time) in the final year of his entry-level contract.
Restricted free agents Noah Hanifin (Calgary), Joshua Morrissey (Winnipeg) and Darnell Nurse (Edmonton) are unsigned, and their contracts could influence Theodore’s asking price, too.
Those three defensemen are expected to fall in the $3 million to $4 million annual salary range but could command in the neighborhood of $5 million per season on a long-term deal.
Theodore was extended a one-year qualifying offer from the Knights in June, and the minimum salary he could be offered was $874,125. He made $832,500 in the final year of his entry-level deal.
Theodore will have arbitration rights as a restricted free agent the next three seasons and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
Unsigned players cannot participate in training camp, and it’s not uncommon for players to miss the start of the regular season while negotiating a new contract.
Last season, left wing Andreas Athanasiou held out until mid-October before he signed with the Red Wings. Columbus right wing Josh Anderson signed three days before the Blue Jackets’ opener.
There were multiple holdouts in 2016, including Winnipeg defenseman Jacob Trouba, who didn’t sign until November of that season.
The deadline for Theodore to sign is Dec. 1 or he will be ineligible to play in the NHL this season.