Tobias Rieder’s agent, Darren Ferris, told Arizona Sports two weeks ago that his client was seriously considering offers to play in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League because contract talks between the Coyotes and Rieder, a restricted free agent, had hit an impasse.
“We’re nowhere near where we need to be so I would say at this point, there is no common ground,” Ferris said.
It’s important to remember that posturing is a common part of negotiations between agents and teams. Both sides want to draw a line in the sand and create the perception that they will not move past it.
Rieder said late last season that his greatest desire is to continue playing in the NHL with the Coyotes, but he is German so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could decide to play in Europe. We’ll have to wait for that situation to play out, but it’s instructive to examine how the two sides got here.
Until March of 2016, Octagon Sports represented Rieder, with Rob Hooper and former NHL goalie Mike Liut (a teammate of Coyotes coach Dave Tippett in Hartford) serving as his agents. Octagon and the Coyotes had discussed offers and were pushing toward a deal when Rieder abruptly switched representation to Ferris, who is with the Ontario-based Definitive Hockey Group.
Ferris may have shed some light on Rieder’s decision to change agents when he suggested to Arizona Sports on July 11 that Toronto’s Nazem Kadri (now in a six-year, $4.5 million AAV) is a comparable deal when examining Rieder’s worth. A league source told Arizona Sports that Ferris initially asked for more than Kadri’s average annual value.
“Look at his production and you can see it’s comparable; the numbers are the same,” Ferris said of Rieder and Kadri.
Rieder, a wing, had 14 goals, 23 assists, 37 points and 17:18 of average ice time last season — all career highs for the second-year player. He had 13 goals and 21 points in his first NHL season. Kadri had 17 goals and 45 points last season in 18:16 of ice time, largely at the center position, which has a greater impact on the game. He has averaged 18 goals and 45 points the last four seasons.
Kadri did sign a two-year, $5.8 million deal out of his entry-level deal in 2013, but that was coming off a 44-point effort in the 48-game lockout season of 2012-13. It’s difficult to see how Ferris arrived at that comparable, but he noted that from an analytics standpoint, Rieder is a comparable player.
As Today’s Slapshot’s Cat Silverman noted, there are some similarities, but Rieder doesn’t match up to Kadri in enough areas, nor does he have Kadri’s age or proven consistency in production when coming to the bargaining table.
Ferris also suggested that Jamie McGinn’s recent, three-year, $10 million deal with the Coyotes was a baseline for negotiations, arguing that Rieder’s analytics are better than McGinn’s. The latter point may be closer to the truth, but McGinn has 19 and 22 goals in his last two full seasons and he is 27 years old. Older players typically make more money than younger players for a variety of reasons, including proven consistency and market forces that allow them more freedom of movement.
The Coyotes are not commenting on the Rieder negotiations, but a relevant comparable materialized on Tuesday when Tampa avoided an arbitration hearing by re-signing RFA forward Vladislav Namestnikov to two-year, $3.875 million deal. The Russian made $874,000 last season and was versatile enough to play anywhere from the fourth line to the top line, scoring 14 goals, 21 assists and 35 points (plus-17) in about three minutes less of ice time per game than Rieder.
Like Rieder, Namestnikov is 23 and was also playing in his second NHL season.
It’s difficult to say where negotiations are right now, but it is believed Rieder’s camp has since come down on its request. It is also believed that the Coyotes are offering more per season than Namestnikov earned, though it is unlikely they would go much above $2.2 or 2.3 million per season on a two-year deal, and not much above $2.5 million on a three-year deal.
Rieder is scheduled to play for Team Europe at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey from Sept. 17-Oct. 1 in Toronto despite suffering a knee injury at the World Championships in May that was expected to sideline him four to six weeks.
Because Rieder is coming off an entry-level deal, he is not eligible for salary arbitration so his options are limited.
Ferris said the offers on the table from KHL clubs (believed to be in Metallurg & Omsk) are much higher than what the Coyotes are offering. If that’s true, Rieder will have to decide if the money outweighs his desire to play in the world’s top league and develop his game against the best players in the world. Leaving the NHL would also severely damage his relationship with the team, which would still own his rights.
The Coyotes already have McGinn, Max Domi and Jordan Martinook on the left side, with 2014 first-round pick Brendan Perlini also pushing for a roster spot.
MURPHY DEAL CLOSE, STONE TALKS CONTINUE
Brian Bartlett, the agent for Coyotes restricted free agent defenseman Connor Murphy, said Wednesday evening that he expects a deal for his client by the end of the week. Bartlett declined to provide any details. Murphy is one of the Coyotes’ three remaining RFAs who hasn’t signed. Murphy, 23, is coming off his three-year entry-level deal. He made $832,500 last season.
Defenseman Michael Stone has an arbitration hearing set for Aug. 4, but GM John Chayka said the sides have been talking a lot recently so it’s possible they reach an agreement before the arbitration date.
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