NHL Free Agency: One Free Agent Each NHL Team Must Re-Sign
The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, and that means playoff hockey is looming. For some teams this means the end of the season, and for others it's the beginning.
Any trades are now prohibited until a team is eliminated for the season, (don't worry, Rick Nash) but teams are still free to extend the contracts of their own free agents.
The market has some big-name players who will become free agents by July 1st if their contracts aren't extended by their respective teams, so here is one player that each team must re-sign for the 2012-13 NHL season.
Anaheim Ducks: Teemu Selanne
Whether or not Teemu Selanne will retire after this year remains to be seen, but it's hard to question his hockey ability despite his age. Teemu still has what it takes to be in the NHL and play on a team's upper lines.
There was some question over whether or not Selanne would be traded at the deadline, but now that it has passed and he's still a Duck, any idea of a trade in the future is out of the question.
Selanne currently has 55 points in 63 games for the Ducks this season, which is an outstanding number for someone of his age.
Selanne's role in Anaheim doesn't just end at scoring goals and setting up points. Teemu is a lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame, and to have a player of his caliber sticking around for another year to mentor younger players on the Ducks such as Bobby Ryan would be a huge plus for the Ducks.
Boston Bruins: Tuukka Rask
All of the focus in Boston has been on Tim Thomas, and rightfully so. Thomas has had an excellent past two years in the NHL. Last season he won the Vezina trophy, and this year he's well on his way to a Vezina nomination.
To put it simply, Tim Thomas has erased the 2009-10 season from the memory of most hockey fans. Not a whole lot of people remember the year Thomas only won 17 of the 43 games he started and was on the verge of being traded off the Bruins roster.
For Thomas, nobody should remember; it's a blip on the radar of his career. It's an irrelevant fact after he came back the next season and won the Vezina trophy, Conn-Smythe trophy and ultimately the Stanley Cup.
For Tim Thomas, the 2009-10 season is nothing.
For Tuukka Rask, it is everything. Thomas is almost 38 years old and is approaching the twilight years of his career. Rask, on the other hand, is 24, and when Tim Thomas had a forgettable 2009-10 season, Rask arguably saved the Bruins' campaign for the playoffs with his 22 wins and .931 save percentage.
Certainly the Bruins should keep Thomas around, but re-signing Rask is a must to ensure that they have a good future in their net.
Buffalo Sabres: Brad Boyes
Buffalo doesn't have a lot of players hitting free agency this season, and—thank God for them—they have core superstar players such as Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff locked up in deals that will last until Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a grandfather.
Yes, that was sarcasm, but let's get to the serious matter at hand here. Boyes isn't having a great outing with Buffalo this year, only posting a mere 13 points in 47 games. As a matter of fact, it's his worst season of his career.
That said, re-signing the 29-year-old forward is still a must. Boyes has four 60-plus point seasons in his career despite playing for subpar teams during a good portion of his time in the NHL.
For the Sabres to give that kind of talent up easily would be foolish and short-sighted. Boyes may not be having a great year, but giving him at least a season to improve would be a smart move by Sabres' management.
Calgary Flames: Mikael Backlund
Olli Jokinen may seem like the easy choice here, posting 51 points in 63 games for the Flames, but at 33 years old, Jokinen is exiting his prime years in the NHL.
Backlund hasn't had a great season in the NHL yet. In fact, he hasn't even had a good one, but at 22 years old, he undoubtedly needs to be kept around by the Flames.
For a team with a bleak future, having a young player like Backlund is important. Who knows how good of a player Backlund could turn out to be once he becomes more experienced and is given more ice time?
Carolina Hurricanes: Jamie McBain
The Hurricanes don't have any big names coming off the books this year. In fact, most are restricted free agents who have hardly played this season.
With that being said, Jamie McBain is their must-sign player of the offseason. McBain currently posts 23 points in 57 games with a -7 rating. All in all, that's not bad for a defender on one of the league's worst teams.
McBain will be an unrestricted free agent this season, but convincing him to stay in Carolina may still be difficult for management to achieve.
If the Hurricanes can keep the young defender, they may have a good player for the future.
Chicago Blackhawks: Johnny Oduya
Not much to see here. Chicago has their core locked up for a good long time, which makes their free agency relatively boring.
Most of their free agents are either old men, (Brendan Morrison and Andrew Brunette) replaceable enforcers (Jamal Mayers and Daniel Carcillo) or just plain irrelevant (Sean O'Donnell and Sami Lepisto).
Oduya is no superstar, but the defender whom the Blackhawks recently acquired at the trade deadline is a good pickup and would be great for Chicago in the future if they can hold on to him.
Oduya won't be knocking down the doors of Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook on the first line, but keeping him around to fight for the fourth spot with Niklas Hjalmarsson would be great for the Blackhawks.
Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene
Perhaps a more adequate answer would be "everybody", as the Colorado Avalanche will have just three forwards and four defenders under contract when July 1st arrives.
Nonetheless, keeping Duchene is a necessity for the Avs to keep their future locked up. The 21-year-old forward has missed some time this season and only has 26 points in 44 games.
Regardless of a subpar season, Duchene is young and still has plenty of room for improvement. Last season, the young forward put up 67 points in 80 games.
The Avs have a lot of other upcoming free agents, like Erik Johnson, but keeping Duchene is a necessity if they hope to build a contender.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Nikita Nikitin
For the Columbus Blue Jackets, free agency isn't even that big of a deal. Nobody wants to come to the team, and they're selling off every player they have.
Rick Nash is almost certain to be traded at some point before the next season starts, and Columbus will have to rely on the draft in an attempt to build a playoff team.
That doesn't leave much for them to do in free agency, but resigning Nikita Nikitin would be nice. Nikitin is a skilled defender and has 20 points in the 35 games he's played with Columbus this season.
In addition, getting to play around Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski should help Nikitin's numbers a little.
Dallas Stars: Jamie Benn
No question about this one, Jamie Benn is easily the Dallas Stars' must-sign player.
For a team that's trying to rebuild their way back into Cup contention, players like Benn are necessary to keep around.
The skilled forward has 49 points in 52 games and had 56 points in 69 games last season. At just 22, he's a must-sign for Dallas.
Detroit Red Wings: Nicklas Lidstrom
Not even questionable. If there's a fountain of youth that exists on this earth, Lidstrom should be the first one interrogated as it pertains to the location of the fountain.
The near 42-year-old is one of the greatest defenders in hockey history, and this season he has 31 points in 62 games, with a +25 rating.
There's no chance that Lidstrom leaves the Red Wings for another team, so the only risk the Red Wings have is losing Lidstrom to retirement.
Although it's a possibility, retirement doesn't make a whole lot of sense for Lidstrom considering he's still a great defender for the Red Wings, and as long as they have a good team, he should stick around as long as he's able to play at an NHL level.
Edmonton Oilers: Sam Gagner
When looking at Sam Gagner's numbers, it's hard to believe that the Edmonton Oilers wanted to trade the young forward before the trade deadline.
After numerous rumors about the Oilers looking to deal Gagner, the 22-year-old, first-round draft pick figuratively shut off the phones when he had a historic eight-point game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
In his five years in the NHL, Gagner has managed to put up at least 40 points in each season, despite only playing second and third-line minutes for the Oilers.
While it's certainly true that the Oilers have much better young players such as Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, keeping Gagner around as a depth forward would still be a great option for the Oilers in the future.
Florida Panthers: Kris Versteeg
Florida doesn't have a whole lot coming off their books this year, but keeping Versteeg would be a huge plus for him.
Current Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon obviously likes Versteeg, as he had Kris in his Chicago days and traded for him to come to Florida.
Due to some extra experience and a lot more ice time, Versteeg has performed much better than he did in Chicago, even when he won a Cup with the team.
Currently, the forward has 49 points in 59 games and is on pace to finish with 65 points on the season.
Obviously Florida doesn't count on Kris Versteeg to be an outstanding player, but they'd still be wise to keep him on board if they want to remain a successful team.
Los Angeles Kings: Nobody
To be completely honest on the Kings' situation, they have nobody they vitally need to re-sign at the end of the season.
Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and Mike Richards are locked up for years, and newly-acquired Jeff Carter was handed an albatross contract during his days as a Flyer that will keep him with the Kings for the next decade, if they so wish to keep him.
The real issue presents itself in the 2013 offseason, as both of the Kings' goalies, Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier, come off the books.
The Kings would be wise to keep some cap space open to retain the services of at least one of their goalies.
Minnesota Wild: Josh Harding
Almost everybody who hits free agency for the Wild is a relatively minor player. Certainly they'll want to keep some of the players, but none of them are vital.
Harding isn't much different, but the goaltending positions are always a bit more important to fill, and for a backup, Harding has good numbers with the Wild.
Currently, in 24 games played, despite only being 9-9, Harding has a .919 save percentage. For a backup on a non-playoff team, that's not bad at all.
Although Harding isn't vital to Minnesota's future, he'd be a good guy for them to keep around in case Niklas Backstrom goes down with an injury.
Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price
This could easily be a toss up between Carey Price and P.K. Subban, but with the bromance between the two it's likely that if one returns, so shall the other.
Plus there's the fact that Subban seemingly loves to fight his teammates more than his opponents.
Nonetheless, when the 2010 playoffs came, Price was ousted by fellow netminder Jaroslav Halak, who played out of his mind until the team was eliminated by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Price is still a very good goalie, and for the Habs to let him go would be a foolish decision.
Nashville Predators: Shea Weber
Whether or not Shea Weber returns to the Predators for a long term remains to be seen. It's likely that he'll at least stay in Nashville for another year, as he still has one year before becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Regardless, it's vital that Nashville tries to lock Weber down for a nice, long term with the team. With Ryan Suter's future in Nashville in doubt, the Predators need to make sure they lock down the other half of their defensive force.
Both are stellar defenders, but Shea Weber seems to be the better of the two. He's on pace for another Norris-worthy season, with 40 points in 60 games so far.
Both Weber and Suter told Nashville management that they wanted to see more of an effort to boost the team's offensive talent and try to win a Cup.
At the deadline, David Poille made moves for both Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad. Both moves are impressive, but with both players hitting free agency at the end of the season, it's incredibly risky.
If both players walk, Suter may walk, and Nashville would also be out of everything they used to trade for Kostitsyn and Gaustad.
That wouldn't do much to encourage Weber to stay.
New Jersey Devils: Zach Parise
It's rather interesting how things work out, because the top three free agents this upcoming offseason belong to the two teams just mentioned.
Where Ryan Suter and Shea Weber are the top names on the defensive market, Zach Parise stands tall in the forward market.
At first glance, it's a no-brainer for New Jersey to sign the star forward, but with only $22 million to work with and 10 players to sign, it might not be so easy.
If the salary cap goes down due to CBA negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA, matters may get worse for the Devils.
It doesn't help that both of their goaltenders are coming off the books and are both aging. They might be wise to go goalie hunting in the offseason.
Needless to say, the Devils will have a lot of decisions to make in the near future.
New York Islanders: P.A. Parenteau
It's really a toss up between Parenteau and Al Montoya for the Islanders, but Parenteau has been more relevant for the Islanders this season.
Currently, Parenteau has 59 points in 63 games, which is remarkable for a team that has been awful until just recently.
As the Islanders have heated up, so has Parenteau, and the team finds themselves near a playoff spot. They've still got a long stretch ahead though.
Keeping Parenteau would be a good choice by the Islanders, as they've got some young talent on the team and could use a player in his prime to help mentor the younger players on the squad.
New York Rangers: Michael Del Zotto
For the Rangers, most of their important players are locked up away from the free-agent market this summer. That said, there are still some players at lesser roles who need to return to the team next season.
Michael Del Zotto is easily a must-sign for the team. The defender currently has 30 points in just 57 games and plays on one of the best defensive teams in the league.
We've all heard the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," and there's no reason the Rangers should go messing with a defensive lineup that works, so bringing Del Zotto back next season is a must for Glen Sather.
Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson hits restricted free agency this offseason, and for a defender, he's having a season for the ages.
Currently Karlsson has 66 points in 64 games. Even if his defensive game lacks, that's still an impressive feat. Maybe he's not a Norris winner, but Karlsson still deserves some recognition for being a point per game defender this late in the season.
At just 21 years old, Karlsson is that much more important for the Senators to keep. The biggest issue they may run into is that with a season like the one Karlsson is having, they may find themselves paying a steep price to keep him around.
Take my advice, for a player that young playing that well...Pay him whatever he wants.
Philadelphia Flyers: Jaromir Jagr
Jagr may not be the best player over the age of 40 in the league and his point totals have begun to slow down, but he's still a good player for the Flyers to have around.
For this young team, with players such as Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, and Sean Couturier still having room to grow, a player like Jagr to mentor them and help them improve their game would be a huge advantage for the Flyers.
Jagr's play alone hasn't been bad either. Despite his production slowing down as noted above, the future Hockey Hall of Famer has 42 points in 52 games with the Flyers this season.
He's certainly not a future piece, but Jagr's presence could have a huge impact on the Flyers' future, so keeping him around would be a good move by general manager Paul Holmgren.
Phoenix Coyotes: Shane Doan
For a team that is in serious jeopardy of being relocated, re-singing Shane Doan is essential.
Regardless of his age, Doan is the face of the Coyotes. He has been with Phoenix since Phoenix has been a part of the NHL, and one could question how many players would actually stick with a team that has been in trouble as long as the Coyotes have.
Doan may only have 38 points in 63 games, but his contribution goes as far off the ice as it does on the ice.
Shane Doan is one of the best team leaders in the game, and one could question if Phoenix would've been so successful over the last few years considering the ownership controversy without Doan captaining the team through the issues.
Whether they relocate or not, the Coyotes franchise needs Shane Doan to return to the team next season.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Nobody
Unless Sidney Crosby were to suddenly retire, most of Pittsburgh's cap space is tied up anyways. Regardless, even with cap space they don't really have any important players to re-sign.
Penguins general manager Ray Shero took care of business earlier this season when he signed upcoming restricted free agent James Neal to a six-year contract worth a cap hit of $5 million per season.
Currently, Neal has 30 goals and 61 points in 62 games. Not a bad deal at all for the young winger, and while there's some question as to whether or not he may be a fluke, Shero may have been wise to sign Neal before he could potentially have an outstanding postseason and drive up his market value.
San Jose Sharks: Tommy Wingels
San Jose has quite a few names hitting free agency, but none of them are that big.
Tommy Wingels is the must-sign for San Jose because he's young and looks to be a decent NHL-caliber player.
Six points in 18 games is nothing spectacular, but Wingels is just 23 years old, has seen limited ice time and hasn't been in very many NHL games.
Wingels certainly isn't the Sharks next superstar, but if they're looking for depth, he'd certainly be a good player for them to keep around in the future.
St. Louis Blues: T.J. Oshie
T.J. Oshie and Chris Stewart are both restricted free agents for the Blues this year, and if St. Louis is smart, they'll keep both players.
Oshie is slightly older than the 24-year-old Stewart, but he has had a much better season this year for the Blues. With 42 points in 61 games, Oshie has been a good offensive tool for the Blues this season and will likely get better.
Unfortunately, it's hard to measure how good Oshie can get for the Blues, as he's never really played a full season yet, but hopefully that will change this year and the Blues can get a better idea of exactly what T.J. Oshie is worth.
Regardless, Oshie and Stewart are both essential keepers for the Blues, who, despite their outstanding defense, lack some offense. Taking a step back in their worst area of their game would be a bad move on the part of Blues' management.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Nobody
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman made a lot of moves at the trade deadline, making it no secret that he's not afraid to shake up the team now.
Tampa Bay does have a lot of free agents, but none of them are essential keepers, especially not with a team that is shaking things up like the Lightning are.
They probably aren't done trading either, as rumors of Yzerman looking for a goaltender will almost certainly carry over into next season.
You can certainly expect him to take a look at Vancouver backup Cory Schneider during the offseason.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Mikhail Grabovski
Grabovski will hit free agency this year, ending his $2.9 million contract with the Leafs.
Whether his salary would go up significantly if the Leafs were to resign Grabovski remains to be seen, but if the team wants to remain a good offensive threat, retaining Grabovski's contract would certainly help.
Mikhail Grabovski currently has 41 points in 57 games with the Leafs this season, and for a team on the rise and hoping to be a more familiar face in the playoffs, he'd be a good piece to keep.
Vancouver Canucks: Cory Schneider
Whether the Canucks have Roberto Luongo or not, extending Cory Schneider is a necessity.
Schneider is a backup who's ready to be a starter, and in 24 games this season, he has a .932 save percentage.
Extending his contract at the very least gives Vancouver a good backup, and at the most, it allows them to trade him at a higher value due to a guaranteed contract.
Keeping Schneider around could make a good trade for Vancouver if they come across a team such as Columbus or Tampa Bay that is desperate for a goalie and has players to deal.
Washington Capitals: John Carlson
You might be surprised to see that Alex Semin and Mike Green aren't on this list. Don't be.
Semin almost seems a certainty to leave, and he might not even be in the NHL next season, as the KHL is a possible destination for the Russian forward.
Green hasn't played much this season at all and will likely get a relatively simple contract from the Capitals due to his recent proneness to injury.
Carlson is only 22 years old, and he currently has 29 points in 63 games with the struggling Capitals. For a team that is struggling, keeping a younger player would be a good decision.
Winnipeg Jets: Evander Kane
For a fringe playoff team that is taking strides in the league, keeping the rights to one of their young, talented forwards is essential.
Kane is just 20 years old and has 42 points in 57 games with the Jets. His stats have gotten progressively better in his three seasons in the NHL, and his outlook is great for the future.
Winnipeg has a very young team, and since they're just a few draft picks or free agents away from being a playoff threat, retaining Kane is vital to keep their future in tact.
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Jordan Matthews is a Featured Columnist for the Detroit Red Wings and the NHL. For more coverage, you can read his recent articles here:
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