NHL free agency is always a nerve-racking and exciting time of year for general managers, players, agents, fans and the entire hockey community. And the summer of 2013 is shaping up to be a time in which a ton of young stars will get "PAID".
This blend of UFA and RFA players have the skills, resume and potential that make them worthy of earning a sizable new contract.
Here are the top young stars who are certain to get a nice pay day next summer.
Alex Pietrangelo's entry-level contract will expire this summer, and he will be ready to negotiate a new contract with the St. Louis Blues. Pietrangelo is arguably one of the NHL's top-defenders on the rise, and he should be compensated for his abilities.
The 22-year-old is coming off a 51-point season with a St. Louis team that narrowly missed out on a Presidents' Trophy bid. With his amazing two-way abilities, his potential and skill set, Pietrangelo is in line to receive a nice contract extension this summer.
Sam Gagner will be a RFA this summer, and he will be signing his third professional contract.
Gagner is a forward who has been a consistent 40-point-or-better producer for the Edmonton Oilers, and his 2011-12 campaign was highlighted by an eight-point-night against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Gagner is a talented center who is starting to show signs of promise, and the Oilers will do their best to adequately pay him so they can solidify their group of young forwards for the next few seasons.
Tuukka Rask is a player whose payday will hinge on whether or not there will be a 2012-13 season. The current starting-netminder for the Bruins signed a one-year-deal this past offseason to position himself for a larger contract during the summer of 2013.
Rask wanted to prove that he was a goaltender capable of leading the Bruins back to the Stanley Cup, and the lockout is hurting his bargaining power.
Nonetheless, Rask will be one of the top young goaltenders on the RFA market this upcoming summer, so he could still get paid if a team forces Boston's hand by submitting an offer sheet for Rask's services.
Ryan McDonagh is a young NHL defenseman who is on the rise. He embraced a larger role with the New York Rangers in 2011-12, and the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs allowed him to illustrate his talent, potential and abilities.
McDonagh is a great shutdown-defenseman who has some offensive upside.
The 23-year-old was seventh in even-strength points among defenders with 30 last season, and that put him ahead of Brent Seabrook, Alexander Edler, Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Weber, Drew Doughty and Brian Campbell.
McDonagh is a future All-Star for the Rangers, and the team will have to pay him handsomely to lock him up for the foreseeable future.
Cody Hodgson is a player who is going to be a future top-line center for the Buffalo Sabres. In limited minutes with the Vancouver Canucks and Sabres in 2011-12, Hodgson put up 41 points.
With the Sabres, the young forward will have more ice time, better linemates and more chances to become the 50-to-60 point player he is capable of being.
He was a top prospect for the Canucks who couldn't crack their top-six because of depth, but he will have that chance in Buffalo.
If the youngster can have a solid season, the team and Terry Pegula should have no problem paying him for his efforts.
Alexander Edler is coming off his best season in his NHL career, and he will hit the open market in 2013.
He is a top-end offensive defenseman with a howitzer of a slap shot. He is also a skilled passer and a defender who has embraced his size over the years.
Edler is a great power-play asset, a solid positional defender and a player who could really rake in a nice payday when you consider the direction in which he is trending.
Jimmy Howard is a netminder who has been consistent and stable for the Detroit Red Wings, and the 28-year-old UFA will get paid in 2013.
Howard currently makes $2,250,000 a year, but he is arguably worth a couple million more than that.
He is the future for the Wings in goal, so Detroit will likely try and sign him to a sizable contract spread out over four-to-five years with the new CBA cap's contract length rules in place.
Braden Holtby is a goaltender who will ultimately contend for the Calder Trophy whenever he gets to start his official rookie season in the NHL. He was a goaltender who played phenomenally for the Washington Capitals in the playoffs, and the starting job is his to lose.
Holtby has shown poise, ability and athleticism that will make him a talented goalie, and after this season he could negotiate a nice contract for himself considering his value.
Jonathan Bernier is a goaltender who requested a trade this summer, and he is currently slated to become a RFA this summer.
With it clear that Bernier doesn't want to be on the Kings, it takes some leverage away from Los Angeles.
On the open market, he could be offer-sheeted, because there are a few teams that could use a starting goaltender. Although the Kings could always match an offer sheet, they might welcome a return in draft picks if they can't get a deal done via trade before July of 2013.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a rising star for the Phoenix Coyotes, and he is a skilled puck mover and shooter.
In his first full season with the Coyotes, Ekman-Larsson tallied 32 points. As the sixth overall selection from the 2009 NHL Draft, there is a lot of hope for the Swedish-defender, and to this point he has lived up to his billing.
As a mobile skater and talented offensive defender, he is one of the team's most valuable players, and the team will reward him in the summer of 2013.
Corey Perry is not one of the youngest free agents at age 27, but he is a player who is going to get paid. He is a top-flight goal scorer who has scored 50 goals in a season, he has won the Hart Trophy and he is a talented and dynamic player.
With Perry set to hit the open market in 2013, he will get paid because of his abilities.
He is already a favorite to be the No. 1 target during the free agent frenzy 2013, and it will be interesting to see which teams ante up for his services.
At the end of the 2012-13 season, Kevin Shattenkirk's entry-level deal will expire, and he is a player who is currently in line for a nice payday.
The 23-year-old is coming off back-to-back 43 point campaigns, and he is a defenseman who is solid offensively and defensively.
Shattenkirk is a key member of the St. Louis Blues' defense, and the team will lock him up for the foreseeable future because the team is on the cusp of being a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup.