NHL Season 2013: 10 Players Who Need to Impress in Their Contract Year

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

NHL Season 2013: 10 Players Who Need to Impress in Their Contract Year

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    It's over. If's finally over.

    The lockout that threatened to cancel the 2012-13 season in its entirety has been put to bed. If Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr can cross the T's and dot all the I's, we will have hockey, most likely by Jan. 19.

    This compacted season should be an exciting one. Teams need to get off to fast starts if they want to make the playoffs, and individual players who will be free agents at the end of the season need to start producing right away.

    Here's a look at 10 big-name free agents who need to impress to get solid contracts next year, when a lower salary cap will impact on all teams.

    All contract information is courtesy of CapGeek.com.

Nathan Horton, Boston Bruins

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    Nathan Horton was a star for the Boston Bruins during their 2011 Stanley Cup run, scoring two overtime goals vs. Montreal in the first round and the game-winner in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Horton, 27, has had to battle two major concussions in the last two years. He is healthy and ready to go now, but he is in the last year of a contract that pays him $4 million per season.

    Horton needs to stay healthy and show that he still has a knack for scoring big goals if he hopes to be rewarded as a free agent next year.

Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames

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    Jarome Iginla is going to be in a very difficult position next season, no matter what kind of season he has this year.

    Iginla, 35, has scored 516 goals in his career. He is earning a prorated $7 million this season. It will be difficult for anyone to offer him a similar contract in the offseason.

    However, if Iginla wants to get anything close to that, he is going to need to have a dominant year.

    It would probably be best for him if the Flames trade him to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender and he has a huge playoff season.

    That's not going to happen with Calgary.

Joffrey Lupul, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Joffrey Lupul is coming off an All-Star season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He scored 25 goals with 42 assists last year, totals that also included eight game-winning goals.

    Lupul, 29, will earn $4.25 million this season. Another solid season would put Lupul in line for another good contract, but he may have a hard time getting the same kind of money he is receiving this year on a long-term basis.

Valtteri Filppula, Detroit Red Wings

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    Valtteri Filppula of the Detroit Red Wings is not a superstar, but he is the kind of player who excels at nearly all aspects of the game and helps his team win games on a consistent basis.

    Filppula, 28, is a solid skater who can put the puck in the net and play excellent overall defense. He will make $3 million this season in the final year of his contract before he hits the free-agent market.

    Filppula could be a key pickup for any team that wants to take a chance on him during the offseason.

Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils

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    Travis Zajac is facing one of the most critical seasons of his career.

    He missed the majority of the 2011-12 season with a leg injury and will be expected to take on a key role for the Devils, who lost superstar Zach Parise to free agency.

    Zajac, 27, is going to earn just under $3.9 million this season with the Devils. When he is on his game, he is a solid all-around player who can score, pass the puck and play defense. He has enjoyed plus-minus ratings of plus-22 and plus-33 during his career.

    A great season by Zajac could lead the Devils to another playoff appearance, as well as reward him with a solid contract next year.

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

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    Ryan Getzlaf has failed to score 20 goals in any of the last three seasons. He is scheduled to earn $5.325 million on a prorated basis this season with the Ducks.

    If Getzlaf, 27, is going to get a contract that is anything close to what he has received in the past, he needs to have an explosive year.

    It's doubtful that will happen unless he becomes a top-10 scorer in the league. His career high was a 91-point season in 2008-09.

Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks

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    Corey Perry is a big-time goal scorer who has both the skill and drive to put the puck in the net consistently.

    Perry, 27, scored 50 goals in 2010-11 and followed that up with 37 goals last year. He could be the most sought-after free agent on the market next summer.

    He needs to have a huge season to make sure that happens.

    Perry is scheduled to earn $5.325 million with the Ducks this season on a prorated basis.

Stephen Weiss, Florida Panthers

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    Stephen Weiss may be a target for a trade this year if the Panthers can't match the success they had last year, when they won the Southeast Division crown.

    Weiss, 29, is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $3.1 million. He has scored 20 or more goals in each of the last three years and can produce consistently.

    Weiss puts himself in the right position to score, can pass the puck accurately and does not ignore his defensive responsibilities.

    The Panthers are not expected to offer him a new contract, and thus he should be a popular free agent in the offseason.

Derek Roy, Dallas Stars

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    Derek Roy was traded by the Buffalo Sabres to the Dallas Stars in the offseason. Roy is a slick stick-handler with an array of moves.

    Roy, 29, missed the majority of the 2010-11 season with a leg injury, but came back to play 80 games last year. He scored 17 goals and tallied 27 assists.

    Roy is a finesse player, so he's not going to threaten any opponents with physical play. He is considered a somewhat soft player and needs to have a huge year if he wants to come close to the $4 million salary that he is earning this season.

Michael Ryder, Dallas Stars

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    Michael Ryder is coming off the best year of his career, as he scored 35 goals in his first season with the Dallas Stars.

    Ryder, 32, had played with the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins. He had been productive, but often lacked consistency.

    That was not the case last year. If he can match his goal-scoring productivity, the sniper should be able to come close to the $3.5 million salary he will earn this season.