10 NHL Players Who Should Re-Sign Prior to Free Agency

Al DanielCorrespondent IIJanuary 11, 2013

10 NHL Players Who Should Re-Sign Prior to Free Agency

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    The NHL’s release date for the next free-agent class―July 1, 2013―is officially closer ahead than the release date for the 2012 class is behind.

    Even with the delayed puck-drop on this season set for next weekend, by no means should anyone clear the future of those free agents out of their minds. Nor should the players in question lose sight of their options beyond the shortened 2012-13 season.

    Although, there are handfuls of pending unrestricted and restricted free agents who can make the process easier for themselves and their current employers by recognizing the unmatchable benefits of staying.

    These players either have a good thing going with their current team or, if all goes according to plan, will be on or approaching a clear-cut path to a rosier situation as 2012-13 unfolds.

    They either have an established role on an established contender or are on their way to being tasked with maintaining a franchise’s sustained or newfound relevance.

    That notion applies to several more than those who are featured on this list, but for the sake of selectivity, here are 10, with a limit of one per team.

Niklas Backstrom

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    The Minnesota Wild made no secret of their serious desire to start contending when they scooped up free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

    Together with rookie Mikael Granlund, those seasoned additions will have no excuse not to solidify the team’s relevance by their first full-length season in 2013-14.

    Backstrom, the Wild’s $6 million goaltender and six-year veteran, will want to stick around for that.

    While his numbers from the past three seasons have not measured up with those of his first three, they ought to turn around naturally once his revamped supporting cast has jelled.

Pascal Dupuis

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    The seasoned Dupuis is coming off a career year in nearly every major category, putting him in the company of other Pittsburgh Penguins forwards who stepped up their production last season while Sidney Crosby missed substantial time.

    Crosby is back, but another elite striker in Jordan Staal has been traded. In turn, Dupuis can expect to be asked for the same sort of output (25-34-59) that he tallied in 2011-12 as the Penguins strive to get back to the second half of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    Regardless of what that amounts to in 2013, it should be the same mindset for the team and individual alike in future seasons.

Simon Gagne

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    As long as his former Flyers teammates Jeff Carter and Mike Richards are both committed to the Kings, Gagne should crave a contract that keeps him on the 2012 champions for a while longer.

Adam Henrique

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    As uncertain as the New Jersey Devils’ future may appear―they have lost Parise and have five other key forwards in the final year of their contract―the 22-year-old Henrique has the most time and space for patient development.

    Between the shortened NHL season and his ongoing recovery from a thumb injury, Henrique will not have much of a chance to build on his promising rookie campaign until after his next contract takes effect.

    Nevertheless, the Devils should logically make a priority of securing his long-term services, while Henrique should be keen on chasing an increased role from 2013-14 onward.

Ryan McDonagh

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    Even as he enters the final year of his entry-level deal, McDonagh is already giving the impression that he is the long-term nucleus of the New York Rangers blue-line brigade.

    Along with his defensive colleagues, Vezina-winning netminder Henrik Lundqvist included, he was indubitably the reason the Blueshirts finished first in the Eastern Conference in 2011-12.

    Ditto the reason they pushed the Devils to overtime in Game 6 of last year’s Conference Finals, ultimately succumbing to residual wear-and-tear from two seven-game rounds and Henrique’s clutch performance.

    With additional offensive output via newly acquired Rick Nash in store to reward his toil, McDonagh is in an enviably promising position to get his name on the Cup sooner rather than later.

    No need for him to explore other options.

Gustav Nyquist

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    The rookie Nyquist enters a situation in Detroit not unlike what the sophomore Henrique will face in New Jersey.

    He figures to start seeing regular time on a longtime powerhouse that now appears to be approaching an ambiguous short-term future.

    If the Red Wings, who are suddenly missing Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart on defense, do fall into a comparatively mediocre state, the 23-year-old Nyquist is one pending free agent who need not jump ship.

    He is better off waiting out any bridge period that may approach and making the most of it.

    Ultimately, he should be raring to represent the franchise’s next wave of world-class offense, as the eventual decline of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg draws closer (sometime later this decade).

Corey Perry

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    Assuming fellow 2013 free agent Ryan Getzlaf re-signs—and it is hard to imagine any other scenario for the Anaheim captain—then Perry ought to crave an identical extension of his Ducks career.

    The two incumbent alternate captains, the 42-year-old Teemu Selanne and 38-year-old Saku Koivu, are not likely to last much longer.

    In turn, besides being the top go-to goalscorer for head coach Bruce Boudreau’s new team, with whom he will have his first full-length season in 2013-14, Perry may soon earn the right to place a letter over his heart.

Tuukka Rask

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    With Tim Thomas withdrawn for this season and unlikely to return, let alone in his old form, the Boston Bruins' crease is wide open for Rask.

    Just as it is with the reigning champs in Los Angeles, there has only been a negligible overhaul of the Bruins roster that won a Cup not so long ago.

    Naturally, it will be on Rask to hold up a critical part of Boston’s persona as a long-term heavyweight.

    But if he proves himself as an established starter, then there will be no possible arrangement more enticing than what he has entering this season, what with a Selke-winning Patrice Bergeron and Norris-winning Zdeno Chara anchoring his core of skating mates.

Kevin Shattenkirk

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    In his first full year with St. Louis, the soon-to-be 24-year-old Shattenkirk had a sophomore surge that coincided with the Blues’ best season in recent memory.

    The two-way talent blocked 103 shots and led all Blues blueliners with a plus-20 rating and 43 points, including 18 on the power play.

    With the team defending its regal position in the ultra-competitive Central Division and his spot as the second-ranked defensemen on the depth chart, opportunity knocks with equal emphasis for the Blues and Shattenkirk.

    If he stays and St. Louis wins the Cup in the near future, he will have played no small part in achieving that milestone.

Blake Wheeler

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    The Winnipeg Jets cannot stay in the Eastern Conference that much longer, but if Wheeler sticks around, he should be an integral piece in the Jets’ ascension, once their travel regimen is not so ridiculously rigorous.

    In his first full season with the franchise at the age of 25, Wheeler led Winnipeg with 47 assists and stamped a career-high 64 points. His previous high with the Bruins was 45 points as a rookie in 2008-09.

    If he stays where he is, Wheeler will be asked to do more, and he ought to embrace that elevated role.

    Even though a February 2011 trade effectively made him miss out on Boston’s run to the title that subsequent spring, his current arrangement means he can soon pilot a rising contender in his own right.