20 NHL Players Teams Need to Lock Up Before They Reach Free Agency

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IJanuary 15, 2013

20 NHL Players Teams Need to Lock Up Before They Reach Free Agency

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    The NHL free-agency period of 2013 is expected to feature a number of talented UFAs like Alexander Edler and Corey Perry, so before the 2013 season starts, teams will look to lock up their stars.

    Some players like Edler and Perry are in line to receive a big payday, but they could decide to finally test the free-agent waters this offseason.

    If that is the case, teams like the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks could be in trouble, but here are the players who absolutely need to be locked up before free agency.

Alexander Edler (Vancouver Canucks)

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    Alexander Edler is coming off a great 2011-12 campaign with the Vancouver Canucks, and there is a chance his 2012-13 season could help him increase his trade value even more.

    Edler is a young offensive-minded defender who is a great passer and asset on the power play for the Canucks.

    He has a bright future, and the Canucks definitely need to lock him up before he reaches free agency.

Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers)

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    The New York Rangers have a number of RFAs with expiring contracts in 2013, and Ryan McDonagh is the top candidate to receive a long-term deal.

    McDonagh is one of the NHL's top young defenders, and as a dual-threat on offense and defense, the Rangers will have no problem paying for this young defender.

Alex Pietrangelo (St.Louis Blues)

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    Alex Pietrangelo is a defender who is a rising star in the NHL, and the St.Louis Blues should lock him up as long as they possibly can.

    Pietrangelo is a right-handed shot who has had back-to-back 40-points-or-more seasons with the Blues, and he is a defender who is a good size at 6'3" and 205 pounds.

    This defender is an RFA, but he could be offer-sheeted by another team for a maximum of six years, so the Blues should negotiate with him before it even gets to that point.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Phoenix Coyotes)

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    Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a young defender who has a ton of upside for the Phoenix Coyotes, and he is one of the 'Yotes' top puck-moving defenders.

    Ekman-Larsson, is coming of a 32-point season in his first full campaign with the team, and the shortened season should give him an opportunity to prove his worth for Phoenix.

Travis Zajac (New Jersey Devils)

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    Travis Zajac is the New Jersey Devils' top center, and he is a player with a bright future. Although his friend and former teammate Zach Parise skipped town for the Minnesota Wild, Ilya Kovalchuk is still going to be on the Devils' top line.

    A combination of Kovalchuk and Zajac has the potential to be one of the best in the Eastern Conference for the next few years, but it could be short-lived if the Devils don't lock up Zajac.

Kevin Shattenkirk (St.Louis Blues)

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    Kevin Shattenkirk is the other young gun on the St.Louis Blues' blue line, and he is slated to become a RFA in 2013.

    He isn't going to get as much as his partner Alex Pietrangelo, but the defensive stalwart deserves to be compensated for his stellar play.

Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings)

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    The Detroit Red Wings' starting netminder Jimmy Howard is a free agent at the end of this season and is due for a huge raise.

    Howard currently has a cap hit of $2,250,000 a year, and after posting three consecutive 35-win seasons, he definitely deserves a fair raise.

    On the open market, Howard would make a killing, so it is fair to say that Detroit will feverishly attempt to lock him up long-term.

Patrik Elias (New Jersey Devils)

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    Patrik Elias is another player who will be up for grabs in July of 2013, and although he is a veteran forward, he is a player who should be locked up because of his value to the team.

    Elias is a forward who has been among the top scorers in the NHL over the past few seasons, and he is a player who could be in high demand at the deadline if New Jersey isn't a playoff contender.

    If New Jersey is a playoff contender, expect them to try and ink Elias to an extension before he becomes a UFA.

Valtteri Filppula (Detroit Red Wings)

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    Valtteri Filppula is a left wing for the Detroit Red Wings who had a breakout 66-point season in 2011-12, and that potential should entice the franchise to retain him for the foreseeable future.

    Filppula had been a forward who chipped in around 35 points a year in a bottom-six role, but once he was given more ice time, he embraced the role and performed with flying colors.

    If the Red Wings lock up Flippula soon, they will not be sorry.

Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks)

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    Corey Perry is one of the Anaheim Ducks' top snipers, and a player slated to hit free agency in July.

    He is one of the Ducks' top forwards and is going to be a vital contributor for the team this season.

    According to the Associated Press, the Ducks are already trying to lock up Perry for the foreseeable future, and that would really help the team in their pursuit of becoming a playoff contender in the Western Conference.

Tyler Bozak (Toronto Maple Leafs)

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    Tyler Bozak is a center for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and a player who has increased his point totals with the franchise over the past few seasons.

    He is set to become a free agent in July, and he is a player who could eventually turn into the center the team has been searching for.

    It would be worth it to lock him up before he hits UFA status, because the potential is there.

Joffrey Lupul (Toronto Maple Leafs)

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    Joffrey Lupul is coming off an amazing season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he is a player who deserves to make a nice payday in free agency.

    Lupul is a forward who has battled injuries throughout his career, and a shortened season will give him an advantage at staying healthy.

    The Leafs' would be wise to lock him up long-term so they can then shift their focus to acquiring a center in free agency.

Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks)

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    Ryan Getzlaf is the other big-name UFA from the Anaheim Ducks slated to hit the market in July, and he is a very important part of the current team.

    The Ducks have very limited depth at center as it is, so losing Getzlaf would only make matters worse.

    If Bob Murray is successful at retaining Getzlaf long-term, it would be a great achievement for the organization.

Viktor Stalberg (Chicago Blackhawks)

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    Viktor Stalberg is a young and very talented winger with the Chicago Blackhawks, and he is a forward who deserves a new contract.

    He only makes $875K per year and he is coming off a season in which he scored 22 goals and added 21 assists for 43 points.

    The youngster has a lot of potential, and he will be a UFA in July. The Blackhawks should lock him up right now.

Derek Stepan (New York Rangers)

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    Derek Stepan is a young center with the New York Rangers whose 45-point rookie campaign was surpassed by the youngster's sophomore campaign of 51 points.

    Stepan is a player who has a lot of upside, and he could be the team's No. 1 center in a few years, so it would be wise to lock him up as soon as possible. 

Stephen Weiss (Florida Panthers)

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    Stephen Weiss is a center with the Florida Panthers who has been a consistent producer over the past few seasons, and he is an important piece to lock up.

    The Panthers are going to be adding some young prospects like Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad to their ranks in the coming seasons, and having a veteran like Weiss would strengthen their overall depth.

Cody Hodgson (Buffalo Sabres)

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    Cody Hodgson is a young center who was once the NHL's top prospect, and he was traded from the Vancouver Canucks to the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline.

    Hodgson is a center with a lot of potential, and the Sabres need to lock him up so they can start building around their young core of players.

Carl Hagelin (New York Rangers)

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    Carl Hagelin is coming off a 38-point season in 64 games with the New York Rangers last year, and he was even in consideration for the Calder Trophy.

    Hagelin is a speedster who is a solid two-way forward, and the Rangers will look to lock him up so they avoid their own "fiscal cliff" in 2013.

Adam Henrique (New Jersey Devils)

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    Adam Henrique had an amazing rookie year with the New Jersey Devils in which he had 35 assists and 16 goals for 51 points.

    The Devils' young center has a ton of potential and could turn into one of the league's budding stars as he continues to develop.

    If Henrique were up for grabs, a ton of teams would love to add him to the roster, so look for the Devils to start negotiating a long-term contract with the forward soon.

Braden Holtby (Washington Capitals)

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    Braden Holtby took the NHL by storm with an impressive playoff performance with the Washington Capitals last season, and he should have enough time in 2013 to establish him as the team's top starter.

    Holtby is a goalie with a ton of potential, and he should be locked up for the foreseeable future.