NHL free agency is fast approaching, and league-wide focus is shifting to the pursuit of a title in 2014. General managers throughout North America aren't just concentrating on acquiring talent from elsewhere; there's also the pivotal task of retaining their own free agents.
While some teams are content to allow particular players to take a hike, other playmakers take precedence during the offseason. Unrestricted and restricted free agents will field significant offers from rival squads, setting the stage for contractual showdowns and extensive negotiations.
The allure of more cash and a change of scenery will draw many coveted free agents away from their current teams, but some are bound to re-sign for a variety of reasons. Let's take a peek at players you can expect to stay put when the offseason whirlwind begins.
If the Devils hope to rebound from a disappointing late-season collapse, keeping Clarkson is paramount. Through six full seasons with New Jersey, he has established himself as one of the game's most productive power forwards and continues to trend upward.
In his past 128 contests, Clarkson owns 45 goals and 216 penalty minutes. He is a crucial cog in the Devils' locker room, and you can be sure a proud New Jersey franchise will do all it can to avoid losing one of its top players for the second straight year.
Team captain Zach Parise bolted for a lucrative 13-year deal in Minnesota last summer. Expect Clarkson, an unrestricted free agent, to receive a full-court press from the Devils' front office.
We're running out of adjectives to describe the way Rask has performed during the postseason. With restricted free agency looming, the Boston netminder has ensured himself a hefty pay raise.
He has stopped 45 shots or more in four games, saving 95 percent of all shots fired in his direction through 19 games. He carries a 1.64 GAA into Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Rask hasn't lost a game in regulation since May 12. The Bruins will break the bank to ensure that this 26-year-old sensation stays in Beantown for years to come.
Though Gagner was the topic of trade rumors during the regular season, expect the 23-year-old center to see plenty of love in Edmonton. The restricted free agent, who joined the franchise in 2007 as the sixth overall draft pick, really began to find his groove this year, and a franchise looking to make strides must make sure he's part of a promising foundation moving forward.
Gagner accumulated 14 goals and 24 assists in 48 contests, coming up four scores shy of tying his career high. Edmonton could explore its options by fielding offers for the up-and-comer, but it's unlikely the Oilers would be able to receive fair value for a player just starting to tap into his potential.
The city of Toronto hasn't been this excited about its beloved hockey squad in several years. The Maple Leafs took Boston to the precipice of elimination in an exhilarating seven-game series (Toronto led 4-1 with approximately 10 minutes remaining in Game 7).
MacArthur, a 28-year-old left winger and unrestricted free agent, is an absolute must-sign for the Maple Leafs. He is a central figure in the franchise's vastly improved attack.
After tallying his first 20-goal seasons in back-to-back years, MacArthur made a significant impact during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign. He totaled 23 points in 45 contests.
Toronto and MacArthur have mutually benefited from this marriage. Expect him to remain a Maple Leaf unless another team swoops in and grossly overpays for his services.
The Canucks are clearly entering a transitional phase as a franchise. Two years removed from a Western Conference title, Vancouver is starting over with a new coach after suffering a first-round sweep versus San Jose.
Roy, a veteran center acquired from Dallas during the regular season, would supply the squad with a savvy skill set as it looks to take a step forward. Entering his 10th season in the league, he is an established playmaker who belongs near the top of any rotation.
Roy registered 28 points during the regular season and continues to display durability. Dating back to 2009, he hasn't missed more than six games in any campaign.
The unrestricted free agent may also be inclined to remain with a legitimate playoff contender after spending his first eight seasons with a struggling Buffalo organization.
Clowe, an unrestricted free agent, managed to suit up in just 14 games with the Rangers after being acquired on April 2 from San Jose. New York was never able to truly work him into the lineup during the playoffs, as perceived concussion issues limited the left winger to two games of action.
The 30-year-old has already expressed his desire to do more in the Big Apple.
"I'm open to negotiate to find a way to stay here, there's no question about that," Clowe told NHL.com. "Everyone wants to win in New York."
That flexibility is key in this process. The Rangers face difficult choices while dealing with the futures of restricted free agents Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh.
Clowe compiled eight points in 12 regular-season games and immediately becomes a top priority for New York this summer. When a team and player are on the same page, it dramatically eases contract discussions along.