The New York Rangers made the decision to lock up star defender Ryan McDonagh for the long haul this summer, and there are other stars that teams should re-sign as soon as possible.
Free agency in July of 2014 could be one of the biggest in years, and for that reason teams such as the Buffalo Sabres would be smart to lock up Thomas Vanek.
Vanek is a key member of the team that can be built around, but he isn't the only player who could use a new deal. Here are the NHL stars that should be signed to a long-term deal as soon as possible.
Kessel has stepped his game up over the past few years.
Phil Kessel is one of the league's top young scorers, and he will become an UFA this summer. The 25-year-old sniper has posted back-to-back seasons in which he has finished in the top 10 in scoring, and he is trending up.
A quick glance at Kessel's stats will show that he deserves to get paid, and the Maple Leafs could save money by signing him to a max contract. Over the past four full seasons, Kessel has scored 30 goals or more, and he was on pace for that same number if you prorate his 2012-13 season.
It would make sense to assume that he will continue to produce in his prime years, and a long-term contract could help dilute the cap hit. Signing Kessel to a new contract sooner rather than later would be optimal, because his price tag could sky rocket if he has another solid season.
Moulson is going to get paid one way or another.
Matt Moulson is entering the last year of his contract, and he is due for a hefty raise. During his career with the New York Islanders, Moulson has been a great complementary winger for John Tavares.
The former Los Angeles Kings winger has scored 30 goals three times since joining the Islanders, and he was on pace to score 30 or more goals last season.
Price will ultimately be an issue when it comes time to re-sign Moulson, but as the Islanders improve, they will need to invest money in players who can make them successful. Moulson could hit the bank in free agency, and the Islanders should start negotiating with him as soon as possible.
RNH is the real deal.
The Edmonton Oilers have a special player in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and he is their future No. 1 center. He had a great rookie season and a rocky sophomore season, but he has the tools and skills of a future top NHL star.
Nugent-Hopkins has great vision and playmaking instincts that allow him to create offense for him and his linemates. Last season he may have struggled a bit, but the Oilers should realize what they have in RNH.
As he matures he will get better, and the Oilers should lock him up for the foreseeable future, because he could cost them a lot of money once he hits his peak.
Lundqvist could make a lot of money this summer.
Henrik Lundqvist is going to get paid this summer, but it is unknown how much he will make. Larry Brooks suggested that he could make as much or more than Alex Ovechkin, but that is unlikely.
Goaltenders are paid differently than forwards and defensemen, but the Rangers' netminder still stands to make a ton of cash. Negotiations with Lundqvist and the New York Rangers have been moving at a snail's pace, and the Blueshirts could start to sweat if he starts the season without a contract.
Lundqvist told the New York Post that New York is where he wants to be, and the Rangers should make his wish come true very soon, because losing him would catastrophic.
O'Reilly is a true two-way threat.
Ryan O'Reilly made a lot of money with the Colorado Avalanche after the franchise matched an offer sheet submitted by the Calgary Flames. Although he currently makes a ton of cash, the Avs should try and negotiate an extension that brings down his cap hit.
O'Reilly is now a left winger, and he will have the opportunity to play with Matt Duchene and/or Nathan MacKinnon. He has always been a top-notch defensive player, and it is fair to say that his offensive game will improve this season.
Taking a two-way winger of his caliber and pairing him with a top offensive center should really help increase O'Reilly's production, and extending him at a cap friendly number would be a great move for both sides.
Subban could be worth $7 million a year.
The Montreal Canadiens made the mistake of signing P.K. Subban to a bridge-contract last summer, and they will have to break the bank to re-sign their franchise defender once his current deal expires.
Subban won the Norris Trophy as top defender last season, and he has significantly increased his value because of it.
Although Subban is a RFA, he is good enough for teams to submit a massive offer sheet. A team that desperately needs a top blueliner could overpay for Subban and put the Canadiens in a situation in which they would be hard pressed to match.
For that reason, both sides should iron out a new deal as soon as possible.
The Sedins will hit free agency in July 2014 if they are not re-signed.
The Vancouver Canucks could be headed in a new direction under bench boss John Tortorella, and it would be wise for general manager Mike Gillis to re-sign the Sedin twins.
Both are getting older, but the chemistry and talent between the two players is valuable and unique.
The Sedins will likely remain a package for their entire career, and they could name their own price if they hit the free agency market. When you consider that the Canucks are already tight on cap space as it is, it makes even more sense to start allocating money to two of their most important players.
Vanek is crucial to the success of the Sabres.
The Buffalo Sabres are going through a rough stretch of seasons, but things could change under new bench boss Ron Rolston. A new voice could put the team in the right direction, but it will mean nothing if the team's best player doesn't return next season.
Thomas Vanek is slated to become a free agent, and he deserves a new contract. Owner Terry Pegula has the money to pay Vanek, and he has the means to bring in some additional talent.
The Sabres' top sniper is the key to helping the team rebuild, and signing him to a new deal should be a top priority for general manager Darcy Regier.