NHL Free Agents Most Likely to Get Big Money in 2014 Offseason
Pictured above are former Buffalo Sabres stars Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek, who were both traded this past season (Vanek twice) and are now among the best unrestricted free agents available this summer.
Miller and Vanek have something else in common—they are likely both headed for big paydays from new teams.
A couple of quality free agents were prevented from going to market this week, as ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun was told by a source that the Los Angeles Kings re-signed Marian Gaborik Wednesday for seven years and $34.125 million. Also, New York's Daily News' Pat Leonard reported that the Tampa Bay Lightning re-signed Ryan Callahan (six years, $34.8 million) on Wednesday.
Still, there is no shortage of available players who will receive hefty contracts on July 1 or soon thereafter.
This slideshow will look at 10 players who will very likely be among the richest free agents when the dust settles.
(Cap hits courtesy of CapGeek.com)
PK Subban, D, Montreal Canadiens
2013-14 statistics: 10 goals, 53 points, 49.9% Corsi, +5.1% Corsi relative
2013-14 cap hit: $2.875 million
Breakdown: PK Subban is the only restricted free agent on this list, but he could wind up being the highest paid player of any free agent.
The rules are a little different for an RFA compared to a UFA, and a report from Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Southwest says Subban is looking for a seven-year, $45 million deal. That appears to be a fair contract for both sides, but whether general manager Marc Bergevin goes long-term with Subban after giving him a bridge deal two years ago remains to be seen.
Anton Stralman, D, New York Rangers
2013-14 statistics: 1 goal, 13 points, 56.5% Corsi, +6.0% Corsi relative
2013-14 cap hit: $1.7 million
Breakdown: On one hand, Anton Stralman's numbers aren't all that impressive. One goal? But that's one fewer than Nikita Nikitin, a healthy scratch down the stretch for the Columbus Blue Jackets who signed a two-year, $9 million deal with the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday according to NHL.com.
If Nikitin is worth a cap hit of $4.5 million, Stralman is worth at least that and probably more. Teams always overpay for UFA defensemen, and there's no reason to believe Stralman will be immune to that.
Matt Moulson, LW, Minnesota Wild
2013-14 statistics: 23 goals, 51 points, 46.6% Corsi, +1.8% Corsi relative
2013-14 cap hit: $3.13 million
Breakdown: Matt Moulson played for the Islanders, Sabres and Wild last season and fell below the 30-goal mark during an 82-game season since he started playing in all or close to all of his team's games.
It's probably not a coincidence that Moulson's three best seasons occurred with John Tavares as his center, but he can still be productive in the right situation. If Ryan Callahan is worth $5.8 million per season, Moulson should be able to fetch near $5 million.
Jarome Iginla, RW, Boston Bruins
2013-14 statistics: 30 goals, 61 points, 53.6% Corsi, -0.4% Corsi relative
2013-14 cap hit: $6 million
Breakdown: In his first full season away from the Calgary Flames, Iginla hit the 30-goal mark and was a wonderful addition to the Boston Bruins. But the Bruins are in trouble because of bonus overages that are pushing them against the salary cap for 2014-15.
Iginla did nothing that warrants a reduction in pay, but he may need to take a smaller contract in order to stay in Boston. But with his credentials, Iginla very likely can command a similar contract to last year's or perhaps get even more.
Dan Boyle, D, New York Islanders
2013-14 statistics: 12 goals, 36 points, 53.0% Corsi, -1.0% Corsi relative
2013-14 cap hit: $6.67 million
Breakdown: The San Jose Sharks parted ways with Dan Boyle and dealt his rights to the Islanders, although the veteran has decided to test the free-agent waters.
He is 37 years old and likely won't be as effective away from the potent Sharks, but the market for defensemen is thin and he can likely find someone willing to give him two years and about $10 million. He has won a Cup and can still skate, making him a valuable asset.
Michael Cammalleri, LW, Calgary Flames
2013-14 statistics: 26 goals, 45 points, 50.8% Corsi, +6.7% Corsi relative
2013-14 cap hit: $6 million
Breakdown: Michael Cammalleri's 26 goals came in 63 games for a team that finished 22nd in scoring. Only Jarome Iginla (30) and Thomas Vanek (27) scored more goals among UFAs last season than Cammalleri, who played 15 fewer games.
Cammalleri has only been to the postseason three times, but he's been a point-per-game player in the playoffs with 32 points in 32 games. A five-year deal worth about $25 million is a fair price for a player of Cammalleri's caliber.
Thomas Vanek, RW, Montreal Canadiens
2013-14 statistics: 27 goals, 68 points, 47.0% Corsi, -1.1% Corsi relative
2013-14 cap hit: $7.142 million
Breakdown: Thomas Vanek reportedly turned down a seven-year, $50 million contract from the New York Islanders, who then dealt him to the Montreal Canadiens. Vanek played quite well for the Canadiens, posting six goals and 15 points in 18 regular-season games and five goals and 10 points in 17 playoff games.
His production dipped in the playoffs—he had zero goals in his final seven games—and that may have hurt his value. It's doubtful he'll get anything resembling that Islanders offer, but he should be paid handsomely.
Ryan Miller, G, St. Louis Blues
2013-14 statistics: 25-30-4, 2.64 GAA, .918 save percentage
2013-14 cap hit: $6.25 million
Breakdown: Ryan Miller is clearly the top goaltender on the free-agent market, but just how many teams are willing to shell out big bucks for him?
The 33-year-old was excellent for the Buffalo Sabres (.923 in 40 games) but was a train wreck after being dealt to the St. Louis Blues (.903 in 19 games, .897 in six playoff games) at the deadline. The Sharks and Canucks can use an upgrade in net, but will they pay Miller $5 million or more? Only time will tell.
Matt Niskanen, D, Pittsburgh Penguins
2013-14 statistics: 10 goals, 46 points, 53.4% Corsi, +7.3% Corsi relative
2013-14 cap hit: $2.3 million
Breakdown: Matt Niskanen may have had the most well-timed breakout year in the history of sports. The 27-year-old who had nine goals in his previous four seasons and felt he was close to being out of hockey when he was dealt from the Dallas Stars to the Penguins during the 2010-11 season is probably on the verge of a $6 million annual average value deal.
He stepped up in a major way when the Penguins blue line was decimated by injury and should he go to market, he could get the biggest contract of any of this year's UFAs.
Paul Stastny, C, Colorado Avalanche
2013-14 statistics: 25 goals, 60 points, 50.2% Corsi, +4.0% Corsi relative
2013-14 cap hit: $6.6 million
Breakdown: The latest news on the Paul Stastny front is he wants to see what's out there, according to a report from Adrian Dater of The Denver Post. What he'll likely find is there's a lot of money out there, more than what the Avalanche are offering.
Stastny would be by far the top free-agent center on the market, and with Jason Spezza and Ryan Kesler available via trade, he's even more attractive because teams wouldn't need to give up players or picks to land him. It wouldn't be out of the question for a team to land him for seven years and around $49 million.
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