2014 NHL Free Agency: Players Most Likely to Move Before End of New Contract

Allan MitchellFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2014

2014 NHL Free Agency: Players Most Likely to Move Before End of New Contract

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    NHL teams got off to a rollicking start on July 1 and most of the major names were off the board early in free agency. General managers identified their targets and closed the deal in record time.

    For many free agents, things won't work out as planned. They'll fall on hard times and eventually be sent away before the end of their newly signed contracts.

    Here are 10 players who are most likely to be dealt or bought out before the end of their contract.

10. Jonas Hiller, G, Calgary Flames

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    How They Signed Him: The Calgary Flames signed goalie Jonas Hiller to a $9 million dollar contract over two years. This NHL.com article confirms the dollars and term, and suggests the Flames envision him as part of a tandem with Karri Ramo or Joni Ortio.

    Can He Fill The Role? Hiller is a starting goalie with a proven track record. He'll be the Flames' starter as long as he's in Calgary.

    Why Will He Go? The Flames are in rebuilding mode and a veteran player like Hiller will have exceptional value at the trade deadline if he's performing well. Hiller may not go at the deadline in 2014-15, but there's very little chance he plays three full seasons in Calgary under this contract.

9. Benoit Pouliot, LW, Edmonton Oilers

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    Rebecca Taylor/Getty Images

    How They Signed Him: The Edmonton Oilers signed Benoit Pouliot to a five-year, $20 million dollar contract. He'll play a two-way role with the club, helping offensively and with puck possession. 

    Can He Fill The Role? Tyler Dellow of MC79hockey writes about Pouliot's strong possession numbers and impressive track record over a period of years. Pouliot has been successful in the role Edmonton hired him for with several teams.

    Why Will He Go? The Oilers have not been in the playoffs since 2006. If they stumble during the contract, there's every chance another NHL team will come calling at the trade deadline. If they offer enough, Edmonton may send him away.

8. Stephane Robidas, D, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Debora Robinson/Getty Images

    How They Signed Him: The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Stephane Robidas to a three-year, $9 million dollar contract. This article details Toronto's thinking in acquiring a heart and soul defender. 

    Can He Fill The Role? Robidas didn't play a complete season in 2013-14, but even at 37 he's a quality NHL defenseman. James Mirtle of the Toronto Globe and Mail mentions his two leg injuries and also discusses his role as a tough minutes defender.

    Why Will He Go? The Toronto Maple Leafs are not a lock to make the playoffs. At some point during this contract, teams will line up to trade for Robidas at the deadline. It's a decent bet the Leafs would deal him based on age and return.

7. Mason Raymond, LW, Calgary Flames

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    Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    How They Signed Him: The Calgary Flames signed Mason Raymond to a three-year deal for $9.45 million dollars. 

    Can He Fill The Role? Raymond's acquisition was made necessary when Mike Cammalleri flew the coop. This NHL.com article quotes Flames GM Brad Treliving confirming that fact, and Raymond speaks in glowing terms about coming to Calgary.

    Why Will He Go? The Calgary Flames are rebuilding and Mason Raymond can score goals. At one of the trade deadlines during this deal, he'll be so attractive to contending teams the Flames will send him away for a handsome reward.

6. Brian Gionta, RW, Buffalo Sabres

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    How They Signed Him: The Buffalo Sabres signed Brian Gionta to a three-year, $12.75 million dollar deal.

    Can He Fill The Role? Based on last season, Gionta remains a solid scoring option for an NHL team and his leadership is considered a major part of the package. Gionta is also going home, as described by Joe Yerdon of NHL.com.

    Why Will He Go? Brian Gionta turned 35 in January, and despite a strong season in 2013-14 with Montreal, his point totals had been on a downward track before last season's spike. There's a good chance he'll retire or Buffalo buys him out during this contract.

5. Dave Bolland, C, Florida Panthers

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    How They Signed Him: The Florida Panthers signed Dave Bolland to a five-year, $27.5 million dollar deal on July 1. 

    Can He Fill The Role? Bolland is a quality two-way center when healthy, but he played only 23 games last season in Toronto. Harrison Mooney from Puck Daddy reports Bolland is going to Florida to provide leadership, but suggests the Panthers are paying too much to get it.

    Why Will He Go? Florida finished 29th last season, and despite massive signings this summer the Panthers are a long way from contending. Dave Bolland has enjoyed several quality seasons and should be effective for a few more years. A contending team is likely to come calling during this contract and make an offer that satisfies Florida. 

4. Matt Niskanen, D, Washington Capitals

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    How They Signed Him: The Washington Capitals signed Matt Niskanen to a seven-year, $40.25 million dollar deal.

    Can He Fill The Role? Niskanen is an NHL defenseman who received a great opportunity in 2013-14 and capitalized on it. Given more power-play time with Kris Letang out for a big part of the season, Niskanen delivered in a big way. Even more impressive was his even-strength production, which landed him inside the league's 10-best defenders.

    Why Will He Go? Matt Niskanen is an NHL defenseman, but can he sustain last season's impressive offensive production? The Capitals are paying him like he can deliver, but if those numbers dive and they find a better option, he'll be dealt during this contract.

3. Jarome Iginla, RW, Colorado Avalanche

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    How They Signed Him: The Colorado Avalanche landed veteran Jaroma Iginla with a three-year, $16 million dollar contract. This Rick Sadowski article for NHL.com suggests Iginla will play on a line centered by either Matt Duchene or Nathan MacKinnon.

    Can He Fill The Role? Iginla scored 30 goals in 2013-14, with 26 at even strength. He's an older player, but last season was a resurgence for his career and he looks to have plenty left in the tank. 

    Why Will He Go? The Avalanche enjoyed a stunning year, topping their division. Despite the 52 wins, Colorado was one of the poorest possession teams in the league. The market correction could see the Avalanche experience a downturn in 2014-15 and beyond, meaning Iginla would be playing out his career on a subpar team. There's every chance Colorado deals Iginla during this contract.

2. Ryan Miller, G, Vancouver Canucks

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    How They Signed Him: The Vancouver Canucks landed the top free-agent goalie available in Ryan Miller. Kevin Woodley from NHL.com reports the deal is for three years and $18 million dollars. 

    Can He Fill The Role? Ryan Miller is instantly the No. 1 goalie in Vancouver. He's a durable and consistent player.

    Why Will He Go? The Canucks are at a crossroads and their transactions this summer reflect it. The club dealt center Ryan Kesler for youth, indicating a rebuild. On the other hand, their signing of Miller and Radim Vrbata suggests the club is attempting to stay competitive. At some point, the Canucks may fade down the standings. If that happens, Ryan Miller will be an expensive luxury and will be dealt away to a contender.

1. Brooks Orpik, D, Washington Capitals

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    How They Signed Him: The Washington Capitals signed defenseman Brooks Orpik to a five-year, $27.5 million dollar contract. Adam Vingan from NHL.com tells us GM Brian MacLellan felt a need to shore up the defense. 

    Can He Fill The Role? Orpik is not going to fill the role required for the duration of this contract. By reputation, he is an established shutdown defenseman with over 700 NHL games on his resume. His numbers at Extra Skater suggest his possession totals have been eroding for some time, and this contract is a classic example of reputation trumping reality.

    Why Will He Go? The Capitals brought Orpik to their organization to help the team defensively in a feature role. The numbers in Pittsburgh showed he's going the wrong way. That's not unusual at 33, but signing a player of this type to a long, rich contract is poor judgement. He is a prime candidate for buyout during this deal.