Five NHLers Who Have Bolstered Their Free Agent Status in the Playoffs
By now, everybody knows that the NHL playoffs are the best time of the year. The excitement of not knowing which player is going to step up every night just makes things so much more interesting than figuring out how many points Kobe Bryant is going to score each game.
Two rounds of postseason play—for one player on the list, only one round—can do wonders for a soon-to-be free agent.
Unrestricted, restricted, it doesn’t matter. The only thing these players have in common is that they are all having excellent postseasons thus far and will be seeing some serious money headed their way next season.
A few teams are going to have their hands full trying to re-sign all of the talent that has suddenly appeared in the playoffs.
Here are five free agents that have proven their worth in the playoffs.
It’s tough to stand out on a team featuring the likes of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley, but Pavelski decided he’d wait until the playoffs to become the team’s superstar.
His nine goals in the postseason lead the league, as do his 45 shots on goal and three game-winners. There has been no offensive player better than the 25-year-old Pavelski in the playoffs.
Pavelski is averaging over 21 minutes of ice-time per game, proving that he is ready to take the leap to a bigger role—whether that will be will the San Jose Sharks is a different story.
Pavelski is a restricted free agent, but San Jose will have to give him much more than the $1.725 million he made this season. The Sharks also have to worry about losing Marleau and goalie Evgeni Nabakov, who are both unrestricted free agents.
The Sabres may have been upset in the first round by Satan and the Bruins, but it was to no fault of Grier’s.
Grier scored two goals in the playoffs, which might not seem like a lot, but the Sabres scored just 15 goals as a team—not to mention, Grier is more a defensive forward.
Like Satan, the 35-year-old Grier used the playoffs, along with much of the regular season, to prove that he still has what it takes to successfully contribute in several different aspects of the game.
Grier’s average ice-time of 18:34 during the playoffs was three more minutes than he averaged during the regular season. He led Buffalo with 13 blocked shots and an incredible 33 hits in just six games.
His relentless defensive play should lead to a nice raise from the $1.2 million Grier made this season.
The Boston Bruins signed Satan on Jan. 3 to a one-year, $700,000 contract, with the hopes that he would be a strong enough veteran presence to help the Bruins get to the postseason.
It’s safe to say that Satan, long from his best years with the Buffalo Sabres, has gone above and beyond Boston’s hopes.
Satan leads the Bruins with 10 points and a plus-five rating in the playoffs. His three game-winning goals are tied with the previously mentioned Pavelski for tops in the league. He also has a goal in four straight games, all of which are wins.
The unrestricted free agent is averaging close to 19 minutes per game, which means there is still plenty of gas left in the tank for the 35-year-old.
Satan might not get more than a two-year deal, but you can bet it will be worth more than $700,000.
With guys like Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman on the blue line in Boston, it’s tough for another defenseman to get into the mix, but Boychuk’s 26:52 is not that far behind Chara and is nearly a full minute more than Wideman is seeing.
His ice-time is even more impressive when you consider the fact that Boychuk averaged a mere 17:39 during the regular season and was the team’s seventh defenseman at the beginning of the year.
Defensively, Boychuk has been a beast this postseason. While his 20 hits are tied for fifth on a very hard-hitting Bruins squad, his 24 blocked shots lead the team.
Boychuk, 26, also has five points and a solid plus-three rating in the playoffs.
The rookie’s entry-level contract will expire at the end of the season, making him a restricted free agent—expect a hefty raise.
Speaking of players that weren’t starters at the beginning of the season, Halak has transformed from the league’s best backup to one of the top two goalies in the league in a matter of weeks.
The 24-year-old—25 in a less than a week—restricted free agent had a tremendous regular season. He posted a career-high 26 wins, .924 save percentage, and a 2.40 goals-against average. But his postseason has made his regular season seem like nothing.
Despite facing the second-most shots of any goalie in the postseason, Halak has a playoff-best .934 save percentage.
Halak had three bad games this postseason, all of which were Montreal Canadien losses. However, in the other seven games, Halak has posted a 6-1 record and has not allowed more than two goals.
Halak made $800,000 this season because of his rookie contract. Out of all the players on this list, he will more than likely see the biggest raise.