With the NHL postseason fast approaching, some teams will have extra time to make some decisions on what direction to go next year to fill voids. Other clubs will battle in the playoffs for the ultimate prize, Lord Stanley's Cup.
One thing is certain: Every club will have a chance to improve once the offseason begins, and some teams will inevitably make some major changes that could be the final pieces to the puzzle.
While it is every team's intention to improve, some players who are free agents may not have much time left to prove their worthiness. As there are every year, there are young guys like Jeff Skinner and Sergei Bobrovsky who have been very impressive in their rookie seasons. There are also other players who were expected to play better and simply have not.
In this slideshow, I'll take a look at 10 players who I think may have underachieved a bit this season and who may not get the nice, big contract they were looking for in the offseason. Enjoy and, as always, feel free to leave feedback—it's always appreciated. Thanks!
Let me start off by saying that I think Drew Doughty is a great defenseman. I think for the most part Doughty has been effective, and there isn't a single club in the NHL that wouldn't consider bringing him aboard.
Doughty becomes a restricted free agent on July 1 and currently makes $3.475 million. The Kings most certainly have the upper hand in signing him, and I think that a deal will get done sooner rather than later. That being said, Doughty's numbers have slipped a bit this season, and it may have an effect on how much he is offered.
Doughty had 16 goals and 43 assists last season and participated in all 82 games. This year, he has 11 goals and 26 assists. Granted, the season isn't over yet. That's not exactly a huge drop, but it is most certainly something to keep an eye on.
I still believe Doughty will most likely receive a similar amount of money per year since he is still young and he has plenty of potential. What I'm not so sure about is the number of years he will receive. I think Drew will want more stability and a lengthier contract, and I'm not sure if L.A. is on the same page. Only time will tell, I suppose.
Nikolay Zherdev has largely been a bust for the Philadelphia Flyers this season.
I have to admit that when he signed in Philly, I was quite happy. I thought he would really help the offense, and I was expecting him to put up at least 25 to 30 goals this year, something he probably could have done if it wasn't for his attitude.
Zherdev is widely known as a head case, and while I don't believe all the gossip that surrounds him and all the negative publicity he receives, I will say this: I am very disappointed with his play this season and his lack of heart and determination.
Zherdev makes $2 million this season and he is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. I think it's safe to assume that the Flyers won't be bringing back Nikolay, as he has been a healthy scratch for most of the season. Not to mention the Flyers waived him, which shows that, at this point, they have given up on him.
I'm not sure we even see Zherdev in the NHL at all after this season, but I could be wrong. Zherdev will most likely want more money and more years, and I don't think there is a single NHL club willing to give him either after his most recent stint in the NHL.
There's no question that Jean-Sebastien Giguere has been on a bit of a decline recently.
When you're getting paid $6 million a year, I think a club probably expects a little bit more out of you than an .899 save percentage. Then again, you can't exactly fault the guy. He's not getting any younger, and he's been riddled with injuries.
Giguere is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but I don't think there is a single club out there that is going to offer him that kind of money again. I'm sure he realizes this as well, but I wonder how much of a pay cut he's willing to take.
Don't get me wrong, guys—I'm actually a fan of Jean-Sebastien Giguere and always have been. But at this point I wouldn't be willing to give him any more than $2.5 million a year for a short-term contract. I'm still not even sure whether Giggy even wants to play after this season, but my guess is he does.
Still, there will be teams out there looking for some veteran goaltending, and I could totally see teams like Detroit or Philadelphia making a pitch for him at the right price. We'll know in a few months.
Man, the Montreal Canadiens just cannot seem to catch a break with Andrei Markov.
The man has been in and out with injuries so much that it's hard to tell at this point whether it's even worth keeping him around. Luckily for the Canadiens, this year they have a choice.
Markov makes $5.75 million this year and he is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. His being in and out of the lineup so much will almost certainly hurt his chances at a better contract, but again, I think that's something everybody realizes at this point.
I do think there are some clubs that still might take a chance on him at a cheap price tag, but it would most likely be a one-year deal and that may or may not be something Markov is willing to accept. I still see the Canadiens keeping him around at a cheaper price, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a few West Coast teams take a run at him.
It's been a bit of a roller-coaster ride with Alexei Kovalev.
Kovalev has been hot and cold. His time with Ottawa really hurt his chances of earning a better paycheck than the one he's already getting. Then again, the Senators as a whole were not doing well, this year especially.
However, Kovalev still has a chance to redeem himself and show everybody he's still worth every penny. He was recently traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins and he now has many young, talented players surrounding him, including newly-acquired James Neal.
So far, Kovalev only has one goal and one assist with the Penguins in nine games, but it takes a while to get accustomed to a new team. At the same time, the Penguins are slowly getting healthy again and Sidney Crosby has resumed skating.
If Alexei can have a strong playoff performance, he still might command a high salary. I'm not sure he gets more than $5 million he gets paid this year, but he might not have to take such a steep pay cut either.
Kovalev is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, so it won't be long before we see how much he gets. Look for teams like L.A. and Toronto to inquire about him.
Jason Arnott didn't have a very good year, but let's be honest—neither did the New Jersey Devils. Only recently have the Devils caught fire and played like the team they should have been all season.
The Devils were looking to shed some salary and traded Arnott to the Washington Capitals, which were having their own troubles this season as well.
It didn't take long for Arnott to start contributing to his new team. In seven games with the Capitals, Arnott has two goals and three assists. Arnott is in a very similar position to Kovalev in the sense that a strong playoff performance could really help his chances of not getting a severe pay cut.
If he does have a strong performance, I could see him being signed for around $3 million a year on a longer term, probably with the Capitals. However, if he is a bust, I don't think there is a team that will pay more than $2 million to $2.5 million for him. He's set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, so it won't be long before we find out.
One thing is certain: Michal Handzus will not be making as much money as he is this year.
Handzus currently makes $4 million this year and he is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. I've always been a big fan of Handzus from his time in Philadelphia, but I'll be honest: The guy doesn't deserve to be making that much for how little he contributes.
Michal has 10 goals and 16 assists this season—certainly not numbers a club is content to pay a player $4 million for. Don't get me wrong: Handzus is a 20-goal scorer andhe has put up more than 40 points the previous two years, but this year has not been nice to him.
I'm sure Michal will get a contract regardless, even if the Kings choose to go forward without him. I just don't see the guy getting more than $2.5 million to $3 million for his services. He's not getting any younger and his production has dropped significantly.
The whole reason Philadelphia ever traded Simon Gagne in the first place was because of his contract.
Don't get me wrong: Gagne was earning every penny of it a few years back with the Flyers, but in recent years he has become injury prone and been in and out of the lineup a bunch of times. Not only that, but his offensive production had started to slip as well.
It was a tough decision for Philly, but it needed to shed salary, so it traded him to Tampa Bay for Matt Walker, who would hardly see any ice time at all with the Flyers. I can't say that Gagne has lost his touch, because I think after playing for one team for so long, it's really hard to get used to another one. I do, however, believe he is not worth as much as he gets paid.
Gagne makes $5.25 million this year, and to ask for that kind of money after his recent injuries is unrealistic. Gagne has 12 goals and 16 assists on the season and he has been in decline for the past three years.
Although he has not put up brilliant numbers, there are plenty of teams that will still make a run at him in the offseason, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see Philadelphia bring him back on a cheap, short-term deal.
I think Gagne will get somewhere around $2 million to $2.5 million a year—a hefty price cut, but much more reasonable and fair.
Marco Sturm—another guy who is having a tough year.
The Boston Bruins traded Marco to Los Angeles in exchange for a conditional draft pick a few months back, and the Kings were really hoping he would light a spark with their offensive production. That, however, was not the case, as he only scored four goals and five assists in 17 games with the Kings.
The bottom line is, he was not working out in L.A. To rid themselves of his contract, they traded Sturm to the Washington Capitals at the deadline, and I'm not so sure the Capitals are very happy with him either at this point.
In nine games with Washington, Sturm has only two assists. I realize it's hard to go from one team to another throughout the season, so I don't fault the guy for his recent struggles, but when you're a professional athlete getting paid millions, you had better be doing more than that.
Marco makes $3.5 million this year and is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Chances are the Capitals are going to pass on him unless he has a great playoff run, but regardless, I don't see this guy making any more than $2 million a season. Until he can prove he's better, he's not worth anything more than that.
There were many trade rumors surrounding Michael Ryder in the weeks leading up to the deadline, but it seems that the Bruins are content with his play and decided to keep him around.
Michael makes $4 million and is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. While I believe Ryder is a talented forward, I don't believe he is worth $4 million a season.
Ryder has tallied 17 goals and 20 assists this season with the Bruins, which by no means are bad numbers, but certainly not worth as much as he is making. With those kinds of numbers, I wouldn't pay him more than $3 million, and that's being generous.
There are still clubs that will make a run for him if Boston doesn't re-sign him, but I don't think he will be offered a heck of a lot of money, and it will probably be a shorter-term deal. Still, Ryder would be a good addition to any team looking for some offensive production and experience.