NHL Free Agents Who Will Score Big Contracts Next Summer
It's a contract year for many pending NHL free agents this season. While some will relish the role, earning themselves a big payday with solid bodies of work this year, others will flounder into free-agency obscurity. This list is for the former, those who will be looking to cash in with a big new deal for a new team.
The requirements for this list are simple. The player must be a pending free agent and they must have a strong likelihood of signing with a new club next year. That means—no matter what they're saying in New York—a guy like Marc Staal won't find himself on this list.
Free agency doesn't seem to have too may impact players next year, especially with Marc-Andre Fleury and Jason Spezza receiving extensions from their respective clubs earlier this season. However, here are five pretty solid players who will induce bidding wars when their contracts are up next summer.
Paul Martin, Defenseman
Current Team: Pittsburgh Penguins
Current Statistics (as of 11/27/14): 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points
Current Cap Hit: $5,000,000
Notes: Martin has been a steady presence his whole career. He was a consistent defender with the New Jersey Devils for the first six years of his career before signing a five-year contract with the Penguins in 2010. Known more for his defensive prowess, Martin still has the ability to quarterback a power play and chip in on offense.
It's very unlikely Pittsburgh will hand Martin another deal with the plethora of defensive prospects in its system. Though Martin will likely be traded before this year's trading deadline, chances are he'll still hit the free-agent market as one of the most desirable free-agent defenders available.
Mike Green, Defenseman
Current Team: Washington Capitals
Current Statistics (as of 11/27/14): 3 goals, 9 assists, 12 points
Current Cap Hit: $6,083,000
Notes: More of a name than a producer the last few seasons, Green warrants a big contract based on what he's done in the past. Tallying back-to-back 70-point seasons earlier in his career (2008-09, '09-10), it wasn't too long ago that Green was the premier young defensemen in the league.
His numbers have softened since, having not reached 40 points the past five seasons. There's no denying the talent is there, and knowing the Capitals signed defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to big money this past offseason, Green would appear to be in line for a huge free-agent payday at just 29 years old.
Chris Stewart, Winger
Current Team: Buffalo Sabres
Current Statistics (as of 11/27/14): 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points
Current Cap Hit: $4,150,000
Notes: In what will be a paper-thin free-agent class for wingers, Chris Stewart may be the best not named Martin St. Louis. It's very hard to evaluate a player's performance when he plays for the hapless Sabres.
Stewart is no different, as he's capable of contributing at least 15 goals per season behind a competent lineup. What makes Stewart an intriguing player is the fact that he's never played a season with premier linemates, yet he has produced quality numbers. In his last year with the Avalanche in 2009-10, Stewart scored 28 goals and notched 64 points.
The Sabres are likely to trade Stewart midseason for prospects. Though it's conceivable the team Stewart is traded to will re-sign him at the end of the season, it's more likely Stewart with test an open market that lacks quality wingers.
Johnny Oduya, Defenseman
Current Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Current Statistics (as of 11/27/14): 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points
Current Cap Hit: $3,375,000
Notes: Closing out a bleak free-agent class among D-men is Oduya, who figures to test the open market away from a cash-strapped Blackhawks roster. Oduya would fill a top-four role for a contender, and he has the ability to log 25 minutes of ice time per night. The veteran is a safe pick as someone who would offer good value for a club looking to find a solid contributor.
The Blackhawks have no money for Oduya. One team will open its wallet for arguably the second-best defensemen available.
Martin St. Louis, Winger
Current Team: New York Rangers
Current Statistics (as of 11/27/14): 8 goals, 9 assists, 17 points
Current Cap Hit: $5,625,000
Notes: A prolific point-getter, St. Louis has defied all conventions to become a premier player in the league. An undrafted free agent, St. Louis began his illustrious career with the Calgary Flames. He would rise to fame with the Tampa Bay Lightning, winning the Art Ross Trophy for league's highest point total twice (2003-04, 2012-13).
Still a great playmaker with the Rangers, St. Louis would serve his new team as an excellent distributor on the power play and adequately fill a top-six role next season.
Though the Rangers may re-sign the winger, it's hard not to imagine a 40-year-old St. Louis tests the market as the premier free agent in a relatively weak class.
All statistics provided courtesy of NHL.com.
All cap figures provided courtesy of CapGeek.com.