Predicting the Next NHL Players to Sign Big-Money Contract Extensions
In every NHL season, several players re-sign expensive contracts with their current teams. Over the course of 2015-16, a number of stars could receive lucrative extensions worth over $5 million per season.
That's big money for NHL players, as only 130 of them carry a salary-cap hit of at least $5 million per year.
Some, like Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook (both pictured above), are established stars expected to receive expensive contracts. Others, like Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan, are rising talents who could receive lengthy new deals.
The following slideshow predicts the next NHL players to receive big-money contract extensions. Current contract status, performance and value to their current teams factored into the compilation.
Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section below.
Filip Forsberg and Seth Jones, Nashville Predators
Contract status: Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (above right) and defenseman Seth Jones (above left) are entering the final season of their entry-level contracts. Forsberg's cap hit is $894,166, while Jones' is $925,000. Both are slated to become restricted free agents without arbitration rights in July 2016.
Key factors: Forsberg, 21, was the Predators' leading scorer last season with 63 points. He's quickly established himself as their predominant offensive star. Jones, 20, is steadily blossoming into a top-two blueliner. Both are key players for the Predators and building blocks for the club's future success.
Prediction: The Predators tend to be a budget-conscious team and could attempt to re-sign Forsberg and Jones to affordable short-term bridge deals. However, that could make them candidates for offer sheets from rival clubs next summer. To avoid that threat, the Predators could sign them to contracts of at least five years in length, each worth over $6 million per season.
Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames
Contract status: Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (above left) and center Sean Monahan (above right) are entering the final season of their entry-level contracts. Both carry cap hits of $925,000. They are slated to become restricted free agents without arbitration rights in July 2016.
Key factors: The 22-year-old Gaudreau and 20-year-old Monahan form two-thirds of the Flames' top forward line. Gaudreau finished second in team scoring with 64 points, becoming a 2015 Calder Trophy finalist. Monahan was third with 62 points and tied with linemate Jiri Hudler for the club goal-scoring lead. They will be the foundation of the Flames offense for years.
Prediction: The Flames showed a willingness to spend big this summer by locking up defensemen Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton to lucrative long-term deals. They'll have sufficient cap space to re-sign Gaudreau and Monahan to seven- or eight-year deals, each worth over $6 million annually.
Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche
Contract status: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson is entering the final season of his four-year, $15 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $3.75 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $4.25 million. Johnson, 27, is eligible for unrestricted free agency next July.
Key factors: Over the last two seasons, Johnson has emerged as the Avalanche's top defenseman. Despite missing nearly half of 2014-15, he was second in scoring among Avs blueliners. He was also among their leaders in blocked shots. Johnson is a big-minute rearguard, averaging over 24 minutes of ice time per game.
Prediction: Re-signing Johnson will be expensive, but the Avalanche can afford it. They certainly can't risk losing their best defenseman to free agency. He could ink a seven-year deal worth over $7 million annually.
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Contract status: Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar is entering the final season of his seven-year, $47.6 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $6.8 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $7.7 million. Kopitar, 28, is eligible for unrestricted free agency next July.
Key factors: Kopitar is among the league's elite two-way forwards. He's a two-time Selke Trophy finalist and the Kings' most consistent player, leading them in scoring in every season since 2007-08. Kopitar was also their leading playoff scorer during their Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014.
Prediction: LA Kings Insider's Jon Rosen reported Kopitar and the Kings aren't close to a new deal yet. The holdup is likely due to their limited cap space next season. Considering his value to the club, it's unlikely L.A. would let him walk via free agency. As he'll turn 29 next August, expect Kopitar to re-sign a six-year deal before next July worth around $10 million annually.
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
Contract status: New York Rangers right wing Chris Kreider is entering the final season of his two-year, $4.95 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $2.475 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $2.6 million. Kreider, 24, is slated to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next July.
Key factors: The 6'3”, 226-pound Kreider is an impressive and versatile mix of size, speed and aggressive offensive skills. He tied for second in goals (21) on the Rangers last season and finished second in game-winning goals. Kreider was also among their leaders in hits. He can play all three forward positions and has yet to reach his full potential.
Prediction: As Kreider's a restricted free agent, Rangers management could wait until season's end to evaluate his performance in 2015-16. Should he reach 30 goals and 60 points, he could receive a five-year extension worth over $5.5 million per season. That would take him up to age 30.
Torey Krug, Boston Bruins
Contract status: Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug is entering the final season of his one-year, $3.4 million contract. The 24-year-old is slated to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next July.
Key factors: An undersized (5'9”, 181 lbs) blueliner, Krug possesses solid offensive skills. Though limited to second- and third-pairing duty, Krug sees plenty of power-play time and has two straight seasons with 39 or more points. He was second among Boston defensemen in points last season. With the Bruins undergoing changes, he could be elevated into a greater role this season.
Prediction: An opportunity to prove himself as more than a power-play specialist could also improve Krug's chances of inking a lucrative deal. If he makes the most of this chance, he could be rewarded with a five-year deal worth over $5 million per season.
Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets
Contract status: Winnipeg Jets left wing Andrew Ladd is entering the final season of his five-year, $22 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $4.4 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $4.5 million. Ladd, 29, is eligible for unrestricted free agency next July.
Key factors: Ladd has captained the Jets since their arrival in Winnipeg in 2011. Having played for Stanley Cup champions in Carolina and Chicago, he possesses considerable playoff experience. A consistent performer, Ladd tallied over 20 goals and 50 points in four of the past five seasons (18 goals and 46 points in 48 games in 2013). He was also the Jets' leading scorer in two of the past three seasons.
Prediction: While the Jets must also consider re-signing defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, Ladd's leadership and experience makes him the more valuable of the two. Expect the Jets to re-sign their captain to a five-year deal worth around $6.5 million per season.
Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues
Contract status: St. Louis Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz is entering the final season of his two-year, $4.7 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $2.35 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $2.7 million. Schwartz, 23, is slated to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
Key factors: In just three seasons, Schwartz has blossomed into one of the Blues' core players. He's made steady improvement, with two seasons of 25-plus goals and 56-plus points. He finished third last season among Blues scorers.
Prediction: The Blues showed a willingness to spend big on Schwartz's linemate Vladimir Tarasenko, inking him to an eight-year, $60 million deal. However, they have limited cap space for 2016-17. Schwartz won't get as much as Tarasenko. Still, another season of steady improvement could land him a six-year deal worth over $5.5 million annually, taking him up to age 30.
Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks
Contract status: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook is entering the final season of his five-year, $29 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $5.8 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $5 million. Seabrook, 30, is eligible for unrestricted free agency next July.
Key factors: Though overshadowed by fellow blueliner Duncan Keith, Seabrook is an invaluable part of the Blackhawks defense corps. He's a superb all-around defenseman, regularly ranking among their leaders in hits, blocked shots and ice time while averaging over 30 points a season. He was a key part of their three Stanley Cup championship runs.
Prediction: The Blackhawks won't part with Seabrook, but they'll have to pay big to keep him. With limited cap space for 2016-17, it could be a tight fit. As Seabrook turns 31 next April, the Blackhawks might offer up a four- or five-year deal. Dollar-wise, he should see a raise to $7 million per season.
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Contract status: Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos is entering the final season of his five-year, $37.5 million contract. His salary-cap hit is $7.5 million, while his actual salary for 2015-16 is $5.5 million. Stamkos, 25, is eligible for unrestricted free agency next July.
Key factors: Stamkos is the Lightning's captain and franchise player, as well as an NHL superstar. He's a two-time winner of the Richard Trophy as the league's goal-scoring leader. He's led the Lightning in goals in every season but one since 2009-10. Over that period, he was their points leader three times, including last season.
Prediction: Re-signing Stamkos will be very expensive and could have lengthy salary-cap implications for the Lightning. However, they simply cannot afford to part with their best player. Expect an eight-year contract worth around $10.5 million annually.