Stock Watch for NHL Players Headed for Free Agency in 2017

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2017

Stock Watch for NHL Players Headed for Free Agency in 2017

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    On Nov. 4, 2016, we evaluated the stock value of the top NHL players eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2017. But with Brent Burns re-signing on Nov. 22 with the San Jose Sharks and only two months remaining on the regular-season schedule, it's time to revise and update the list. 

    Some, such as Montreal Canadiens right wing Alexander Radulov, will continue to have high value because of their solid play throughout this season. Struggling stars, such as Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, could see their stock decline.

    Here's an updated stock watch for NHL players headed into free agency in July 2017. Factors such as current contract, performance to date, skills and experience factored into this compilation. 

Honorable Mention

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Peter Budaj, Los Angeles Kings

    The 34-year-old journeyman has done a fine job filling in for sidelined Kings starter Jonathan Quick. With 26 wins in 46 starts, a 2.11 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and seven shutouts, Budaj should attract considerable interest in this summer's free-agent market. 

    Patrick Eaves, Dallas Stars

    A versatile two-way forward, Eaves is enjoying a fine season. With 19 goals and 33 points in 54 games, he's equaled his career best in goals and set a career high in points. That should garner him a multi-year deal for more than his current annual salary of $1 million.

    Sam Gagner, Columbus Blue Jackets

    Inked to a one-year, $650,000 contract, the 27-year-old Gagner is having a enjoying a bounce-back performance from last season's dismal 16-point effort with the Philadelphia Flyers. He's fourth on the Jackets with 14 goals and fifth in points with 34. That should earn him a substantial raise for next season. 

    Jaromir Jagr, Florida Panthers

    With 30 points in 53 games, the 44-year-old's production is down compared to last season's 66-point effort. Still, he's third among Panthers scorers this season. He could earn himself another one-year, bonus-laden contract with the Panthers or another club this summer. 

    Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens

    Despite missing 19 games with a lower-body injury, the long-time Canadiens defenseman has 24 points in 37 games. Markov is on pace for over 35 points, which could net the 38-year-old another contract with the Canadiens. 

    Patrick Sharp, Dallas Stars

    Injuries limited Sharp to just 12 points in 29 games so far this season. However, he's coming off a 55-point performance in 2015-16. Given his offensive skills, versatility and playoff experience, the 35-year-old should land a two-year deal this summer, though for much less than his current $5.9 million annual value.

    Radim Vrbata, Arizona Coyotes

    Following a disappointing 27-point effort in 2015-16 with the Vancouver Canucks, the 35-year-old Vrbata has 35 points in 52 games this season. He's the Coyotes' leading scorer and on pace for 55 points. That could help him land a two-year deal for around $3 million annually. 

    Justin Williams, Washington Capitals

    The 35-year-old Williams remains a production scoring forward. With 18 goals and 32 points in 54 games, he's tied for third with Marcus Johansson on the Capitals in goals and sixth in points. The Caps probably can't afford to re-sign him, but he could earn another two-year deal elsewhere for around $3.25 million annually. 

10. Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Current contract

    San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau is completing a three-year contract worth $20 million. The annual average salary is over $6.66 million, though he's earning $6.5 million in actual salary this seasonThe contract also comes with a full no-movement clause. 

    Current performance

    After struggling through the opening three months of this season, the 37-year-old Marleau has picked up the pace of late. In an eight-game stretch since Jan. 23, he has seven goals and 12 points. That's vaulted him into a tie with Logan Couture for second among the Sharks' goal scorers (19) and fifth in points (32). 

    Value

    Marleau's recent hot streak helped him remain among the top-10 free agents. At this stage in his career, he can't keep up his current pace for long. Still, a reasonable level of consistency over the remainder of the season could help him secure a one-year, bonus-laden deal worth around $4.5 million next season.

9. Ryan Miller, Vancouver Canucks

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    Mike Stone/Associated Press

    Current contract

    Vancouver Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller is in the final season of a three-year, $18 million contract. The annual salary is $6 million and he has a modified no-trade clause. 

    Current performance

    While the 36-year-old Miller's best years are in the past, he's put up solid numbers this season in Vancouver. In 33 starts, he has a record of 15 wins, 14 losses and three overtime losses. He has a 2.56 GAA, a .918 save percentage and three shutouts. 

    Value

    Miller's done a good job backstopping a rebuilding club in Vancouver. With so few experienced starting goalies in this summer's free-agent market, he could earn himself a two-year deal with the Canucks or another club this summer. He won't get $6 million annually again but could land something around $4.5 million per season.

8. Thomas Vanek, Detroit Red Wings

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Current contract

    Detroit Red Wings left wing Thomas Vanek is on a one-year contract worth $2.6 million. Considering his performance this season, this deal was a bargain for the Wings.

    Current performance

    Vanek rebounded well from a disappointing 41-point performance last season with the Minnesota Wild. Despite missing 12 games to various injuries, the 33-year-old is tied with Andreas Athanasiou for the Wings' goal-scoring lead (13) and is their leader in power-play points (nine). He's also second in points with 35. 

    Value

    On pace for 20 goals and 55 points, Vanek's been among the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable season for the Red Wings. Having proved he hasn't lost his offensive touch, he should garner a two- or three-year deal worth around $4.5 million per season. 

7. Martin Hanzal, Arizona Coyotes

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Current contract

    Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal is in the final season of his five-year, $15.5 million contract. The annual average salary is $3.1 million, but he's earning $3.5 million in actual salary this season. He also has a modified no-trade clause.

    Current performance

    Hanzal, 29, isn't a high-scoring forward. Still, he's tied for second in goals (10) with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and sits fourth in points (19) among the low-scoring Coyotes. His big frame (6'6", 226 pounds) and defensive game make him a valuable asset. Hanzal's among the Coyotes' leaders in hits (97), blocked shots (31) and takeaways (19). 

    Value

    A big, two-way center such as Hanzal should do well in this summer's free-agent market. He could land a five-year deal worth around $5 million per season. 

6. Karl Alzner, Washington Capitals

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Current contract

    Washington Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner is completing a four-year contract worth $11.2 million.  The annual salary is $2.8 million and has a modified no-trade clause in the final season. 

    Current performance

    Alzner, 28, only has 11 points in 55 games, but it's his defensive game that makes him valuable. The  6'3", 219-pounder is a solid shutdown blueliner.  He leads the Capitals in blocked shots (109) and shorthanded time on ice per game (three minutes and 12 seconds), plus he's third in average time on ice per game (20:04). 

    Value

    A big, strong, defensively responsible blueliner such as Alzner will attract lots of suitors as a free agent in July. He could get a five-year deal worth around $5.5 million per season.  

5. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    Current contract

    Long-time San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton is in the final season of a three-year, $20.25 million contract. The annual salary is $6.75 million. His contract also contains a no-movement clause. 

    Current performance

    The 37-year-old Thornton's stats are down from last season's 82-point performance. In 55 games, he has only four goals and 30 assists for 34 points, putting him on pace for only 50 points this season. Still, Thornton's second among the Sharks in assists, third in power-play points (13) and fourth in points. He also ranks among their leaders in faceoff win percentage (52.5). 

    Value

    The decline in Thornton's production this season will hurt his free-agent value. Still, he remains among the notable names in this summer's free agent market. His preference could be to re-sign with the Sharks, perhaps on a two-year deal worth between $5.5-$6 million annually. 

4. T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Current contract

    Washington Capitals right wing T.J.Oshie, 30, is in the final season of a five-year deal worth $20.875 million. The annual average value is $4.175 million, but he's earning $4.5 million in actual salary for 2016-17. 

    Current performance

    With 22 goals and 38 points in 46 games, Oshie is second among Capitals scorers. He's also tied with Jay Beagle for most shorthanded points (three) and tied with Nicklas Backstrom for fourth in game-winning goals (three). A skilled two-way player, he leads all Capitals forwards in blocked shots (34) and sits third on the club in takeaways (33).

    Value

    A valuable top-six forward, Oshie's among the reasons why the Capitals surged atop the NHL's overall standings by midseason. On pace for a 30-goal season, his stock is up. At this rate, he will be in line for perhaps a five-year deal worth $6 million annually. 

3. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Current contract

    Bishop is completing the second season of a two-year, $11.9 million contract. The annual salary is $5.95 million. His contract also comes with a no-movement clause. 

    Current performance

    A year after being named a finalist for the 2016 Vezina Trophy, injuries and a slow start hampered the 30-year-old Bishop's performance this season. In 28 starts, he has a record of 13 wins, 12 losses and three overtime losses, with a 2.69 GAA and .907 save percentage. Those totals are well off last season's stats (35 wins, 2.06 GAA, .926 SP).

    Value

    Despite Bishop's difficulties this season, he remains the top goaltender in this summer's free-agent class. Teams in need of an experienced starter, such as the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers, could bet on Bishop regaining his form. He could command $6.5 million per season on a five- or six-year deal. 

2. Alexander Radulov, Montreal Canadiens

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Current contract

    Radulov is on a one-year contract worth $5.75 million. Given his play this season, it turned out to be quite a deal for the Canadiens.

    Current performance

    Returning to the NHL for the first time since 2012, the 30-year-old Radulov quickly established himself as an invaluable scoring forward with the Canadiens. In 54 games, he leads the Habs in assists (28) and is second in points (42) and power-play points (15). He's on track for a 20-goal, 60-point season.

    Value

    Radulov's value remains high. Should he hit the open market in July, he'll attract considerable interest from clubs seeking an experienced top-six winger. Given his current offensive pace, he'll be in line for a four- or five-year contract worth around $6.5 million annually. 

1. Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues

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    Billy Hurst/Associated Press

    Current contract

    St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is completing the final season of a four-year, $17 million contract. The annual average value is $4.25 million, but he's earning $5.2 million in actual salary for 2016-17.

    Current performance

    Shattenkirk, 28, is second among Blues scorers in points (38) and tied for first with Vladimir Tarasenko in power-play points (18). He's also their leader in power-play goals (seven) and power-play time on ice per game (three minutes and six seconds). He's also sixth in scoring this season among NHL defensemen

    Value

    With San Jose Sharks star Brent Burns off the market, Shattenkirk is the most talented defenseman in this summer's free-agent market.  That increases his stock value and his chances of securing a lucrative new contract. Shattenkirk could land a seven-year deal worth around $7 million annually. Teams in need of a puck-moving blueliner, such as the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, could come calling. 

    All stats (as of Feb. 10, 2017) via NHL.com. Salary info via Cap Friendly. 

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