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Five players in line for big paydays

Jul 11, 2013, 1:03 PM EDT

Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers makes a save during his 500th career NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 5, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Penguins defeated the Rangers 2-1 in a shootout.
(April 4, 2013 - Source: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America) Getty Images

This summer we’ve seen players like Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Claude Giroux sign monster extensions to prevent them from ever coming close to the open market.

With so many great and intriguing players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents after the 2013-14 campaign, we won’t have to wait until next summer to see some more major signings.

With that in mind, we’re highlighting five examples of players eligible to become unrestricted free agents next summer that could end up signing major contracts:

1) New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist

As much talent as the Rangers have in front of him, their team relies heavily on the superb goaltending of Lundqvist. Losing the 31-year-old now would be a devastating blow to the Rangers, but it’s not a foregone conclusion that he’ll re-sign.

Lundqvist was initially noncommittal when asked about the possibility of staying with the Rangers beyond 2013-14 and there’s even been speculation that his lukewarm response played a role in the firing of head coach John Tortorella.

Of course, it’s worth adding that Lundqvist responded to that speculation by distancing himself from Tortorella’s exit.

“I would never put pressure on the management on decisions like that,” Lundqvist asserted, adding that the move would have no impact on his contract negotiations. At that time, he also expressed a desire to work something out with the Rangers, so we’ll see.

2) Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel

Regardless of your opinion on the trade that sent Phil Kessel to Toronto, it’s hard to argue his worth to the team today. With the exception of the lockout shortened season, the 25-year-old has scored at least 30 goals in every campaign with the Maple Leafs. In 2013, he was one of the best forwards in the league with 20 goals and 52 points in 48 games.

The desire to keep Kessel might have even influenced the Leafs to give Tyler Bozak a five-year, $21 million extension. The two displayed some good chemistry last season.

Either way, the Toronto Maple Leafs will almost certainly have to pay top dollar in order to keep Kessel.

3) Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford

Crawford struggled mightily in 2011-12, but he bounced back in a big way and played a big role in the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup. Although he was never able to fully shake off the criticisms surrounding him, he’s was one of the best goaltenders in the NHL last season from a statistical perspective.

If he comes back in 2013-14 and enjoys a similar performance, he can basically dictate whatever terms he wants for his next contract. Unlike Kessel and Lundqvist, who have already had huge paydays, Crawford is still looking for his first big contract — at least by the standards of the NHL.

He has one year left on his three-year, $8 million deal and it’s not hard to envision a scenario where his average annual salary more than doubles after this deal.

Of course, if he falls back to Earth, then negotiating his contract would be even more complicated. At that point, would the Blackhawks be willing to give him a contract that reflects his potential or would they want to hedge their bets? And if they stick to their guns, would a more desperate franchise make a big splash on Crawford in the hopes that he’s got another comeback in him?

4) Vancouver Canucks forward Henrik and Daniel Sedin

Obviously that’s two players, but it’s assumed that the twins will sign as a package. The duo will turn 33 in September, so they will probably have to decide between a long contract at a discounted price or a roughly four-year deal around market value.

The Vancouver Canucks are expected to push hard to re-sign them, but it will be interesting to see how they react to new bench boss John Tortorella. One of the more controversial decisions he has made so far is to have the Sedin twins kill penalties and block shots.

If Tortorella’s approach results in a Stanley Cup then they will probably be thrilled. If the Canucks suffer another quick exit then the future is less clear.

5) Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown

Brown didn’t do much offensively during the Kings recent playoff run, but he helps this franchise is a lot of different ways. He’s their captain, he chips in offensively, and he throws his body around.

He’s got one season left on his six-year, $19.05 million deal, but he’ll probably get a big extension, perhaps in line with David Clarkson‘s recent seven-year, $36.75 million contract.

The question is how difficult that kind of a raise will be for the Kings to accommodate, given that they don’t have a ton of cap room as it is. With that in mind, it will also be interesting to see if Brown opts to give the Kings a bit of a hometown discount.

  1. iwillfindyou - Jul 11, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    Corey will def get his payday. But unfortunately it won’t be with the Hawks. They don’t pay big money for goalies. They draft them or sign vets.

    • redmosquito16 - Jul 11, 2013 at 1:48 PM

      Didn’t they pay Cristobal Huet like $6M/year? And that was in 2008 dollars.

      • guyfawkes16051105 - Jul 11, 2013 at 2:01 PM

        And that was funny as hell, given he wasn’t good enough to start for the Kings, WAY BEFORE Quick.

      • suprsquirrel - Jul 11, 2013 at 2:27 PM

        That was Dale Tallon, not Bowman. Tallon was also responsible for Versteeg’s contract (forcing the Hawks to trade him) and the eleven billion dollar contract for Brian Campbell.

        Tallon might have sucked with contracts, but he had some pretty darn good drafts.

    • 19to77 - Jul 11, 2013 at 1:56 PM

      After him they have Raanta, with no NHL experience, and Khabibulin, who’s as old as Brodeur. Unlike the Niemi situation, they don’t have a theoretical replacement for Crawford waiting in the wings, and trading for a legitimate first string who can be clutch in the playoffs would cost tremendously. Safest option would be to pay the proven Cup winner you’ve already got.

      • Blackhawks5xchamps - Jul 11, 2013 at 2:06 PM

        Annti Raanta. Look him up. He’s the next goalie for the Hawks.

      • 19to77 - Jul 11, 2013 at 2:57 PM

        Again, he has no NHL experience. He could be a top-10 netminder or he could be bottom-10. They’ve got one year ’till Crawford’s up for a raise and while you’d THINK they’d have plenty of chances to test Raanta out as his backup, they went and got Khabibulin back for some reason instead. Raanta’s going to end next season with only a handful of starts in all likelihood – you seriously want him to go straight to the starting job like that? Suppose he doesn’t excel at the NHL level – what then? Crawford’s proven.

      • adambballn - Jul 11, 2013 at 3:16 PM

        Crawford isn’t getting a big contract… it won’t even be an option. Kane and Toews deals both expire after the 14-15 season and they will need to get paid, and paid big.

      • juzzi7 - Jul 11, 2013 at 4:07 PM

        “Raanta has no NHL experience”
        How much did Antti Niemi have before he won a cup with Chicago? Exactly.

  2. ravenscaps48 - Jul 11, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    Lundqvist gonna get P-A-I-D!

    • DED - Jul 11, 2013 at 3:31 PM

      He already did. He averaged $6.875 million over the last 6 years. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

      • stakex - Jul 11, 2013 at 6:51 PM

        Yup, and he’s probably going to average $7 million going forward. So his cap hit is likely going to go up a couple million (its just above $5 million now), but he’s not going to get paid more then he already is.

  3. pastabelly - Jul 11, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    If Tuukka got $7M per year, Henrik will probably want $7.75M. He won’t get the number of years that Tuukka got because he’s much older. I agree Crawford will cash in at somewhere between $5.5 and $6.5.

  4. biasedhomer - Jul 11, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    I guess we will be seeing plenty of Dustin Brown trade rumors around the trade deadline

  5. nysportsrule - Jul 11, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    Let’s hope Hank doesn’t take up too much of our cap

    • pone27 - Jul 11, 2013 at 2:54 PM

      Think hope should be thrown out the window, and catch the reality.

      Richards should have been bought out to anticipate this.

      • DED - Jul 11, 2013 at 3:32 PM

        There’s always next summer to buy out Richards.

    • ravenscaps48 - Jul 11, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      Hank isn’t staying in NYC

  6. northstarsmitty - Jul 11, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    Brown is the only one on this list I see getting over paid and the team who does so will not be happy with their tenured return. He had a spotlight season but has shown no tendency of being a perennial scorer, rather just a solid pesky skater prone to playing a sneaky dirty type of play. He is not on a goon level of dirty, but his antics are suspect. Not a fan of him so this is a bit bias, but I just don’t see why a team would invest in the suggested fetch he may get next year

    • endusersolutions2013 - Jul 11, 2013 at 3:14 PM

      I suspect that if he does not change his head-hunting ways that he will start getting significant suspensions. It amazed me that he only got 1 game this year after he went elbow to head 2 nights in a row.

  7. pone27 - Jul 11, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    Hawks pay more than 4.5 per year for Crawford, they overpaid.

    Lundy will get between $8-8.5M. No way the blue shirts will let him go.

    • Blackhawks5xchamps - Jul 11, 2013 at 4:42 PM

      They won’t pay him but never the less, you don’t think he should make more than Lundviscinurdconoist? What has Lund done in his career? Has he won a Stanley Cup? Was he the best goalie in the playoffs of 2013?

      But I do understand that that is the thinking in all of New York sports franchises. Just over pay for everyone.

    • chanceoffleury1 - Jul 11, 2013 at 4:44 PM

      Fleury got $5 million and Quick got $5.8 million after they won their Cups. Crawford is in no way asking too much if he wants $5+ million. That’s the running rate for a goalie that wins a cup. If the Hawks are putting their ceiling at 4.5 million then its not a matter of if he’s staying with the Hawks, it’s a matter of who the Hawks are getting in return when they trade him. Because that’s what will end up happening. Crawford can just take the Hawks to arbitration where they will pull up the deals Fleury, Quick, and Rask have got and he will win. That’s assuming Crawford isn’t some desperate hot mess of a goalie this upcoming year.

      • killerpgh - Jul 11, 2013 at 8:52 PM

        Crawford is set to be a UFA. There will be no arbitration.

      • chanceoffleury1 - Jul 11, 2013 at 11:48 PM

        My bad! I think I got him and Rask mixed up for a second there. For some reason I thought he was a RFA like Rask was this year.

  8. chadc84 - Jul 11, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    Dont forget about PK, norris winner will be looking for a raise from 2.7 mil hes making for the next yr, the last yr on his contract
    He will be looking for the letang extension, if not a bit more

    • chanceoffleury1 - Jul 11, 2013 at 4:48 PM

      If the Pens didn’t have a stockpile of defenseman just like Letang in the minors he probably would have got the 7.75 or 8 million he was originally asking for. I’m unfamiliar with Montreal’s d-farm but if its not deep then Subban will be able to get Letang’s contract and then some.

  9. DED - Jul 11, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    Lundqvist won’t be the only FA the Rangers have to worry about next summer. The Rangers currently only have 6 guys signed for the 2014-15 season, though as soon as Stepan is signed that number will be 7. The Rangers have to hope that the cap goes up a few million in order to retain their key guys, though a Richards buyout will be done if it doesn’t.

  10. skirkpat12 - Jul 11, 2013 at 11:28 PM

    Patrice Bergeron is going to receive a nice pay day as well. Last I heard the B’s were ‘very very close’ to a long term deal. It should be interesting to see how it all works out.

  11. redridershoottheireyeout - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    Dustin Brown is more of a cheap shot artist than Matt Cooke, the difference is Brown never gets called for it.

  12. andyb02 - Jul 12, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    Should have included Bobby Ryan when he signs with the Flyers in 2 years.

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