Our NHL analyst takes a look at the upcoming free agency signing period. Go inside to read this informative and insightful article before you place your Futures NHL Picks.
NHL Free Agency Signing Period Approaches
We've come to that time of year again. The Pittsburgh Penguins have a chance to capture the Stanley Cup at home on Thursday. If Pittsburgh is able to do so, attention will immediately shift to the 2016 NHL Entry Draft that takes place on June 24th and 25th in Buffalo. Once that two day event comes to a conclusion, focus will switch to the impending free agency signing period which consummates on July 1st. My area of concentration during the course of this article will be centered solely on unrestricted free agents and their NHL odds.
Tale of the Tape
There seems to be a pattern developing over the past couple of seasons which indicates teams are more cautious when the NHL free agency signing period arrives. Although we're still seeing a decent amount of activity when July 1 rolls around, it's been pale in comparison to the brisk open bidding we've seen in years past. Last year's unrestricted free agent list was the weakest in recent memory. Quite frankly, barring a few exceptions, the 2016 players projected to be available may be on par or weaker than we witnessed in 2015.
Steven Stamkos Sweepstakes
The 26-year-old center has spent the first eight years of his NHL career with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He's one of the true superstars in the NHL. Stamkos has scored 40 goals or more on for separate occasions, and that includes tallying 51 during the 2009-2010 NHL campaign. He's a two time Maurice Richard Award winner. He certainly will be highly coveted by a handful of teams the second he becomes available, so he must be considered when placing your NHL picks on futures odds
The chance of Tampa Bay opening up the check book to resign Stamkos seems extremely slim at best. Stamkos was on the books for $7,142,875 last season, and is rumored to be seeking somewhere near a $12,000,000 per year long term deal. Considering the Kings signed 29 year-old Anzi Kopitar to an 8-year 80 million dollar deal this past January, Stamkos certainly will have plenty of negotiating leverage.
By resigning Stamkos in the price range he's seeking, Tampa Bay would jeopardize losing four or five of their talented core players in upcoming years when their contracts expire. Their deep run in this year's playoffs without Stamkos for all but one game, further proves why General Manager Steve Yzerman will be unwilling to take that risk. Other teams will shy away due to health concerns related to his recent blood clot surgery that forced him to miss the final four regular season games, and also 16 during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A precedent to that thought process has to be what Chris Bosh has endured the past two seasons with a similar condition.
The majority of teams won't be able to enter the Stamkos bidding war due to lack of salary cap space. However, there are a few that will seriously engage in pursuing the star center. Namely the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, and New York Islanders are all viable options. Stamkos is a native of Markham, Ontario which is in close proximity to Toronto, and is also a short ride down the QEW to Buffalo. The Islanders would be an appealing landing spot for Stamkos as well. After all, he spent many years playing youth hockey with his close friend and Islanders star John Tavares. My educated guess is that he'll be donning a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform this fall.
Eriksson will turn will turn 31 on July 17th, and he still appears to have plenty left in the tank. The veteran right wing has played in 725 regular season and 34 playoff games during his NHL career. He's scored 22 goals or more six times as a member of the Dallas Stars and Boston Bruins.
Erksson is coming off an ouystanding season for Boston, scoring 30 goals and adding 33 assists while playing all 82 games. Eriksson was widely rumored to be possibly moved at the trade deadline, due to Boston's anticipation of losing him in free agency at the year's end. There's very few 30 plus goal scorers that become available in this modern day NHL, and especially ones that don't require breaking the bank to acquire. As a result, there will be several teams bidding for his services come July 1st.
Eriksson made 4.5 million last season, and is expected to get somewhere in the $6,000,000 range annual deal of some sort in free agency. Boston has slim to no chance of resigning due to their current salary cap situation. I fully expect the Detroit Red Wings to make a strong push in signing Eriksson.
Lucic is a 6'3 and 233 pound prototype power forward with a deft scoring touch. He's a bruising physical force, and extremely intimidating to play against. His solid two-way game makes him an even more valuable commodity. He played in 81 games for Los Angeles this past season, amassing 20 goals, 35 assists, and his plus/minus rating was a very impressive +26. The former Boston Bruin is still just 28 years old, is a four-time 20 plus goal scorer, and was an integral part of Boston's 2011 Stanley Cup winning team.
I would be shocked if the Kings organization doesn't resign him. He fits perfectly into the mold of player that Los Angeles needs and wants. Edmonton is rumored to also be very interested in signing Lucic as well. Being that Lucic is a Western Canadian native, I'm not willing to rule that possibility out.
Best of the Rest
David Backes (St. Louis)
Kyle Okposo (NY Islanders)
Andrew Ladd (Chicago)
Troy Brouwer (St. Louis)
Jamie McGinn (Anaheim)
Keith Yandle (NY Rangers)
Brian Campbell (Florida)
Al Montoya (Florida)
Le Stepniak (Boston)
David Perron (Pittsburgh)