Frozen Pool Forensics: Pay The Man Part 1

Chris Liggio

2018-08-03

 

Follow this column long enough and you are bound to hear me discuss the pursuit of impending unrestricted free agents in their final contract year. On more than one occasion this strategy has been utilized with great success, so it’s only right to cover some names both this week and the next who will fall under this jurisdiction in 2018-19. All of the following are known commodities in the fantasy landscape, which stand to put out a career year in order to secure financial wealth albeit at different rates of pay. All but one of the players covered this week are smack dab in their prime and stand to sign at least a five year contract should they perform admirably this year. The draw of millions of dollars is all most anyone need to put on their best performance.

Eric Staal

The one player covered this week that is no longer on the right side of his prime at 33 years of age, there’s no denying the former Carolina Hurricanes captain has seen his career revitalized after a move out to the state of hockey (Minnesota). As a Rangers fan, I find it quite frustrating to see him score 40 plus goals for the Wild when he could not so much as look like a decent third line center in Manhattan. Alas, the move to the Wild proves that in order for Staal to be the player he is, he must be a focal point offensively and not a complimentary piece to others. When the season is all said and done, the Thunder Bay, Ontario native will be 34 years old. Likely looking at the last lucrative deal of his career, the motivation to set his family up for life after hockey is more than enough driving force to post another 70-point season. The Wild are more or less the same team, especially in the top six, so expect Staal to once again center the top line and primary man advantage unit.

Jeff Skinner

Skinner above all others might be the one playing for the most, as he now must prove that the trading of future considerations was worth it to the Buffalo Sabres brain trust. He now finds himself with an opportunity to play with Jack Eichel and the two could make magic together. Two campaigns removed from a 37-goal output and still netting 24 in what was a down year last season, Skinner is looking for that long term deal as he enters his later twenties. 30 goals or more is what he needs to ascertain this; no ifs, ands, or buts. The Toronto native is an enigmatic case, as his 2017-18 production will be considered a letdown, yet he shot a meager 8.7% and was strong in possession posting a 55% Corsi while being centered by the not otherworldly Derek Ryan. 2016-17 saw him shooting 13.2% leading to 37 goals, so if he can attain somewhat close to this he will certainly score said 30 goals with him being one of the more dangerous snipers in the game. Pray for a better usage scenario in Buffalo, preferably the top six. One cannot envision him in anything less after what Buffalo had to give up. Still a healthy source of shots with 277 last year, bank on statistical regression towards the mean regarding shooting leading to more goals.

Matt Duchene

Amidst the soap opera that was and still is Ottawa,