Only a few more days and then we are off to the playoffs. This is an exciting time of year for both the players and the fans. It’s also a bit of a nice change that the salary cap doesn’t count during playoffs, and we don’t need to focus on managing our fantasy teams every day. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t implications from these playoff games. Some players turn one shining playoff run into their peak career contract. Just think about what Joel Ward did in 2010-2011. As a refresher, he put up 29 points in 80 regular season games with the Nashville Predators, before putting up 13 points in only 12 playoff games. That summer, he cashed in, doubling his cap-hit from $1.5 million, to a $3 million AAV for four years.
Below are four players to watch in the post-season, as their playoff performances could very well have a large effect on the outcome of salary negotiations this summer.
Mike Smith (G) – Calgary Flames
Current Cap Hit: $5,666,667 (with Arizona covering $1,416,667 of it)
Having lost the starting job earlier in the season, Mike Smith has now started six of the last nine games, and is looking like the go-to starter come playoff time. He is 37 years old, and the last time he played a playoff game was the Spring of 2012 (Nail Yakupov was drafted first overall that June, to give you a sense of how much time flies). Smith hasn’t really had a chance to prove himself in the playoffs, but with Calgary, he has the opportunity to really shine with a solid team in front of him. Back in Smith’s 19 career playoff games (coming in 2011 and 2012), he was saving 95% of the shots he faced, and allowing less than two goals per game. If the Flames get goaltending close to that level, they may walk through the Western Conference.
For Smith, this could be his last chance to cash in with the contract of a starting goalie. It may not be at the forefront of his mind through the playoffs, but it is definitely something to think about. If Mike Smith takes a similar pay cut to the contract Pekka Rinne signed with Nashville, he would be signing a deal at around $4 million per year. However, if he is a large reason as to why the Flames get to (or even past) the third round of the playoffs, it is tough to see him making less than $5 million next season (on a short-term deal of course).
Jacob Trouba (D) – Winnipeg Jets
Current Cap Hit: $5,500,000
As a restricted free-agent this summer, Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba has one more year of arbitration eligibility before he is free to sign wherever he likes. He has shown all he can in the regular season, but the play