This week's Capped discusses the 2017 UFA crop, and what challenges their negotiations/contracts may bring.
With the signing of Brent Burns two weeks ago, the biggest fish of the impending 2017 unrestricted free agent (UFA) market was locked up, and it wasn’t cheap. We know how crazy teams can be with respect to the massive contracts they throw around, so there is still lots of excitement to be had. On July 1st, 2016, 119 players were signed, and the sum of the contracts was worth over $600 Million. Two years ago, the 2014 free agency period broke the record of the most total money spent on July 1st, at just over $500 Million. Evidently, the spending spree is not slowing down. So who is going to get paid this summer, and what is that going to mean for their outlook going into next season?
Joe Thornton (C) – San Jose Sharks
Contract – $6,750,000
Not only did San Jose have Brent Burns coming up as a big UFA this summer, but their old captain Joe Thornton is in need of a new contract as well. Depending on how well the Sharks do this season, then we could see Thornton sporting new colours for the 2017-2018 season. However, with the signing of Brent Burns and the continued presence of Joe Pavelski, Martin Jones and others, the Sharks should remain perennial contenders, and thus would likely want to re-sign Thornton.
Regardless of where Thornton signs, he will put up numbers, and his fantasy value will remain relatively unchanged. He is one of those elite and smart players who can bring everyone around him to a higher level of play. His numbers have decreased slightly this season, but Thornton’s style lends itself to longevity, so he should be able to keep up his solid production for a few more years.
The bigger deal is the money he is going to receive. We can expect Thornton’s next contract to be a short-term deal, and likely for a slightly smaller monetary value. Jarome Iginla from a few years ago, who has had a similarly successful career, makes a good comparable. Iginla has signed two contracts after the age of 35. The first one was a one-year deal for $6 Million, and the next was a three-year deal worth a total of $16 Million. Something similar to Iginla’s contracts would be expected for Thornton; a one- to three-year deal at around $5 Million or $6 Million a year.
Kevin Shattenkirk (D) – St. Louis Blues
Contract – $4,250,000
Kevin Shattenkirk is the most likely of the big names to actually hit unrestricted free agency. It has long been rumoured that the St. Louis Blues have been shopping him, and with the emergence of stud youngster Colton Parayko, Shattenkirk has become a little redundant. There are plenty of good fits for a right-handed puck moving defenceman around the league, key among them teams struggling on defence such as Detroit, Vancouver, Boston and New Jersey. With so many suitors, and a track record of offensive production, Shattenkirk is certainly in line for a sizeable raise.
As comparables, the biggest three contracts signed this past summer for defencemen were to Keith Yandle (Seven years @ $6.35 Million), Aaron Ekblad (Eight years @ $7.5 Million) and Victor Hedman (Eight years @ $7.85 Million). Considering that the longest contract that can be signed in free-agency with a new team is seven years, a six- or seven-year contract for the 27-year-old Shattenkirk seems reasonable. Shattenkirk is likely also a closer comparable to Yandle, but with the bidding war driving up the price, he could see a contract around $7 Million a year in value. At that price it would be tougher for fantasy owners to justify owning him.
T.J. Oshie (RW) – Washington Capitals
Contract – $4,175,000
T.J. Oshie spent the last two seasons with the Washington Captials after a trade from St. Louis in the summer of 2015. At the moment he is sitting on the sidelines as his injured shoulder heals. This shoulder injury has caused him to miss the last eight games. Through the 17 games he has played this season, Oshie has netted 12 points, and is again on pace to finish around 55 points. Over the last four healthy seasons, that 55-point range is exactly where Oshie has finished. He has also fit in very well as a scoring winger to compliment Alexander Ovechkin (his most common line-mate this season).
Though as well as Oshie has meshed in Washington, he may not be a fit past this season. With sizeable raises due to restricted free agents Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov, the Capitals cap-crunch may push Oshie out. It is impossible to say at this point where Oshie may end up, however it could have a large impact on his fantasy stock. Oshie has shown his ceiling to be about 60 points, but in the wrong situation, he could be in line for a bit of regression.
In terms of a future contract, Oshie is likely due for a slight raise, but not too much higher than his current salary. At this point, he will be looking for one more long-term contract, and may take an extra year even at the expense of a small salary hit. Taking Oshie to age 35 would be a six-year contract, and based on comparables from this past summer such as Andrew Ladd and Loui Eriksson, a reasonable yearly salary between $5 Million and $6 Million would be expected.
Also of note, the expansion draft for the new Vegas Golden Knights team will be altering the landscape and the timeline of the Free Agency period this summer. With teams only able to protect one goalie, players such as Ben Bishop, Steve Mason and Brian Elliott may not sign contracts until after the expansion draft. In addition, the players who have money as their biggest priority for a new contract may be able to be brought in by Las Vegas with their large sum of cap space. Ultimately, even with some of the top end talent re-signing before the summer, this may still end up being one of the more entertaining unrestricted free agency periods in recent memory.
In the meantime, best of luck to all. As always, comments are welcome and appreciated.
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