Capped: The Top 2016 Unrestricted Free Agents

by Chris Pudsey on December 31, 2015
  • Capped
  • Capped: The Top 2016 Unrestricted Free Agents

Assessing the cap league outlook for some of 2016's top unrestricted free agents.

As we take down the 2015 calendar and put up the new one for 2016, we find there are still a lot of high-end talent heading into free agency this year. For some, it will be their first look at unrestricted free agency and will be looking for a big payday. It’s important you know who on your fantasy roster is due for a big raise so you can prepare early enough to deal with it; either by moving the pending free agent, or moving other assets so you can afford the raise your stud will get.

So far, we have seen some of the bigger named free agents already get locked up in advance. Guys like Mark Giordano, Jakub Voracek, Brent Seabrook and Tomas Plekanec have already come to terms with their existing teams. Anze Kopitar apparently is close to finalizing his new deal with the Los Angeles Kings as well but nothing has been formally announced yet but we can pretty much write him off as being available come July 1st.

In this weeks Capped, we will take at some of the bigger names still out there looking for a new deal in the upcoming year.

Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay Lightning

GP

G

A

PPP

+/-

SOG

PIMs

Hits

Blks

37

16

12

15

-8

100

16

40

14

Not that this is any surprise but Steven Stamkos is the first name on my list. There’s more rumours floating around about the future of Stamkos than one can count. Leafs fans are salivating at the thought of their hometown boy coming back and wearing the Maple Leaf on his chest but Stamkos has openly said that his intention is to win with the Lightning.  After the Lightning played the Leafs in mid-December, Stamkos addressed the rumours with the following statement:

“Absolutely not,” Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times when it was suggested to him that it has been decided that he is as good as gone from Tampa. “Not even close. That’s why people (in the media) say “I’ve got a feeling”…. There’s so much information out there that’s probably false. I envision myself winning a championship here and want to do that.  It’s not the first time someone in my position has been unsigned at this point in the season. We’ll see what happens.”

Obviously Stamkos isn’t going to say anything for the media to run with other than the politically correct statement. 

Stamkos is coming off a five-year, $37.5M contract that saw him count $7.5M against the cap. I don’t think it matter if he re-signs in Tampa, or someone else gets him, he is going to get paid. I expect him to sign something close to what we saw Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane receive; right in the area of $10-11M per season. The term will depend if he re-signs with Tampa or if he goes elsewhere. A player who re-signs with their existing team can get a maximum of eight years but if they decide to sign with another team, the maximum term they can sign for is seven years.

The 25-year-old is still one of the few elite goal scorers in the league today. I’ve said this many times the past few months, if you are a Stamkos owner, I’d be looking at trading him. Fantasy hockey in salary cap leagues is all about cap management and it’s hard to tie that much money up with only one roster player and still be able to roster a viable team.  

Dustin Byfuglien – Winnipeg Jets

GP

G

A

PPP

+/-

SOG

PIMs

Hits

Blks

36

9

12

7

8

118

56

99

51

Heading into the final year of his five-year, $26M contract ($5.2M cap hit), Big Buff is looking for a raise, and it’s not surprising. In fact, there was a leak to the media recently that had Byfuglien asking the Jets for $55M over eight years ($6.875M cap hit).

He has a unique skill-set that would be tough for the Jets to replace. If the rumours are true, I don’t think the dollar amount is going to be the issue for the Jets, but more the term. Byfuglien is 30-years-old and his style of play doesn’t bode well for long-term deals like this and I am sure this is playing a big part in the decision making for the Jets.  If anything, the dollar amount being asked for by Byfuglien is reasonable and one has to wonder if he’s leaving dollars behind for the term. 

Say what you want about Byfuglien, the guy can is a game changer and the type of player a lot of teams desire. He plays big minutes, in all situations, and is a Stanley Cup winner.  It will be interesting to see how Jets GM, Kevin Cheveldayoff handles this as the trade deadline gets closer.

Andrew Ladd – Winnipeg Jets

GP

G

A

PPP

+/-

SOG

PIMs

Hits

Blks

36

10

12

5

-4

92

23

77

12

Ladd is coming off a five-year, $22M contract ($4.4M cap hit) and much like Byfuglien, is asking the Jets for a sizable raise. The leaked asking price by Ladd is six-years, $41M ($6.8M cap hit).

The 29-year-old just came off a season that saw him put up a career high 62 points and is a perennial 20-goal-scorer. The team’s captain is a main cog in the Jets engine and a two-time Stanley Cup champion. The veteran is the type of player the Jets will want to sign long-term and I think will be easier to re-sign compared to Byfuglien. 

I think his asking price is a tad high but that’s to be expected when starting negotiations.  I won’t be surprised to see them settle around the $6M mark for a cap hit and be a key part of the Jets system for years to come.

David Backes – St. Louis Blues

GP

G

A

PPP

+/-

SOG

PIMs

Hits

Blks

39

10

12

6

1

75

39

134

36

Probably one of the leagues best two-way forwards, the 31-year-old is coming off a five-year, $22.5M contract ($4.5M cap hit).  Backes brings it night in, night out for the Blues and is usually good for 20-25 goals, 30-35 assists, and 100+ PIMs each year.  He’s exactly what most teams look for in a leader. 

One can assume that Backes will be looking for a new deal in the $6M range and on the open market, shouldn’t have an issue getting it either. The question is if the Blues think they want to pay that type of money for their captain, who’s taken a diminished role this season, or maybe they are looking at their poor playoff record in recent years and looking to go in another direction for leadership. They also have Jaden Schwartz and Troy Brouwer to re-sign so that could also come into play for the Blues’ decision. Brouwer can play a similar role as Backes and should come at a much cheaper cost.

With the Blues always in the thick of the playoff run, I doubt the Blues make any decisions on Backes at the deadline as far as deals go, but it will certainly make for an interesting summer for Blues GM Doug Armstrong.

Milan Lucic – Los Angeles Kings

GP

G

A

PPP

+/-

SOG

PIMs

Hits

Blks

36

10

12

4

10

58

33

128

7

Many weren’t sure what to expect of Milan Lucic after he was traded to Los Angeles last summer. Coming off a disappointing season with the Boston Bruins and appearing to be in a bit of a decline, the Kings were more than happy to bring in the big, physical winger to their team. So far, it’s paid off nicely for the Kings.

Lucic has had a solid, bounce-back season so far. The 27-year-old currently has 10 goals in 36 games for the Kings. To put that in perspective, he hadn’t scored his 10th goal for the Bruins last season until January 29th and finished the year with 18 total goals. It was his first (non-lockout) season that he hadn’t reached the 20-goal mark since 2009/10.

Lucic is coming off a three-year, $18M contract and is in line for a healthy raise considering what he’s shown the Kings to this point. This is what will make this an interesting summer for the Kings. They are limited in cap space as it is and with Anze Kopitar about to possibly break the bank with his new deal, you have to wonder where the Kings will find the cap space to re-sign Lucic as well. Without doubt, teams would line up for Lucic’s services and his hometown Vancouver Canucks would be first in line and love to back the truck up and bring him home.

*

While I am not going to go in-depth at this point on the restricted free agents coming due this summer, there are some names you need to be aware of and prepare for as well.  Here are a few you need to take notice of:

Johnny Gaudreau – Calgary Flames

Expect Gaudreau to be locked up long-term for big bucks.  I don’t see a bridge deal in this kids future.

Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado Avalanche

The future for the Colorado Avalanche and will be rewarded as such. I expect his new deal to be something close to what Matt Duchene is making now.

Jacob Trouba – Winnipeg Jets

As if the Jets don’t have enough to worry about with Byfuglien and Ladd, Trouba is due too. The Jets weren’t willing to part with him to acquire Travis Hamonic so that tells you all you need to know about the Jets and how they feel about him.  He wants huge money and while he won’t get what he wants, expect a big time deal, long-term for Trouba.

Sean Monahan – Calgary Flames

Monahan is another key piece for the Flames long-term.  You don’t find many kids scoring 30+ goals at the early age of 20.  Much like Gaudreau, look for Monahan to get signed long term.

Morgan Reilly – Toronto Maple Leafs

Call me crazy but I can see the Leafs trying to do a bridge type of deal with Reilly.  I don’t have any justification to back this up, simply a gut feeling.  Either way, be prepared for a decent raise for Reilly.

Obviously there are plenty more I could throw out there who are coming off RFA contracts but I will save some of those for a later date.

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As always, thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @chrispudsey

Due to work obligations, I will be away for the first few weeks in January so Scott Maran will be pinch-hitting for me during my absence.  Thanks Scott. I am sure you’ll do great!

Cheers to a Happy New Year and another opportunity to get all our wrongdoings right!

See you all in 2016.