For those of us in cap leagues, the season never truly ends. We’re always trying to keep an eye on the next big contract and how it might impact our team.
It seems as if the $10-million mark will now be the standard for big-money contracts. This past season, only three players had $10-million cap hits (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Anze Kopitar). Next year, that number at least doubles (Jack Eichel, Carey Price and Connor McDavid), with a couple of more to be possibly added to that list.
Below are 10 players that have a shot at joining the $10-million club. All of these players will be free agents either this summer or in 2019. Of course, not all of these players will make $10 million a season as some of them may take a hometown discount. However, it’s a situation to monitor closely in cap leagues. Keep in mind that even players that are free agents in 2019 can sign their extensions starting this summer.
10. Brock Boeser
Don’t forget Vancouver is about to inherit a ton of cap space with the Sedin twins retiring. If Boeser can stay healthy as a sophomore and improves on this year’s numbers (a 38-goal, 73-point pace), then he is certainly in the running for a massive contract when he becomes an RFA in 2018. I personally think he’ll sign a smaller shorter-term deal rather than get $10 million right off the bat, but stranger things have happened.
9. Tyler Seguin
Seguin is one of the more interesting cases on this list. He’s averaged just under a point-per-game since joining Dallas and will be 27 years old when he’s a UFA next summer. The Stars will have plenty of cap space to re-sign him at that stage, and he’ll be valuable to teams that covet a centre. But is Seguin worth $10 million a year? All it takes is one team that really believes he’s the missing piece and bam, massive overpayment.
No matter where he goes, Panarin puts up points: KHL, world championship, the Blackhawks and now Columbus. The 26-year-old has 233 points in 243 career NHL games, has missed a total of three games over three NHL seasons, is a power-play specialist and a threat every time he is on the ice. Columbus has the cap space once Panarin is a free agent in 2019, and Panarin would easily be able to command $10 million on the open market.
Wheeler has 243 points in the past three seasons, fifth-highest in the league, and his 168 assists in that time span puts him third. An unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019, Wheeler’s odds at making $10 million increase dramatically if he leaves Winnipeg. In the next year, Connor Hellebucyk, Jacob Trouba, Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine (more on him in a second) are all due for hefty raises. There won’t be enough money left over to give the soon-to-be 32-year-old Wheeler $10 million a year.
6. Patrik Laine
I don’t really expect Laine to hit that $10-million mark for the same reason as Wheeler, but Laine is ranked higher because he has youth on his side. In the last two seasons, Laine’s 80 goals is second only to Alexander Ovechkin’s 82. His 29 power play goals is also second only to Ovechkin. Laine is a pretty special talent, and he’s going to cash in big time. It’s just a matter of how much.
The former number one pick, Matthews is another tough player to peg when trying to figure out his next contract. Sure, he can command $10 million after posting 40 goals as a rookie and following that up with a point-per-game season as a sophomore. But will he want to take that much money considering the Leafs will have to negotiate with almost most of its roster in the next two years? James van Riemsdyk, Leo Komarov, William Nylander, Mitchell Marner and Jake Gardiner will all be free agents at some level in the next 15 months, plus another nine roster players that will also hit free agency in that same time span. Will Matthews take a short-term discount, similar to Nikita Kucherov in 2016, so the Leafs can spend more money on other players? And speaking of Kucherov . . .
Kucherov surprised everyone when he took a three-year deal at a cap hit of less than $4.8 million at the start of the 2016 season. He can command a huge deal next summer when he hits restricted free agency status. While there’s a chance Kucherov could sign another low-cost, short-term deal to help the Bolts keep its core intact, a short-term contract would lead to Kucherov becoming a UFA when that deal is up. Expect Tampa to want to lock Kucherov up long-term, which actually increases the odds of a big-money deal.
3. Drew Doughty
Doughty could arguably be the best choice of anyone on this list for getting $10 million a season simply because of his team’s situation. All of the core pieces on the Kings roster are already signed long term, there will be the cap space for such a contract, and there’s no young hotshot in the Kings’ system that could demand a huge raise anytime soon. Plus, Doughty has already said he believes he deserves “quite a bit more” than P.K. Subban’s $9-million-a-year salary.
While no defenseman currently makes $10-million a year, that will change in a year’s time. Ottawa, known as a penny-pinching team, will want to keep Karlsson with the Senators and will offer him a big deal. If he decides to hit free agency, he could conceivably become the highest-paid player in the league. To put in perspective how great Karlsson is, he had 62 points in 71 games (and only six points back of the NHL leader), but his 0.87 points-per-game led all defensemen, and that was considered an off-year.
1. John Tavares
The easiest name on this list, simply because of the fact teams are gearing up to give him a whack load of money. Montreal has $13 million in cap space next year and is willing to use almost all of it to get the number one centre they covet. The Sharks, who are rumoured to be in on Tavares, has $15 million of cap space. The Islanders have $28 million in cap space, so they could easily afford to re-sign Tavares. Without a doubt, Tavares will be the next $10-million player.
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