The 2015 NHL Entry Draft begins on Friday, June 26. Just a few days later, pending unrestricted free agents will be able to sign with any team come July 1. With all the potential suitors, a number of free agents are bound to be overpaid. Whether or not actual bidding wars ensue, the following five players will see big money this offseason.
Mike Green (D)
Washington Capitals free-agent defenseman Mike Green is bound to hit the market after the Capitals signed two big-name free-agent defensemen last season. With Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik brought in a year ago and John Carlson taking on a larger role, Green has seen his role reduced. However, despite the decreased ice time, Green still managed 10 goals and 45 points from the blue line last season. Some teams will shy away from Green because of his concussion history, but he played in 70 and 72 games the past two seasons. While he isn’t the same player who scored 70 points in back-to-back seasons from 2008-2010, he can still be a legitimate top-pairing puck mover and top unit power-play quarterback.
His current contract has him making just over $6 million and it is difficult to envision the best offers being less than that number per year. However, given that concussion history, I wouldn’t want the team I cover, the San Jose Sharks, to sign him unless he took a pay cut to $5 million per and only a three-year deal. The highest bidder though is likely to offer $6 million or more per season over five years. That is an incredibly risky amount of term and dollars for a soon-to-be 30-year old with a history of head injuries.
Matt Beleskey (LW)
After sparkling this past postseason for the Anaheim Ducks, it sounds as if left-winger Matt Beleskey is going to hit the open market. Scoring eight goals in 16 playoff games is going to probably see teams offering $4 million per year over five years. Whichever team signs this deal is going to regret it. Beleskey only had one assist in the playoffs, and nine points in 16 games isn’t that great — just over half a point per game. During the regular season, Beleskey only scored 32 points in 65 games, again right around a half a point per game. And 2014-15 was a career year for the 27-year old.
With a new contract of $4 million per, the team signing him is highly likely to end up paying that type of money for a 30-points-in-82-games player. For that kind of money, at least 45 points is expected out of a scoring winger.
Devan Dubnyk (G)
Former run-of-the-mill Edmonton Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk started last season strong with the Arizona Coyotes. In January, he was traded to the Minnesota Wild and all of a sudden turned into the second coming of Patrick Roy. Dubnyk played every single game down the stretch for the Wild. He lead them into the second round of the playoffs after being on the outside looking in at the playoff picture halfway through the year. The Saskatchewan native started 39 games in the second half for the Wild, shining like a superstar with a .936 save percentage. His performance was the talk of the league garnering him some MVP consideration.
But was it a fluke? That is the big question. How much are the Wild or any other team willing to pay a goaltender who wasn’t even considered a starter at the beginning of the season? He posted a solid .921 save percentage in the lockout-shortened season with Edmonton but backed that up with an abysmal .894 in 2013-14. Just who is Devan Dubynk? Many teams would love to have him on a two-year deal for $3-4 million per, but you get the feeling some team out there is going to pay him $5 million per for five years. That is going to be an over payment.
Justin Williams (RW)
The Los Angeles Kings’ Mr. Game 7 is going to get a big payday as a free agent because of his big-game reputation alone. Despite turning 34 at the start of the season and being a 40-point player the last two years, Williams is going to get paid. The Kings are going to let him walk because of their cap crunch to extend younger players. Williams would be nice to have on a two-year deal for $3.5 million per, but somebody will pay him $4.5 million per for three or four years.
Williams is a fantastic role player, but the term on his contract is what would turn me away. He could end up averaging just 30 points over the course of the next four or five years. That isn’t enough for $4.5 million.
Johnny Oduya (D)
Like Wiliams and Green, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya is a quality veteran NHL player. Even at 33-years old this past postseason, Oduya was one of the core top-four defenseman that Chicago rode insanely hard. And Oduya delivered big time. The Sweden native is an absolute stud with his defensive stick positioning and is a tremendous skater to boot. While he doesn’t chip in a whole lot offensively, he is a guy that a coach can pencil into the top-four every night and not ever have to think about changing his minutes.
Oduya has remained healthy for the majority of his career, having missed just 11 regular season games the past five seasons. Despite the lack of offensive ability, he makes a strong first pass and his skating allows him to jump up in the rush when called upon. This past season his cap hit was $3.38 million. While there is no reason for that number to come down, based on what he did in the playoffs, teams will offer three- or four-year deals in the $4.5-$5 million range and that is just too much dough and term for a defenseman turning 34 this October.