The hockey world’s focus is not necessarily on the ticker tape parade after the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup victory, but a stock ticker instead, namely that of the value of impending unrestricted free agents following the playoffs.
With that, here’s small sampling of some once highly touted players entering free agency and accompanying evidence as to whether or not they are still:
Mike Green (Fall)
In defense of Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green, during the playoffs he received less than half the power-play ice time per game he did during the regular season (1:11 vs. 2:45). Nevertheless, a meager two assists (total, no goals) is not exactly a ringing endorsement in regard to his abilities as a power-play quarterback.
Considering his 45 points (10 goals) in the regular season, he’ll likely still get paid, just less than his current $6.25-million salary, especially if he stays in Washington, which isn’t quite as likely. Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan has already said: “I think it’s going to come down to if he’s comfortable with that role and what do you pay for that role going forward… If it works out, that’d be great, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
Sheesh, talk about your ringing endorsements.
Martin St. Louis (Fall)
It’s already been reported in the New York Post that the chances of Martin St. Louis returning to the New York Rangers are slim to none. A large reason behind that is his single goal during the playoffs.
While Jaromir Jagr, scoring 67 points at age 41 for the New Jersey Devils last season, proved that an elite player can still contribute into his 40s (St. Louis just hit the milestone), it kind of helps if you to stay elite into your 40s in order for that sentiment to ring true. And even Jagr only made $2 million that year, a far cry from St. Louis’ current $5-million salary.
Wherever St. Louis ends up, if anywhere, he’s likely going to have to take a serious pay cut.
Antoine Vermette (Steady)
A healthy scratch earlier in the playoffs, Chicago Blackhawks forward Antoine Vermette may have lacked point production (seven points in 20 playoffs games; three assists in his last 19 regular-season ones), but he more than made up for it with his timing.
Three of his four playoff goals were game-winners. Two came in the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The other came in double overtime against the Anaheim Ducks in the previous round.
As a result, Vermette should stay in moderately high demand after being one of the prime targets at the trade deadline. Historically, he hasn’t been as clutch in his career as a whole (26 game-winning goals in 11 seasons; an average of 2.4 per), but facts like that have a tendency to get lost during the free-agent frenzy.
Devan Dubnyk (Steady)
His postseason numbers weren’t exactly game-breaking, but Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk nevertheless won a series in his first-ever playoff appearance, upsetting the St. Louis Blues in the first round. That should help negate whatever doubts his suitors might have that he’s a one (half)-year wonder.
A nominee for the Vezina Trophy, Dubnyk posted a 27-9-2 record with a .936 save percentage and 1.78 goals-against average with Minnesota this year, turning him into one of the top feel-good stories of the season after suiting up for six teams in two seasons, including the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League.
So, a mundane .908 save percentage over 10 playoff games shouldn’t be enough to hurt his value on the free-agent market, assuming of course the Wild don’t lock him up first.
Brad Richards (Rise)
After a few years he’d probably like to forget, it’s shaping up to be a pretty good spring/summer for Brad Richards. He earned his second Stanley Cup championship and now he’s due for a raise.
Granted, it will only be a raise on the $2 million he’s making currently, but it’s still pretty much guaranteed. Not only did he ultimately deliver on the depth and experience the Blackhawks sought out by signing that one-year deal last summer, but he showed flashes of his past Conn Smythe Trophy-winning self from back in 2004.
He obviously had some help scoring the 14 postseason points (three goals) he did, playing on a stacked team and all, but so did every other Blackhawk. Take for example goalie Corey Crawford, who is generally considered decent, but not spectacular. Then look at the $6.5 million salary he secured after winning the 2013 Stanley Cup. Results, regardless of your reputation (washed up in Richards’ case), lead to more money.
At 35, he won’t make nearly as much as he once did, but one contender will look to his two Cups and his general success this past postseason and offer him more to secure his services to play much the same role next year, maybe even longer. There may even be a bidding war.
Matt Beleskey (Rise)
While Anaheim Ducks forward Matt Beleskey did benefit from ice time on a line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry this past year, there’s little doubt he’ll find some team to reward him for his resulting 22 regular-season goals (32 points). Seeing as it’s only the second time he’s even hit 10 in a season, it remains to be seen if it’s he’s the next Devante Smith-Pelly or just finding his stride, albeit at age 27.
Nevertheless, he only strengthened his case for a massive raise relative to his current $1.4-million salary with eight postseason goals 16 games.
Numerous cautionary tales exist. Bryan Bickell comes to mind immediately. After his 17-point 2013 postseason, he re-signed for $16 million over four years. The following regular season, he scored just 15.
Is Beleskey the next Bickell? Very likely. Chances are just as good he won’t mind come July 1.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.