One of my nerdy hockey (and sports) obsessions is to study the breakthroughs an athlete will experience in a contract year. Just look at Fernando Pisani’s fluke playoff run or last year’s Boston Bruins. My question is, which players could turn a great playoff run into a husky pay day? Now let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference.
(Note: this isn’t a comprehensive list of free agents. Instead, it’s players who might make an impact on the ice and at the bank)
Jose Theodore and Nicklas Backstrom both are huge pending free agents. On the bright side, the Capitals can match any offer sheet thrown Backstrom’s way. But what if the ghost of Kevin Lowe* whispers in the ear of a devious general manager and forces the Capitals to match a huge offer sheet? If I were the GM of the Islanders or Panthers, I’d strongly consider itl
* – Wait, he’s still alive? Oops. I thought that Brian Burke … dealt with him.
Both the Canadiens’ goalies are free agents going into the playoffs. If Tomas Plekanec can back up his fighting words, he could have a big contract to match his big mouth.
Who’s that one obscure forward in New Jersey? Ilya Kovalchuk or something? Paul Martin also remains a key player to re-sign.
Since every Flyers goalie free-agent-to-be seems to be injured, the player with the most to gain is probably Braydon Coburn.
The remaining free agents to watch for the other four Eastern Conference playoff teams are after the jump.
They don’t have any big-time UFA’s to be, but Raffi Torres has plenty to prove.
Blake Wheeler has had a down year after putting together a great 08-09 season, but a great playoff run could mean that the big forward would still get some nice change. Dennis “Pain Sponge” Seidenberg won’t be able to absorb any more punishment for money as he’s out for two months. Bummer.
It’s hard to imagine that the Penguins will be able to keep Sergei Gonchar, so another deep playoff run would allow the Russian defenseman to earn the multi-year whopper of a contract he’s hoping for. Alex Ponikarovsky and Bill Guerin are also semi-notable free agents in waiting.
Anton Volchenkov – another pain sponge – could get a raise if he helps shut down Sidney Crosby. Other than that, the Senators are more or less covered.