When we talk about the game, we constantly bring up the topic of professional hockey business.
It’s true that wins and losses are the ultimate metrics for all players in the long run, but we’d be lying if we said that even the earliest outcomes for the NHL’s pending class of UFAs didn’t have an impact on their financial situation when they’re looking for a new deal. They most certainly do.
Indeed, players nearing the end of their contracts understand how a dry spell on offence or poor defensive performance can severely limit their next payday, whereas players thriving in a contract year are creating larger cap hits for themselves with every goal and assist or denied goal and assist.
Here are four examples of NHLers who’ve strengthened their UFA negotiating leverage next summer with excellent starts to the regular season and you can try gaming at best New Zealand online casinos while you’re it:
1. BRADY SKJEI, D, CAROLINA HURRICANE
Many veteran defensemen, including Calgary’s Noah Hanifin, Vancouver’s Tyler Myers, Detroit’s Shayne Gostisbehere, and Carolina’s Brett Pesce, will become unrestricted free agents (UFAS) at the end of the season. However, another Hurricanes defenseman, 29-year-old Skjei, has had the best start of that group of looming free agents.
Skjei has the most assists (five) and points (six) among NHL defensemen through four Canes games. He also has the second-most ice time per game of any Carolina defenseman, at 19:55.
While many expect Carolina GM Don Waddell to keep Skjei after this season, there’s little doubt the Hurricanes will face a cap crunch that compels them to trade either Skjei or Pesce. If he can get more from dealing Skjei and keeping 28-year-old Pesce, you can bet the house Waddell will do exactly that.
The Canes have probably the greatest defence corps in the NHL, but the cap is meant to thin out depth almost every season, and it should come as no surprise if Carolina moves on from one of Skjei or Pesce, who may just be indulging in some games from jackpotjill.info. Skjei is likely to get a significant bump on his $5.25-million salary hit this season because of his excellent start to the season.
2. JAKE GUENTZEL, LW, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Guentzel, 29, has a $6 million cap hit this season and has five assists and six points in three games so far.
Sure, he’s not scoring at the 38-goal-per-season pace he’s set the past two seasons, but his assist stats are fantastic, and he’s part of an offensively potent Penguins team that doesn’t rely on him to complete scoring opportunities all the time.
If the cap is raised to $87 million or $88 million next summer, the Pens will have around $18 million in salary space, more than enough to give Guentzel a hefty raise on his current contract, despite the fact that they only have 15 players signed through 2024-25.
Guentzel is in his prime and has a track record of success at the top levels. While most Pittsburgh fans and media expect Pens GM Kyle Dubas to keep Guentzel, there will be plenty of teams eager to pay him $7 million to $9 million per season for the next seven or eight years.
3. WILLIAM NYLANDER, RW, TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
It’s not simply Nylander’s two-point-per-game average through Toronto’s first three games this season that provides him negotiating power; it’s also the manner in which he’s accumulated all of his points.
The 27-year-old’s goal against Minnesota Saturday had panache and power to spare; it was a goal-of-the-season candidate, and it took outstanding vision and skill to pull off.
You could see Nylander’s agent giggling with delight as he scored that goal, knowing full well how much money Nylander was ensuring himself with those types of moves.
Nylander’s current cap hit of $6.96 million is one of the league’s top deals. With the salary cap rising, the Leafs are anticipated to use the majority of the extra space to raise Nylander’s contract to around $9 million to $10 million. If Nylander desired more, he would most certainly be planning his exit from Toronto, but we believe his passion for the city and team will keep him in Blue and White for many years to come.
4. SAM REINHART, RW, FLORIDA PANTHERS
The Panthers have struggled to start the season, but none of that can be blamed on Reinhart, who has three goals and four points in three games while averaging 21:05 of ice time per game.
If the cap is raised, Florida will have around $28 million in cap space next season, but they only have 10 players contracted for 2024-25, which may make the 27-year-old Reinhart too expensive for the Panthers to keep.
Reinhart’s current cap hit of $6.5 million is a steal, especially given how important he was in Florida’s incredible Stanley Cup playoff run last spring. He had eight goals and 13 points in 21 playoff games last year, and if he can produce at least 30 goals and 82 points as he did in 2021-22, Reinhart will receive a 50% increase in free agency next summer.