With the trade deadline looming, more teams are become aware of who is buying and who is selling. Usually, teams that are set to miss the post-season go into selling mode, parting ways with players that are either cap liabilities or that have contracts set to expire at season’s end. The following article will highlight several of those players in particular who can possibly be moved at the deadline because of their current status on the team as a pending free agent.
The players involved on this list won’t be resigned for a variety of reasons. One being the fact that this game is truly all about youth and, if you’re 35 and over, your playing days might come to an end, even if you’re not ready to hang them up. Others on the list are included simply because of the cap crunch, as some teams on the list are right against the cap, making it impossible for them to re-sign the player if they wanted to. And finally, the other set of players that won’t resign simply need a change of scenery and a fresh new start away from their current team.
Let us now begin and travel across the league, looking at the most likely NHL stars that won’t be re-signing with their current team at the end of the season. Some will be signing elsewhere or get traded before the deadline, while others, might retire or leave the league to play overseas. These are the 15 NHL players that won’t be resigned next season, enjoy!
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15 Thomas Vanek
With Pavel Datsyuk announcing his NHL retirement, the Wings went into scramble mode, trying to fill up the gaping hole left by the Russian centerman. One of their curious pickups last off-season was forward Thomas Vanek, as they inked the winger to a one year, $2.6 million dollar deal. Looking at his decline in play over the last couple of years, several eye brows were raised at the move.
Surprisingly, Vanek has enjoyed some great success this season, finding chemistry with another new Red Wing, Frans Nielsen. Playing only 38 games this year, Thomas currently sits second on the team in points.
Several factors indicate that Vanek will no be back in The Motor City. For one, the Wings are still on the outside of the playoff bubble and with so many teams still in contention, it looks like the Wings are likely to sell at the deadline, with Vanek being one of those pieces. Second, even if the Wings wanted to retain his services, it’s impossible given their cap situation which is among the highest in the league. With several extensions set to be made, expect Ken Holland and the Wings to cut ties with the sniper despite his exceptional season.
14 Jiri Hudler
Jiri Hudler absolutely thrived under Bob Hartley in Calgary, but hasn’t been the same player since he was shipped away from the team. He was average with the Panthers during their playoff push and is currently undergoing the very worst season of his career as a Dallas Star. In 22 games thus far, Hudler has notched a mere two goals along with five helpers.
He was injured for a bit, but the problems have continued as he was a healthy scratch last game. With the Stars being on the playoff bubble, perhaps the team will be inclined to get something in return at the deadline before his contract expires and he leaves for absolutely nothing. No matter what the case may be, the possibility of Hudler re-signing after such an abysmal season seems highly unlikely. Look for the veteran to sign another one year deal with a team looking for an experienced face at a cheap price.
13 Jarome Iginla
With the Avs at the bottom of the table, picking up a measly 28 points in 47 games, Jarome Iginla finds himself in a situation he truly wants no part of at this point in his career. With his contract set to expire and at the age of 39, it’s quite clear the plan is to trade Iggie before the deadline.
His stats certainly haven’t helped his cause this season, as he only has six goals in 48 games, meaning he's on pace for his worst career year. However, several teams can use his veteran presence during a playoff push making the likelihood of him leaving the Avs highly likely to happen any day now. What remains to be seen is if Iggie will return for one more season following the current one. Judging by the slide in his play, all signs point to no. However, finding a new home can change that mentality in a hurry, so it's possible he might return for another year or two on a true contending team.
12 Chris Kunitz
Like the Red Wings, the Pens are currently in the midst of the cap crunch, as they're right against the limit at the moment. With the likes of Nick Bonino and Chris Kunitz entering free agency, one of them is likely going to depart and, at the moment, it seems like that’s going to be Kunitz.
Along with Crosby’s dominance, the Pens are now younger and faster than ever, which has led to the team’s recent success and dominance of the league. Players like Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary have emerged as stars on the team, while Kunitz has taken a back seat. He currently plays on the fourth line and has picked up six goals in 43 games. His numbers have declined over the years, but his 15 point total is on pace for a career low. Looking at the evidence, it seems like the 37 year old is on his way out of the team.
11 Brian Elliot
Once again, the Calgary Flames have found themselves with some goalie troubles. They pressed the eject button on their three goalie system from last year and opted to pick up the services of Brian Elliot, trying to find themselves a clear cut, number one goaltender.
Well, once again, the gamble hasn't worked out, but thankfully, he only had one year left on his contract. At the moment, Elliot has a 10-12 record along with an abysmal .896 save percentage. The only reason Calgary remains in the playoff bubble is because of the play and unlikely heroics of backup Chad Johnson, who has started more games than Elliot and has a winning record of 16-12 thus far.
With the Flames crunched for cap space and Sam Bennett hitting RFA status this off-season, look for Elliot to be yet another casualty on the long list of failed Calgary goaltenders.
10 Ben Bishop
With the Tampa Bay Lightning on the outside of the playoff picture, shipping away Bishop before he leaves for absolutely nothing is a priority for GM Steve Yzerman. Looking at the team’s current cap situation, re-signing Bishop will literally be impossible, as the likes of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin are all set to become RFAs at the end of the season.
This leaves the door open for a possible contender to make a trade for the big man’s services. The Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues could be very interested considering the goalie troubles their currently dealing with. Either way, whether it be at the trade deadline or free agency period, Ben Bishop will be gone from the Tampa Bay organization and will be the starter for another team.
9 Justin Williams
Yes, it’s a young man’s game, but at the age of 35, Justin Williams is still going strong. enjoying another great season. He's scored 17 goals thus far in 50 games, which is pretty darn good.
Despite the fact that he continues to contribute, the likelihood of him returning next year is quite slim. The Caps have a plethora of high end free agents coming at season’s end. including the likes of T.J. Oshie, Andre Burakovsky, Karl Alzner and. the biggest of the bunch, RFA Evgeny Kuznetsov.
With such high profile names needing to be re-signed, it’ll make things a heck of a lot easier to let go of Justin’s $3.25 million dollar deal. Set to be 36 at the start of next season, it looks pretty certain that the Caps wont opt to renew his deal following this season’s playoff push.
8 Jonathan Bernier
In the final year of his horrible $4.15 million per year deal given by the Leafs, it seems like Bernie is set to hit free agency following this season. He’s currently backing up John Gibson in Anaheim and, although he hasn’t been all that bad, it’s his inconsistent play that makes him a liability for teams.
In all likelihood, we'd expect Jonathan Bernier to finish the season off with the Ducks, although Anaheim might be inclined to purchase another goaltending insurance policy in the case that Gibson goes down. Whatever the case might be, after Bernie finishes off the season, he’ll find himself on the free agent market. Look for the goaltender to either sign a cheap deal to back up in the NHL or go play overseas.
7 Martin Hanzal
Once again, the Arizona Coyotes are tanking and in line for another high end prospect, as they're set to pick in the top three selections in the upcoming draft. With a recent history of losing, the team has made headlines in the last couple of years for being sellers at the deadline. A name which constantly seems to come up is Martin Hanzal.
This year, however, the team might be a little more eager to trade him considering he’s hitting free agency and unlikely to re-sign with the team. Given that possibility, the team might be inclined to deal him at the deadline for a big return. However, according to the rumor mill, the Coyotes are asking for a little too much, making a trade a distant possibility at the moment. With the deadline looming, look for the team to get a little more flexible in dealing the big man to a cup contender.
6 Radim Vrbata
Another Coyote added to the list, Radim Vrbata recently made his return to the Arizona Coyotes following a two year hiatus from the club. The veteran sniper inked a one year deal with the team, signing a $1 million contract with a club he previously built his career with.
Set to turn 36 this summer, the winger's play is currently on the decline, although he’s still proven to be an asset, picking up 35 points in 50 games. Which such stats, a team could be inclined to trade for the winger during a playoff push.
Following the end of the season, we expect Radim to change area codes, signing another one year deal with a team or possibly leaving the league for a contract overseas. Whatever the case may be, we expect Vrbata to leave the desert for good this time around.
5 Kevin Shattenkirk
As the trade deadline draws near, Kevin Shattenkirk remains one of the hottest names on the market. With the Blues in shambles at the moment, the likelihood of a deal is becoming much more possible.
It’s not secret, St. Louis cannot resign him given the fact that he’s entering his prime and wanting more bucks, something the Blues simply cannot give to him due their current cap situation. Which leads us to believe the team will have no other choice but to trade the blueliner come trade deadline day, as opposed to having him walk as a free agent for nothing. Contending teams will certainly show some interest, as the Habs are amongst the teams that are in trade talks with the Blues concerning their d-man. No matter what the outcome is, trade deadline or free agency, Shattenkirk's days as a St. Louis player are numbered.
4 Ryan Miller
At the beginning of the season, it seemed like a layup that Ryan Miller would be departing from the team, though it likely wouldn't be for much. His stats were awful last year and Vancouver weren't likely to make a push for the playoffs.
Fast-forward to now and that’s all changed, as Miller has had somewhat of a career resurgence in the last couple of months. losing one regulation game in his last eight starts. Vancouver, being a team on the rebuild, is no doubt ecstatic about this and what it could mean come trade deadline. With teams looking to secure an insurance policy between the pipes, Miller can surely gather some interest as several teams have kicked the tires on Miller’s current status. At the age of 36 and with a cap hit of $6 million, we believe the Canucks will motor on with their rebuild, giving the keys to the cheaper alternative, Jacob Markstrom, leaving Miller’s NHL future as a big question mark for next season.
3 Patrick Sharp
Riddled with injuries this season, Patrick Sharp hasn’t had the easiest time keeping consistent, netting only six goals in the 26 games he's played. Along with his injury riddled season, Sharp currently finds himself on the team’s third line playing alongside Devin Shore and Radek Faska.
With Dallas being another team on the playoff bubble, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Sharp. His contract, that’s set to expire, will free up a huge chunk of cash for Dallas at $5.9 million per season. The Stars might be more inclined to seek help via free agency while making the 35 year old veteran take a walk. If that’s the case, the Stars might as well try to shop Sharp during the trade deadline. Look for Dallas to demand picks and prospects in return for the useful veteran winger.
2 Andrei Markov
At the age of 38, Andrei Markov continues to motor on with the Montreal Canadiens. When he’s healthy, Markov has proven to be a great force on the back end, despite his age, due to his great puck moving abilities.
The key there, however, is 'when he’s healthy.' Markov has missed a chunk of games this year for the first time since 2010-11, when he dealt with a lot of injuries for 2-3 years. That leads to the question if he’s more inclined to close his career out overseas, playing at home in the KHL? The good news for Habs fans is that Markov has several fellow Russians on his current team, as well as the recent addition of his new defensive partner, Nikita Nesterov.
At the end of the day, the tipping point might be what Markov demands out of the Habs. If he does return, his prior $5.75 million per year deal needs to be cut dow,n especially considering that the Habs need to resign RFA Alex Galchenyuk and star sniper Alexander Radulov. With only so much cap space, Markov can find himself out of La Belle Province.
1 Jaromir Jagr
At the age of 44, the ageless wonder that is Jaromir Jagr is still going strong. He was absolutely brilliant last season, leading the Panthers to a postseason birth along with netting 27 goals and 66 points. Not bad for a guy over 40, wouldn’t you say?
His fantastic season caused him to resign with the team, but he’s failed to recapture the magic this season. In 51 games, Jags has only nine goals. Although those numbers are pretty low, the Panthers haven’t aided the veteran, going through a rough season on the outside of the playoff picture as of this writing.
The Panthers have a plethora of room when it comes to the cap, with almost $10 million of spending at their disposal. However, it might not be up to them to keep Jagr and the veteran might once again be on the move, joining another contending franchise on a one year deal.
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