Ever since the NHL implemented the salary cap for the 2005-06 season, wonderful things have happened.
This isn't the '90s anymore, where countless superstars took massive paycuts to join super teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche. The salary cap has forced great teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins to gut key pieces of their roster in trades, because they can't afford to keep all their star players. It's created parity in the NHL, and it's hard to complain about that! The NBA has zero parity; that's why the NHL is way better.
So any who, a number of the NHL's top players are going to find new teams soon -- mainly because of the salary cap. Their current teams won't be able to pay them top dollar or simply can't afford to hold onto their contracts any longer.
Here is a look at 15 NHL stars who will be playing for new teams at the beginning of the 2018-19 season.
*Stats courtesy of Hockey Reference.com*
15 Cam Ward
Because he won both the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy back in 2006, many love to think of Cam Ward as a star goalie. But in reality, Ward has been as mediocre as it gets since winning 30 games back in the 2011-12 season.
The Carolina Hurricanes are on the verge of being great again -- with young players like Jeff Skinner, Noah Hanifin and Victor Rask in the fold. But this team needs to find a better goalie in net, and Ward is likely about to play his last season in Carolina.
He's set to become a free agent in 2018, and Ward will be 34 years of age by then. He won't fit in Carolina's long-term plans, so expect him to either be traded by next year's deadline or for another team to sign him in free agency. It's time for both sides to end this frustrating partnership.
14 Tyler Bozak
Tyler Bozak played a huge role in helping the Toronto Maple Leafs reach the postseason in 2017. He was a great leader for this extremely young team, and scored 18 goals and 55 points this past season. Though Bozak has done a lot for the Maple Leafs, the reality is 2017-18 will likely be his swan song season in Toronto.
That's because he's slated to be a free agent on July 1st, 2018. Bozak will also be 32 years of age by then, and Toronto probably won't be able to afford his services. With Auston Matthews, Connor Brown, Mitch Marner and William Nylander due for big raises down the road -- plus James van Riemsdyk needing an extension -- the Leafs simply can't offer Bozak all that much.
Does Toronto really need him, either? Nope. They have plenty of scoring, so extending a player on the wrong side of 30 doesn't make a lot of sense. Expect Bozak to be playing for a new team after 2017-18.
13 Mike Green
Mike Green lost a lot of money by giving the Detroit Red Wings a bargain of a contract: Three years worth $18 million in the 2015 offseason.
The former 30-goal scoring defenceman registered 14 tallies in 2016-17 -- his best in seven years. Green is by no means a superstar, but he's among the best puck-moving blueliners in hockey, and he will get paid nicely in 2018.As the Red Wings enter a transition stage, it doesn't make sense for general manager Ken Holland to engage in a bidding war for Green's services -- when he's a free agent next summer.
It's hard to find reliable top-four defencemen, so Green can expect to get overpaid -- perhaps a $15-20 million deal. It'll come from a Stanley Cup-hungry team, too. Not the rebuilding Red Wings squad.
12 Mikko Koivu
According to QuantHockey.com, Mikko Koivu ranks first all-time in Minnesota Wild scoring with 614 points. That being said, Koivu has never been a true superstar, and it's unlikely he'll be playing in the State of Hockey beyond next season.
That's because Minnesota has their hands tied up in some big contracts (Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Devan Dubnyk, among others), and they need to maintain cap space in order to extend some of their top young players.
Koivu will be 35 years of age next season, and he's also entering a contract year. Some team(s) are surely going to overpay for his services. Can he score 50-plus points again in his mid-30s? Unlikely. The Wild will have to thank him for all his hard work and pass on keeping the Finish standout after 2017-18. He'll sign a nice contract for another team in just over a year's time.
11 Evander Kane
The Buffalo Sabres winger is coming off a 28-goal season, the second most of his career. But Evander Kane has gotten into legal troubles off the ice, and as he enters a contract year, many believe the Sabres will look to trade him.
According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, there is interest from a "number of teams" in trading for Kane. The Vancouver Canucks were apparently close to trading for him, but Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported that they backed away on a deal at the last minute.
So you have the fact that Buffalo is looking at trading Kane. You have multiple teams interested. You have the fact Kane is one year away from free agency. Yep, you better not go buying any Evander Kane jerseys if you're a Sabres fan.
10 Patric Hornqvist
Patric Hornqvist has been everything the Pittsburgh Penguins could have hoped for since they made a gutsy call in trading away sniper James Neal for his services. Hornqvist has reached 20 goals in his first three years in the Steel City, and is among the league's better defensive forwards.
But the Penguins only have a projected $12.94 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com. They'll surely have to spend aplenty of it to re-sign RFAs Brian Dumoulin and Justin Schultz, plus some of their pending UFAs in Chris Kunitz, Trevor Daley and Matt Cullen.
The Penguins won't have enough cap space to pay Hornqvist what he's worth when he hits free agency next July. He'll also be 31 years of age by then, and it's easy to see Hornqvist wanting to get paid what he's worth. Like many Penguins of the past, Hornqvist will price himself out of Pittsburgh.
9 Sedin Twins
The Vancouver Canucks have delayed an inevitable rebuild for too many years; mainly because president Trevor Linden has admitted to the media that it wouldn't be fair to Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Well, the good news is that the twins are turning 37 in September and are entering contract years.
Vancouver has to start playing their young kids more, so it makes no sense to keep these fading stars around beyond next season. For another, the Sedins should discover the desire to chase a Stanley Cup and leave Vancouver together to chase one elsewhere.
It's possible the Canucks decide to trade the Sedins at next year's trade deadline. Teams are always aggressive leading up to that time, so there should be plenty of interested suitors. And if not? Vancouver will probably realize it's more logical to let them sign elsewhere in 2018 and move on from the franchise legends.
The Sedins have done a lot for Vancouver. But the NHL is a business. It's time for the ageing veterans to move on from a rebuilding team.
8 Jordan Eberle
Ever since the Edmonton Oilers heartbreaking postseason defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks, there's been plenty of speculation that they'll look to ship out Jordan Eberle. With Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl due for mega raises, GM Peter Chiarelli would be wise to look at moving out Eberle's $6 million salary.
TSN's Darren Dreger reported recently that there are plenty of teams interested in acquiring the speedy winger, and the New York Islanders could be a suitor. Given Eberle's disappointing performance in the postseason, it makes sense for Edmonton to trade him away for help on the blue line.
Anaheim beat Edmonton with their superior depth, speed and toughness on the blue line. Adam Larsson and Oscar Klefbom are good, but they could use plenty of support. Look for Eberle to get traded either this summer or next for defensive help, as Edmonton tries to clear space to lock up their top players.
7 Paul Stastny
Paul Stastny has been a huge disappointment with the St. Louis Blues ever since they handed him a four-year, $28 million contract four years ago. After being a reliable 60-70 point man with the Colorado Avalanche, Stastny's most productive season in St. Louis was 2015-16, when he had 10 goals and 49 points.
That being said, Stastny is still an extremely reliable second-line center and has a few good years left in him. He's not big by any means, but he does have the slick speed, touch and great puck possession skills -- racking up a 54.8 percent Corsi for with the Blues.
But as St. Louis sees its Stanley Cup window closing rapidly, they'll want to get younger and faster in the foreseeable future. Stastny is set to be a free agent next year, and it's hard to see the Blues keeping him around when you consider how inconsistent he's been for them. Stastny will surely find a new home in next year's offseason.
6 Sami Vatanen
With the Anaheim Ducks enriched in young defencemen (Cam Fowler, Shea Theodore, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour), Sami Vatanen will likely be the odd man out this summer. The Vegas expansion draft means Anaheim will risk losing one of their young blueliners if they don't swing a trade, and moving out Vatanen probably makes the most sense.
Vatanen has found his name in the rumour mill aplenty this offseason -- especially with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Ducks need some more help scoring up front, so look for GM Bob Murray to trade away Vatanen for help in that department. If Vatanen isn't traded this offseason, he probably will be in a year's time. The Ducks need to extend Fowler (who has one year left on his deal), so moving out Vatanen to clear cap is a necessity.
5 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Much like the situation with Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could find himself traded either this offseason or next summer. Nugent-Hopkins carries a $6 million cap hit for four more years (per CapFriendly.com), and Edmonton will need to clear themselves of that money if they're to extend McDavid and Draisaitl.
Nugent-Hopkins also disappointed in the playoffs for Edmonton this season, as his rather soft play and inability to capitalize on scoring chances held back the Oilers in more ways than one. But he's still a quality scorer and given his age (24), Nugent-Hopkins should be able to attract plenty of interest on the trade market.
Edmonton should have no problem trading Nugent-Hopkins for a quality top-four defencemen. They have more than enough scoring, and they're overpaying RNH by miles. Its really a matter of when, not if, he gets traded.
4 Rick Nash
Rick Nash has been one of the best power forwards of his era, and the New York Rangers wouldn't be a perennial force in the Eastern Conference without his help. In his five years with the Rangers, Nash has scored at least 20 goals in four different seasons. Nash's physical style of play also helped the Rangers reach the 2014 Stanley Cup Final and the 2015 Eastern Conference Final.
But Nash turns 33 this offseason and is heading into the final year of his contract. As the Rangers continue to rely more on young players like Chris Kreider, Jimmy Vesey and J.T. Miller, it's hard to envision them keeping Nash around beyond the 2017-18 season.
The Rangers need to rely less on past-their-prime veterans, and with Nash likely to command top dollar in free agency, expect another team to pry the star power forward away from The Big Apple.
3 James Neal
The James Neal and Patric Hornqvist trade has benefited both the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins. Neal has scored at least 23 goals in his first three seasons in the Music City, and was a key part in helping the Preds reach their first-ever Stanley Cup Final this year.
But the Predators are going to have to re-sign some of their key players over the next couple of offseasons. Ryan Johansen's in line for a significant raise, while Austin Watson, Viktor Arvidsson and Mike Fisher also need new contracts.
By the time GM David Poile has taken care of those players, he won't have much money to re-sign Neal -- who's set to hit the free agent market in 2018. Neal could easily command $5 to $6.5 million a season, and plenty of teams will be willing to pay him a lot. The typically budget-conscious Predators won't be able to match, so expect 2017-18 to be his final year in Nashville.
2 Alex Galchenyuk
The Montreal Canadiens drafted Alex Galchenyuk with the third selection pack in 2012, expecting him to take over as a franchise centreman. But besides a 30-goal and 56-point season in 2015-16, Galchenyuk has struggled with consistency and hasn't been able to reach his full potential with the Habs.
Montreal was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs because they simply couldn't score. That's been a problem for too many years, so GM Marc Bergevin will have to make some changes to the forward unit.
Galchenyuk could easily fetch the Canadiens another quality young scorer in a trade, and possibly more. It's certainly possible Montreal gives Galchenyuk one more season to reach his full talent level. But if he doesn't, expect the Canadiens to pull the plug on the Galchenyuk project and look for a solution elsewhere.
1 John Tavares
The New York Islanders have yet to extend their franchise captain, John Tavares. The fact he's 13 months away from free agency without a new deal is already somewhat alarming; it could be a sign he doesn't have the desire to remain on Long Island much longer.
Tavares would be arguably the most sought-after free agent in NHL history. 70-80 scorers who also provide quality leadership in their mid-20s are more rare than a Donald Trump tweet that actually makes sense. There have been long-withstanding rumours that Tavares will join the Toronto Maple Leafs -- meaning he would play with world class star, Auston Matthews. Think about that for a moment.
The Islanders haven't been able to show Tavares that they can build around him. They've won just one playoff series in his eight years there. They also won't be able to out-bid teams like Toronto for his services. So believe it or not, look for 'Johnny T' to find a new home next offseason.
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