Over the course of this season, the status of the top pending unrestricted free agents will garner growing interest among fans and pundits.
The contract talks of the best potentially available talent, such as New Jersey Devils left wing Taylor Hall and St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, will draw the bulk of the attention by NHL followers. However, there are several secondary players whose performances this season could put them in line for big pay raises.
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Here’s a look at several who could cash in next summer, either with their current clubs or with others via free agency.
Evgenii Dadonov, Florida Panthers
Playing in a largely overlooked hockey market and overshadowed by teammates Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, the 30-year-old winger’s been among the Panthers’ most consistent scorers. Returning to the club in 2017-18 following a five-year stint in the KHL, he tallied 65 points in 74 games, following by a 70-point campaign last season.
With 10 goals and 21 points in 26 games, Dadonov is on pace to reach between 65-70 points again this season. He currently sits third among the Panthers’ leading scorers. Completing a three-year deal worth $4-million annually, the skilled Russian winger could land a four- or five-year deal worth around $6 million per season.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa Senators
The 27-year-old center couldn’t have picked a better time for a potential career performance. Pageau leads the Senators with 15 goals and 21 points in 28 games, putting him on pace for 40 goals and 60 points, respectively.
Even if his current production dips over the course of the season, he should exceed his career-high of 19 goals and 43 points in 2015-16. Coming off a three-year deal worth an annual average value (AAV) of $3.1 million, Pageau could pull in between $4-$5 million annually for five years on his next contract.
Jake Muzzin, Toronto Maple Leafs
Muzzin was overshadowed by Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez during his tenure with the Los Angeles Kings. He’s garnered considerably more attention since joining the Leafs midway through last season.
A big, physical presence, the 6-3, 217-pounder leads the Leafs in hits (61) and takeaways (15), sits second in blocked shots (42), and third in ice time (21:35). He can also chip in offensively, with three 40-point seasons on his resumé. The 30-year-old defenseman is earning an AAV of $4 million on a three-year deal. His next contract could be worth over $6 million per season over four or five seasons.
Zack Kassian, Edmonton Oilers
In his previous nine NHL seasons, Kassian showed flashes of power-forward potential. Injuries and off-ice issues, however, always seemed to derail him. Moving alongside Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl this season, however, has worked wonders to rejuvenate his career.
Before being sidelined by a back injury, the 28-year-old Kassian had 19 points in 26 games, putting him on pace for a career high of 55 points. If he maintains that level of production, he could receive a lucrative extension from the Oilers worth double his current $1.95-million cap hit.
Derick Brassard, New York Islanders
Last season was a difficult one for Brassard. A versatile two-way forward with six 40-plus point campaigns under his belt, he spent 2018-19 split between the Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers, and Colorado Avalanche. His 23 points were his lowest since his rookie season in 2008-09.
Signed by the Islanders to a one-year, $1.75-million contract, the 32-year-old Brassard has regained his form on Long Island. He’s tied for third among Isles scorers with 17 points in 26 games, putting him on pace for 55 points. Given his age, he’s unlikely to get more than a three-year deal after this season, but his salary could jump to $3.5 million annually.