It’s just under eleven months until the 2017 free agent period, but the concerns about players on expiring deals should already be starting. Many bigger names sign quickly once they’re eligible to, a year in advance. This year, we’ve already seen Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman and Stars forward Jamie Benn signed to long-term extensions.
Those are contending teams extending superstars who are obviously in their prime. Not every good player on an expiring contract is such an obvious case. Here are four players whose contracts will expire after this season, and what their teams might think about them.
- Brad Marchand – Marchand is a great player, who scores goals, agitates, and plays well defensively. Coming off a 37 goal season, he’s in line for a pretty big contract. Still, he’ll be 29 when his contract expires next July, and the Bruins are going to have to reckon with where they are as a franchise. They have plenty of cap room, but should they miss the playoffs for a third straight year, it might be time to rebuild. Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and Tuukka Rask aren’t getting any younger. It’s not that Marchand is old, or has to be moved. The question is whether to give the kind of term that will likely be demanded from a player who will be well into his thirties at the end of a rebuilding effort.
- Ben Bishop – Bishop has been the subject of trade speculation all summer. The Lightning are serious contenders, winning five playoff rounds in two years, and aren’t looking to give away key players off their roster. The dilemma is about his salary, and the expectations around backup Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning will probably give Vasilevskiy every opportunity to win the job, and if he does, trade Bishop at the deadline. Should Vasilevskiy be unable to demand the starting job, Tampa Bay could be forced to try to re-sign Bishop at the last minute.
- Brent Burns – Burns has probably the fewest question marks of anyone on this list. The Sharks have managed to keep bringing back other stars, like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, despite their age, and continue to contend. Burns can play on the wing or defense, scores at a ridiculous rate, and was arguably their best player during their Stanley Cup run this year. The question comes down to price tag, and how much Burns wants to stay in San Jose. Given his teammates, their success, and the California weather, if they can make room, Burns should be in San Jose for a long time.
- Kevin Shattenkirk – Another subject of trade discussion all summer, it’s looking less likely he’ll be a Blue this time next year. It’s just rare for a team to shop a player of his caliber if the team thinks they can keep him. Still, the Blues are really good, and it’s hard to see him being moved for prospects or draft picks. If Shattenkirk is traded before his contract expires, St. Louis will want back a scoring forward. There’s been speculation about Rick Nash and Taylor Hall, but the latter has already been dealt. Of all the players here, Shattenkirk looks most likely to hit free agency in 2017.