Though Steven Stamkos has been dominating the free agent headlines as we inch closer to Friday’s deadline, there’s another player who some teams might value quite highly. Kyle Okposo has been a hugely productive player the last few years, ranking 17th in PPG since 2013-14. Last season he put up 64 points, tying him with Stamkos for the lead among the unrestricted class, and only turned 28 this April.
A three-time twenty goal scorer, Okposo now has 369 points in 529 career games and usually graded out as a positive possession player. The caveat though is that he’s spent a lot of time on the wing of New York superstar John Tavares, and his stats may be inflated because of it.
Despite the potential Tavares-shaped red flag, Okposo is sure to get interest from at least a dozen teams this offseason. His combination of youth, offensive performance and an increasingly physical style will make teams salivate as they imagine installing him on their top line. 60-point wingers don’t grow on trees, and as Arthur Staple of Newsday reports there are already a handful of teams calling for him.
If the rumors are true, the LA Kings do seem like a natural fit for the winger as they’ll be losing both Milan Lucic and Kris Versteeg this summer. Though Okposo plays the right side, and Lucic the left, the offense would be a welcome addition to a team looking to make it back to the playoffs. Perhaps playing along excellent centers in Anze Kopitar or Jeff Carter would hide some of the regression many believe to be coming.
Detroit also seems like a good fit, as though they are deep on the left side with Tomas Tatar, Justin Abdelkader and Henrik Zetterberg (when he’s not playing in the middle) they have only Gustav Nyquist as a proven top-six guy on the right side. Okposo would be a great consolation prize if they can’t land Stamkos, as the team heads into a new era without Pavel Datsyuk.
In our Top 50 List we had Okposo receiving a seven-year, $47.25MM deal from the Sabres, giving him an annual salary of $6.75MM. As GM Tim Murray has recently been quoted saying he’s going to go after the “big fish” this summer, perhaps it’s not out of the question that Okposo would land there. Either way, expect him to sign a deal for at least six years, and upwards of $40MM. The Minnesota native may in fact crack $7MM per season, something that only 28 skaters currently do.
If the last few seasons are his true talent, perhaps he’ll be looking to be paid even higher than that, as players like Corey Perry, Phil Kessel and Jonathan Toews all earn a substantial amount more, while providing less offensive production (on a per game basis) the last three years. While it would be hard to see anyone rank him ahead of these players overall, perhaps that’s just a symptom of riding under Tavares’ shadow and in the less-covered portion of New York sports.