Despite the lingering availability of Jake Gardiner on the market, most teams are just about done with their unrestricted free agent shopping. We saw Kevin Shattenkirk snapped up quickly as soon as he became available, but Michael Stone hasn’t had the same luck so far. Younger players like Ben Hutton may have to wait until the restricted free agent situations around the league are solved, just like some of the older names out there.
Like every year, August brings a lot of questions surrounding the future of long-time NHL skaters. Is it time to hang up their blades, or will there be a team offering a chance at one more kick at the can? In the NHL, multi-year contracts given out to players over the age of 35 come with some added risk. If that player decides to retire at any point, the full average annual value is still applied to his team’s salary cap and he becomes a burden on the books. That only really affects teams that give out expensive deals to aging players though, and one-year contracts for those veterans can actually be quite beneficial to both sides. One-year contracts signed by players over 35 are eligible to include performance bonuses, something that cannot be given to most other players during their NHL careers. We’ve seen plenty of these contracts handed out in the past, and they can be a perfect blend of low risk for the club and high reward for the player.
The group of 35+ skaters this year still without a contract is quite impressive. While last summer our community thought Scott Hartnell was the best “old guy” available late into free agency, this year has some names that could still provide quite an impact. Joe Thornton is one of those names that sticks out, though he is still expected to re-sign with the San Jose Sharks at some point. The (literal) graybeard has made it clear he wants to play again but only for the Sharks, though he’ll likely have to take a pay cut to do it.
Thornton doesn’t even lead the way in terms of 2018-19 production even though he had 51 points last season. Justin Williams takes the cake in that department after his impressive 23-goal, 53-point year with the Carolina Hurricanes. Williams is a respected leader and can still add some offense, but is still making his decision on whether to come back for another year.
Those two aren’t the only useful players in the group however, meaning there might be several 35+ deals handed out over the next month. If you could get one of them on a one-year deal for your team, who would it be? Cast your vote below and make sure to explain why in the comment section.
[Mobile users click here to vote!]