In his latest article for SB Nation, hockey blogger Satchel Price takes a look at several NHL players who will play out the final year of their contracts this upcoming season and determines who has the most to win and lose in 2017-18.
Price’s argument for the biggest “make-or-break” candidate in 2017-18? Buffalo Sabres forward Evander Kane. The 26-year-old winger will play the final year of a six-year, $31.5 million dollar deal that he signed at just 20-years old. Given the incredible fluctuation in his productivity and his lack of consistency over the past five seasons, it’s difficult to imagine him earning an increase on his $5.25 million annual salary. Having said that, a 30+ goal, 60+ point season would justify such a salary and it’s not out of the realm of possibility given Kane’s unique skills.
The former 3rd overall selection of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Erik Gudbranson has been mostly a disappointment so far in his career. An offseason trade last year from the Florida Panthers to the Vancouver Canucks afforded Gudbranson a fresh start, but injuries dereailed his season and he only managed to play 30 games for the struggling Canucks. After signing a one-year, $3.5 “show me” deal with the Canucks earlier this offseason, he’ll be under pressure in 2017-18 to finally prove his worth.
Lost in all of the fanfare surrounding Toronto Maple Leafs scoring sensations Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander was the fact that James van Riemsdyk established a new career high in points last season. His 62 points were second to just Matthews in 2016-17 and the 29-year-old is poised to do even bigger things in 2017-18. If he can bust out for 35+ goals and 70+ points, he’ll be one of the hottest free-agents on the market next summer.