With the Stanley Cup Playoffs winding down it’s time to consider how players still competing in the postseason have better positioned themselves ahead of free agency.
Here are three standouts who could cash in when the market opens on July 1.
John Carlson, D, Washington Capitals
We’ve seen this before. On his contract year, a player has a career-best season and then gets a nice raise during free agency. Carlson, who wrapped the regular season with a career-high 68 points, could be next to get that contract-year bump, especially with his high-end production continuing into the third round of the postseason.
Prior to the 2017-18 campaign, Carlson’s career high was 55 points, and he’s averaged 51 points over the past three years (adjusted for 82 games). That’s more good news for Carlson’s agent, who is sure to highlight the veteran blue-liner’s status as the top right-handed shot available. The next best option is an older, injury-riddled, and less productive Mike Green.
Paul Stastny, C, Winnipeg Jets
Dealt from St. Louis to Winnipeg at the trade deadline, Stastny’s production saw only a slight increase following the deal, up 0.05 points per contest. But he’s raised his play in the postseason, tallying 15 points through 13 games to outpace key offensive threats like Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Kyle Connor.
If John Tavares becomes a free agent he’ll undoubtedly be the top center available. But teams that miss out on the New York Islanders captain can come calling for Stastny. Currently on a $7-million contract, Stastny’s strong playoffs after a pedestrian regular season in St. Louis could earn him a similar annual figure.
James Neal, RW, Vegas Golden Knights
There’s a lot to like about Neal, and more than just intriguing intangibles like grit and leadership that typically boost a player’s value in free agency.
The savvy winger also brings a steady scoring touch. He’s displayed that throughout his career, including Neal’s first year with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. Neal continues to be a proven veteran who delivers when it matters. He’s tied for fourth in Vegas playoff scoring with seven points over 11 games.
Adding to the intrigue is that the 30-year-old has never reached free agency, meaning many teams will finally have their shot at signing him to their squad.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)