NHL Rumor Mill – April 13, 2022
In today’s NHL Rumor Mill, a look at five pending unrestricted free agents who could turn strong postseason performances into big paydays this summer.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ian Kennedy believes Toronto Maple Leafs’ Jack Campbell and Ilya Mikheyev, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evan Rodrigues, Colorado Avalanche winger Andre Burakovsky and New York Rangers forward Andrew Copp could cash in big this summer if they have strong performances in the upcoming 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While regular-season performance is often the benchmark in contract negotiations, a strong postseason effort is also a determining factor in what the final deal looks like.
With an annual cap hit of $1.65 million, Campbell is already underpaid as a bona fide NHL starter. While there’ve been some health concerns, the 29-year-old goaltender could earn a considerable raise if he backstops the Maple Leafs on a deep playoff run.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Campbell is going to earn a significant pay increase. How much he gets (and whether he gets it from the Leafs) could depend on his performance in the 2022 playoffs. Winning their first series since 2004 could earn him $6 million annually on a long-term contract. If he backstops the Leafs to their first Stanley Cup since 1967, he could push for $8 million annually, forcing the cap-strapped club to choose between slashing payroll to retain him or watch him get signed by another club.
Mikheyev ($1.645 million) has shown promise as a potential top-six winger this season. However, he’ll have to carry that over into the postseason. He’s played in 12 NHL playoff games but has yet to register a point.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Leafs with $73.6 million invested in 15 active players for 2022-23. If the Leafs can sign Campbell to an affordable cap hit (under $5 million annually), they’ll have enough to ink Mikheyev to a decent raise ($3 million?) on his next contract. That would mean shedding salary elsewhere to free up cap room to fill out the remainder of the lineup. Otherwise, Mikheyev will have to seek his raise in this summer’s open market.
Rodrigues is enjoying a career-best with 18 goals and 42 points in 75 games. However, he’s yet to put together consecutive productive campaigns. The 28-year-old forward also has limited playoff action, appearing in just two postseason contests.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rodrigues is on a one-year, $1 million contract. His biggest annual average value was $2 million on a one-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres in 2019-20. As Kennedy points out, he could cash in on the open market this summer as a middle-six winger with a solid playoff performance.
Kennedy believes Burakovsky could price himself out of the Avalanche’s market if he has another strong postseason outing as he did in 2020 with 17 points in 15 games. The 27-year-old winger is enjoying a career-high performance this season with 20 goals and 53 points in 70 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Burakovsky’s annual cap hit is $4.9 million. The Avs have almost $56 million invested in 13 players with Darcy Kuemper and Nazem Kadri also slated to become UFAs this summer and superstar Nathan MacKinnon due for a major raise after next season. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s skating with another club next season.
Copp is a consistent, versatile middle-six forward with a current cap hit of $3.64 million. He’s played a solid two-way game in the postseason but he’s managed just 12 points in 34 playoff games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Kennedy that Copp’s going to get paid. A strong postseason effort with the Rangers will certainly help him in the UFA market.