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NHL players with existing contracts cannot sign a contract extension until the reach the final year of their current contract. Each year, several players are inked to contract extensions when they are eligible on July 1st of the last year of their contract.
While the opening day of free agency will bring a lot of excitement for teams acquiring a new player or two, July 1st can also be a great day for players, as they look to lock up their long-term future with a contract extension with their current team.
Below the Goal Line took a look at the players you should look out for this summer who fit this criteria:
Drew Doughty - Doughty is a legitimate #1 defenseman with the Los Angeles Kings. At 28 years of age, Doughty has won two Olympic Gold Medals and two Stanley Cup championships. Doughty has skated in the last four All-Star Games, and continues to be a top defender in the NHL.
Drew Doughty is enters 2018-19 with a $7,650,000 salary, and a cap hit of $7,000,000. The market for top defensemen in the NHL is going up, and we can expect Doughty to command around $10 million next summer in free agency. The Kings would be wise to lock up one of their best players this year before that happens.
Tyler Seguin - The top center the Dallas Stars, Tyler Seguin will be following along with the John Tavares free agency this summer. Seguin and Tavares are very similar offensive catalysts, and both players will be looking at similar contracts in the near future. Tavares has 621 points in 669 career games, while the younger Seguin has 505 in 590 games.
Seguin will make $6,500,000 next season, but that will likely go up after the 2018-19 campaign, which is his last under contract with Dallas. If John Tavares picks up around $10.5 million this summer, expect Tyler Seguin to find a salary around that same value when it's his turn to hit free agency in the summer of 2019. Seguin could be a candidate for an early extension this summer, but likely will wait until Tavares sets the bar.
Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski - A lot will probably change this summer for the San Jose Sharks, who will be contenders in the John Tavares sweepstakes, but next summer's free agent group will be a good one to watch. Logan Couture and captain Joe Pavelski will hit the market in 2019 if they don't re-sign with San Jose early.
Both players are coming off 6 year, $36 million contracts, and could re-sign this summer if desired. Couture will be looking for a pay increase, likely into the $8 million range. He is a talented two-way center who matches up against the opposing team's top players every night.
Pavelski, on the other hand, will be 34 to start the 2018-19 season, but likely has another two seasons left after his current contract expires. While you cannot expect him to be a huge offensive weapon he has been in his career (eight straight season above 20 goals, on including the lockout-shortened season of 2012-13), he continues to be an effective player, and should be looked at as a good middle-six player going forward.
Artemi Panarin - The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Panarin in the summer of 2017, and will hope to extend him in the summer of 2018 after a 82 point season. Panarin, who makes $6 million dollar a season on his current contract, is the best offensive player in the Blue Jackets' organization, and will be looked upon for continued offensive down the road.
Panarin will almost certainly cross the $7 million threshold, but could command $8.5 million of more.
Nikita Kucherov - The Tampa Bay Lightning forward led the NHL in points for most of this season, but ultimately finished third with 100 points. He is just 24-years-old at the moment, but he will be looking for a new contract after the 2018-19 campaign. Kucherov will certainly earn a contract similar to, or greater than, the contract of team captain and linemate Steven Stamkos, who has an average salary of $8.5 million.
Missed the cut:
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury would be welcome back to the Vegas Golden Knights, but at 34, he might not be in the long-term plans for the organization. They will likely wait to see how Vegas plays next season after a successful first year in 2017-18.
The same can be said about Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators, who might be able to play at a high level after his current contract runs out next season. He is 35 at the moment.
Both Erik Karlsson and Matt Duchene are good players for the Ottawa Senators, but talk about a rebuild in Ottawa might scare the two from re-signing this summer, or even at all.