Aleksander Barkov’s six-year, $35.4-million extension a steal for Panthers

Matt Larkin
Aleksander Barkov (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

With each passing day, the Florida Panthers and GM Dale Tallon look smarter for grabbing Aleksander ‘Sasha’ Barkov second overall at the 2013 draft. Nathan MacKinnon went first, but many draft rankings had Seth Jones and Jonathan Drouin ahead of Barkov. Today, the big Panthers center is a driving force behind their breakout 2015-16, and he’s been rewarded handsomely.

Per Panthers beat writer and THN correspondent George Richards, the Cats have re-signed Barkov, a pending restricted free agent, to a six-year, $35.4-million contract. The deal carries a $5.9-million cap hit. And it sure looks like a coup for Barkov and the Florida organization.

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Kings mortgage future to have Anze Kopitar in the present

Ken Campbell
Anze Kopitar (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

One of the first things that went through my mind when word surfaced that Anze Kopitar was going to sign an eight-year deal worth $80 million was, are the Los Angeles Kings paying him for what he has already done for them? It’s hard to believe the Kopitar they have for $10 million a year on this deal is going to be as good as the one they had for $3.2 million less on his current contract.

Analytics tells us that Kopitar will decline, probably badly, toward the end of this deal. He likely has had his best years already, although with four goals and 18 points in his past 11 games, Kopitar will have one of the best offensive seasons of his career if he keeps scoring the rest of the season. And his defensive game has never faltered.

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Cast of thousands for Steven Stamkos Show did not include Yzerman

Ken Campbell
Steven Stamkos (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

If the stars align and Steven Stamkos does end up with the Toronto Maple Leafs next season, he’s going to need every penny of his enormous salary just to cover tickets for family and friends. Those things don’t come cheaply, in case you haven’t heard, and there’s likely to be a hike in ticket prices if Stamkos does ride in to save the franchise.

To say that Stamkos had an enormous entourage when the Lightning visited the Maple Leafs Tuesday night would be a huge understatement. Just from Newport Sports alone, which represents Stamkos in the completely non-existent talks that are going on with the Lightning on a new deal were his primary agent Don Meehan, as well as Newport agents Pat Morris, Mark Guy, Wade Arnott, Rand Simon, Josh Epstein and Sarah Stamkos, who works in Newport’s marketing department. (Sara Stamkos’ boyfriend was also there.) Of course, Stamkos’s parents Chris and Lesley, along with his skill coach Jari Byrski and Byrski’s girlfriend.

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Something’s not quite right between Lightning and Steven Stamkos – and now is the time to address it

Ken Campbell
Steven Stamkos  (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Perhaps Steven Stamkos has a propensity for “pocket Tweeting,” or maybe he’s just trying to nudge his contract negotiations with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Or perhaps he’s just having us all on and sitting back laughing at the fact that every move he makes causes the hockey world to lose its collective mind.

But the fact is, something seems not quite right between Stamkos and his employer at the moment. And that’s why when Stamkos, apparently inadvertently hits “like” to a tweet from TSN that highlights a video of a panel talking about whether the Toronto Maple Leafs should take a run at acquiring him, it sets the hockey world abuzz. People trying to find some grain of truth in a Twitter “like” are going to come to certain conclusions.

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Lightning sign Jon Cooper to extension, but what about Steven Stamkos?

Steven Stamkos  (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Has anyone noticed that in 10 days, the Tampa Bay Lightning will visit the Toronto Maple Leafs? But they have caught a break. They play the night before in Columbus and will not arrive in Toronto until the wee hours of the morning, which will likely cancel their morning skate in Toronto. That means Steven Stamkos will not have to face a horde or media wondering why he hasn’t signed a long-term deal with the Lightning yet and asking whether he’ll sign in Toronto this summer.

But unless Stamkos signs an extension with the Lightning between now and then, which he almost certainly won’t, he’d better be prepared for the onslaught after the game. When I last saw Stamkos early in the season in Buffalo and brought up that scenario to him, he said, “Yeah, that’s a little later. There’s still lots of time between then and now and there are still lots of things that can happen.”

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Forget about bridge with Nathan MacKinnon – pass Go and collect a big-money, long-term contract

Ken Campbell
Nathan MacKinnon (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

Even Nathan MacKinnon would be surprised if you told him that almost a quarter into the season, the guy that nobody recognized at the Tim Hortons drive through in those television ads would be 10 points ahead of the guy everyone seemed to know.

Such is life for MacKinnon these days. In his third year in the NHL, MacKinnon seems more comfortable in his skin than ever and it’s showing. The No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft is on pace for 92 points this season and finds himself firmly ensconced in the top 10 NHL scorers. And the other guy in those commercials? Well, Sidney Crosby is off to a miserable start, with just nine points.

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Five free-agent signings making an early impact

Justin Williams (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The salary cap era has made it increasingly difficult for GMs around the league to improve their clubs through trades. As such, it has put more importance on being able to lock up the right free agent to add to a team’s already stacked roster or be the piece that can change the tides.

If the 2015 free agent market will be remembered for anything, it will be the cost-conscious ways of GMs league-wide, which led to some free agents having a difficult time finding work. Veteran winger Curtis Glencross, for instance, chose to retire instead of heading any further into the season without a contract. Blueliner Cody Franson, who doesn’t appear on this list, waited almost the entire off-season before signing a deal with Buffalo.

But even in a tight market, there are more than a few GMs would made savvy signings, be it by dishing out top dollar or using a cost-effective model. Here are five free agent signings who have been well worth their money: Read more