It’s the new normal of the unrestricted free agency period: there’s not much talent on the market anymore. And the talent that is available? Veterans past their prime, many of whom hit the market after playing out massive deals.
There’s no way all 10 of the athletes on this list get a raise this summer. At least one will, and not surprisingly, it’s the player who’s a twentysomething and not a thirtysomething. However, they’ll all have numerous suitors. The insanity and desperation of GMs during UFA season is a certainty. Here’s the 10 players with the highest cap hits who will be unrestricted free agents on July 1.
10. Andrei Markov — $5.75 million — age 35 (as of July 1)
If you have a few hours to kill, look up Markov’s injury history. Those knees have been through trench warfare. After scoring 64 points in 2008-09, the Mr. Bean lookalike played 45, then seven, then 13 games in the following three seasons. The Canadiens took a major risk by signing Markov to a three-year deal a season after he’d missed all but seven games, but the gamble paid — the Russian rearguard missed just one regular season game over the next two productive seasons. Despite his age and injury history, Markov should cash in with a deal that pays at least $4 million. Hard to see him signing anywhere but Montreal, but that’s how I felt about Sergei Gonchar before he left Pittsburgh for Ottawa as a 36-year-old.
9. Mike Cammalleri — $6 million — age 32
The Richmond Hill, Ont., native signed a five-year, $30-million contract with the Habs in 2009 after a 39-goal season with the Calgary Flames. The 5-foot-9 winger timed his offensive outburst perfectly to cash in, and it looks like he’s done so once again; after falling out of favor in Montreal and wading through two so-so years back in Calgary, Cammalleri finished 2013-14 with 21 points in his last 16 games. His season totals of 26 goals and 45 points in 63 games will result in a big payday. His next contract will have an AAV of at least $5 million, especially considering the lack talent on the market.
8. Kimmo Timonen — $6 million — age 39
It was the acquisition of Timonen and Scott Hartnell from the Predators in 2007 that helped vault the Flyers from 22 wins and picking second in the draft (they finished dead last but Chicago won the lottery) to 42 wins and a trip to the Eastern Conference final a season later. Timonen signed a one-year deal to stay in Philly after his original six-year pact expired, but expect that to be the last contract that sees Timonen wearing the Orange and Black. The gifted offensive blueliner is no longer capable of anchoring a defense core and posting 40+ points, but he’s still a solid power play option. One assist in seven 2014 playoff games doesn’t help his value, but he should still get at least $3.5 million on a one or two-year deal.
7. Jarome Iginla — $6 million — age 37
Iginla’s 30-goal, 61-point season was better than the Bruins expected when they signed him to a deal with a base salary of $1.8 million and performance bonuses of $4.2 million. Because Iginla, Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton’s bonuses put the Bruins over the cap, the club will face a cap penalty next season of approximately $4.5 million. It will be challenging to get the right winger under contract for another season, but both sides should be interested. ‘Iggy’ clicked with Milan Lucic and David Krejci, and Iginla outscored Lucic by six goals in two fewer games. No. 12 deserves as many dollars this summer as he earned in 2013-14, so expect a cap hit of no less than $5.5 million.
6. Ryan Miller — $6.25 million — age 33
The playoff failure of the St. Louis Blues did nothing but diminish the value of Miller as he enters free agency. Also hurting Miller’s value is the hesitancy of many GMs to commit big dollars to the goaltending position. More than any factor, though, the flood of respectable free agent goaltenders combined with the relatively few open jobs will give leverage to whichever team eventually nabs the former Sabre. Depending on the cap situation of the team who signs him, Miller could sign for upwards of $6 million on a short-term deal. But if he has to take fewer dollars to fit with a contender, you can bet he’ll take a lesser deal.
5. Paul Stastny — $6.6 million — age 28
If you thought the Brad Richards sweepstakes of 2011 was madness, wait until this July 1 when teams will line up with bags of money to heave at the only true top-six UFA center under 30. Stastny is not elite — he’s only put up 60 points once in his last three full seasons and has never scored 30 goals — but he’s a reliable point producer coming off a solid playoff run where he scored 10 points in seven games. He’ll be looking for max term and a bump on his current cap hit, so look for the son of Peter to get a seven-year deal worth at least $7 million per season.
4. Dan Boyle — $6.67 million — age 37
“What do you think? What do you think? Do you think we went out there and said, ‘Hey guys, we get three more cracks at this’? Do you think that’s what we’re doing? Let me ask you. You’re a reporter, let me ask you a question. So you, your question to me is, did we go out there and think in the back of our minds we have three cracks at this. … Is that what you think we— is that your question to me? … I’m asking, is that your question? That is your question. So did we go out there and think we have three cracks at this. I can’t believe that’s a question but no we did not.”
Boyle wants to stay in San Jose, but the Sharks have decided not to extend an offer to the right-shooting blueliner. With Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau locked in with no-movement clauses and a shakeup needed, letting Boyle walk is an easy starting point for GM Doug Wilson. Boyle should be a popular target this summer, considering he was in contention to make the Canadian Olympic team and averaged 21 minutes on a 51-win team. He’ll sign for minimum $5 million on a two- or three-year deal.
3. Thomas Vanek — $7.14 million — age 30
Vanek’s value after the first two rounds of the 2014 playoffs: high. Vanek’s value after three games of the Eastern Conference final: lower than it’s been in years. Vanek’s payday will be huge, no doubt, considering his output over the past handful of seasons. But as his recent disappearing act demonstrates, Thomas Vanek can become Thomas Vanish, and when he’s not scoring, he’s not useful. Jusk ask Michel Therrien. Expect the Austrian winger to command a max-term deal north of $7 million on the open market.
T-1. Marian Gaborik — $7.5 million — age 32
When the Rangers signed the Slovakian winger to a long-term, big-money deal in 2009, the hockey world laughed. After all, Gaborik had played 17 games through an injury-riddled 2008-09 season, and took part in just 48 games two years before that. Glen Sather, as he often does, went all-in with the unrestricted free agent, and the deal paid off for the Rangers. Gaborik produced, but was dealt to the Blue Jackets in Year Four of the deal. Then the Jackets soured on the sniper, dealing him to the Kings for Matt Frattin and a conditional pick. Kings GM Dean Lombardi, who aggressively pursued Gaborik before he signed with the Rangers, couldn’t be more pleased with his deadline acquisition. Gaborik leads the playoffs with nine goals and is tied for third in points with 15. Despite a history of injuries and inconsistency, he’ll probably land another long-term deal at more than $6 million.
T-1. Dany Heatley — $7.5 million — age 33
Did you know: Dany Heatley is a former all-star. He scored 50 in ’07, remember? (If the reference isn’t registering and you’re not offended by “Not Safe For Work” language, search “dany heatley all star” on YouTube.) The Twitter hockey community remembered; when Heatley scored three points in a Minnesota playoff win against Colorado on April 30, 2014, the hashtag “#50in07″ began trending in Canada. In the early years of the German-born winger’s six-year pact, he was one of the most feared goal-scorers in the NHL. By the end, he was a punchline, scoring 12 goals and 28 points in 76 games. Heatley still has a great shot, but his lack of mobility has caught up with him. The AAV of his next contract should be between $2.5-4 million to play in a bottom-six role while providing value on the power play.