David Backes (Getty Images)
The St. Louis Blues haven’t made major changes this off-season and will have to find a way to have post-season success. If the Blues are ousted from the post-season early again in 2015-16, could captain David Backes leave as a free agent in 2016? In addition to Backes, Rumor Roundup looks at other quality UFAs in 2016.
Scratch one big name from next summer's list of top potential unrestricted free agents, as the Calgary Flames re-signed captain Mark Giordano on Tuesday to a six-year, 40.5-million extension. Still, a number of significant players remain eligible for UFA status next July.
Earlier this month, we listed the top players in the UFA class of 2016, citing Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, Los Angeles' Anze Kopitar and Carolina's Eric Staal among the notable. Even if all the players on that list are eventually re-signed, there could still be quality talent available. Here's a look at some of them:
David Backes, St. Louis Blues. The Blues captain will earn $4.75 million in actual salary in 2015-16. The Blues have come up short in post-season play, making this coming season a crucial for the 31-year-old Backes and his teammates. Another early playoff exit could result in significant changes to their core. Backes could be among them.
Mikkel Boedker, Arizona Coyotes. Boedker will be 26 next summer, making him one of the youngest players potentially available. He's on a one-year deal earning $3.75 million. If Boedker decides to test the UFA market, a number of suitors will queue up for his services.
Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche. It's unlikely the Colorado Avalanche will allow their best defenseman to reach next summer's UFA market. Of course, that depends upon his salary demands. The 27-year-old could try to double his current annual cap hit of $3.75 million.
Kyle Okposo, New York Islanders. Okposo's name popped up as a trade candidate before the NHL draft. While Isles management downplayed the speculation, the 27-year-old right winger's contract status could be a hot topic throughout 2015-16. His current cap hit is $2.8 million, though in actual salary he's earning $4.5 million.
Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens. The long-time Canadiens center's name surfaced briefly in the rumor mill prior to the NHL Draft. Plekanec turns 33 in October and will earn $5 million this coming season. The Habs might be unwilling to offer up more than his current salary on a short-term deal.
Radim Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis, Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks' rebuilding process likely means Vrbata and Hamhuis won't have a future in Vancouver beyond 2015-16. If the Canucks are out of playoff contention by the trade deadline, both could be on the move.
Keith Yandle, New York Rangers. Yandle is entering the final season of a five-year, $26.25-million contract, with the Rangers and Arizona Coyotes splitting his $5.25-million cap hit for 2015-16. The Bergen Record's Andrew Gross doubts the Rangers can afford to re-sign the 28-year-old blueliner. He could become among the most coveted defensemen in next year's UFA market.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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