Have a contract year like Viktor Arvidsson had for the Predators and you'll be celebrating like this, too.
Pro hockey players are judged by their performances every season, month, week, game and shift.
Scrutiny intensifies, especially from GMs, during contract years. With free agency looming, a strong season could be the deciding factor that results in a lucrative, long-term contract as a team decides a player will be part of its core for the next five seasons or more.
For prospects about to exit their entry-level contracts (ELCs), a poor campaign could result in a show-me offer (or bridge contract) for a year or two or three in which the young player is expected to show he deserves more money and a longer term. If a team doesn’t see much potential in a player after an unimpressive season, he might find himself moving on.
We examined the Eastern Conference last weekend to see which soon-to-be-FA prospects helped or hurt their contract situations. This week, we feature select prospects from every team in the Western Conference:
LW Nicolas Kerdiles, 23 RFA: The 2012 second-round draft pick had a disappointing season, but it wasn’t his fault. Lingering concussion symptoms kept him out of action until the end of January, after which he posted seven goals and 15 points in 27 AHL games. His aggressive nature was reflected in 25 PIMs. Kerdiles helped his contract status with four goals and four assists for the San Diego Gulls in eight post-season games. Six PIMs further hint that he hasn’t abandoned his edgy style due to the concussion. Outlook: A short-term contract offer.
G Kevin Boyle, 24 RFA: An undrafted NCAA signing, the UMass grad had better numbers in the AHL than the ECHL. No. 1 for the Utah Grizzlies, he was called up to the AHL’s Gulls in mid-season when both San Diego goalies were hurt. Boyle, who returned to Utah, finished 9-6 overall with a 2.69 GAA and .908 save percentage. Outlook: His 10-5-1 record for the Gulls, with 2.27 and .924 peripherals, guarantees the Ducks will offer a short-term deal while they gauge what kind of future Boyle might have in Anaheim.
RW/LW Teemu Pulkkinen, 25 RFA: Already abandoned by Detroit and Minnesota, the sublimely skilled yet maddeningly inconsistent Finn likely did enough to earn a short-term contract offer. As well as a goal in four games for Arizona, he had 18 goals and 36 points in 47 AHL games. Outlook: The next season or two in the desert will decide whether he has a successful NHL career or possibly returns to Europe.
LW, Mitch Moroz, 23 RFA: The Oilers gave up on their would-be power forward when they dealt him to Arizona for disappointing former first-rounder Henrik Samuelsson. After three points in 17 AHL games before the trade, Moroz showed his excitement with a paltry six points in 24 games with his new AHL team. Outlook: The 6-2, 214-pounder’s truculence comes with a history of bad penalties and not many points. He’s just 23, and could be on the move again.
G Jon Gillies, 23 RFA: The 2012 third-rounder got into his first NHL game, although his AHL performance was underwhelming (18-14-4, 2.93, .910). Gillies’ development was delayed by hip surgery that limited him to seven games for the Stockton Heat in 2015-16 and he has slid under 2016 second-round pick Tyler Parsons as Calgary’s top puck-stopping hopeful. Gillies, a 6-6, 225-pound behemoth, keeps his cool under fire, though. Outlook: Although the Flames have stockpiled netminding prospects, he should get a short-term deal to remain in the mix.
D Tyler Wotherspoon, 24 RFA: Playing a quiet, reliable game has got the 2011 second-rounder into just 20 NHL contests in four years, resulting in only five points, although that reflects Calgary’s deep, talented and well-paid blueliners as much as anything. Wotherspoon’s primary objective is to limit mistakes in his own end and move the puck safely up to someone who knows what to do with it. Outlook: Teams need at least one such defenseman and Wotherspoon was plus-30 last season for AHL Stockton, so he’ll get a bridge contract.
RW/LW Tomas Jurco, 24 RFA: Like Pulkkinen, Jurco is another skilled yet underachieving winger the Red Wings gave up on, after he requested a trade. The hefty (6-1, 203) Slovak has a history of inconsistency and injuries and, as of last season, many healthy scratches. Pointless in 16 games for Detroit, he managed one goal in 13 Chicago outings. Outlook: Without an attitude adjustment, it’s hard to imagine him getting anything more than a one- or two-year offer – if that.
D Ville Pokka, 23 RFA: Formerly a solid-looking second-round Islanders’ pick, the six-foot, 214-pounder has never played in an NHL game. That is unlikely to change after an ugly minus-25 marred a 76-game, 30-point season for the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs. Outlook: The Finnish puck-mover has been passed on Chicago’s depth chart and is in danger of being moved out of the organization. Someone will take a chance on his size, youth and potential.
Winnpeg's star center Mark Scheifele learns you have to keep your head up when massive Colorado blueliner Nikita Zadorov is on the ice:
D Nikita Zadorov, 22 RFA: A key component of the trade that sent Ryan O’Reilly to Buffalo, the massive (6-6, 229) Russian was an attempt by the Avalanche to shore up its sadsack back end. In his first “full” campaign in the Rockies, he had no goals and 10 assists as his season was limited to 56 games by ankle surgery necessitated after he tangled accidentally with teammate Mikko Rantanen in practice. His positioning can waver and his defense needs work, although Zadorov can be excused somewhat for minus-20 because Colorado was so bad. Outlook: Although his scoring upside is limited, he has vast potential as a shutdown defender, which will guarantee him a bridge contract.
RW Sven Andrighetto, 24 RFA: Colorado GM Joe Sakic picked Marc Bergevin’s pocket, taking advantage of the Habs’ need for size to deal hulking but underachieving Andreas Martinsen for the skilled and versatile Andrighetto, who is only 5-10 but a solid 190 pounds. After posting just eight points in 27 games with Montreal, he had five goals and 11 assists in 19 games in his new home, finishing the season on Colorado’s top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Rantanen. The Swiss native, who should feel at home in the Rockies, can function effectively on any of the Avs’ top three lines, but would be needed in an offensive role if Colorado kickstarts a rebuild by trading Matt Duchene and/or Gabriel Landeskog. Outlook: Regardless of his role, Andrighetto will be an important part of the near future in Denver.
C Rocco Grimaldi, 24 RFA: The Panthers unloaded 2011’s 33rd-overall pick after he had just six points in 27 games for them over two seasons, although he had promising AHL numbers. Following that pattern, Grimaldi had one assist in four Colorado games but potted 31 goals and had 55 points in 72 games for San Antonio. His nasty minus-24 can be partially forgiven because the Rampage was a last-place team. Grimaldi’s height (5-6) will always work against him, but he compensates with speed, tenacity, feistiness and versatility. Outlook: Those 31 goals pretty much guarantee a short-term contract offer.
D Duncan Siemens, 23 RFA: The strapping 6-3, 205-pounder has no points in four NHL games and just 24 in 229 AHL contests. He’s lucky that defending is what got him drafted 11th overall in 2011. In 73 games, he finished plus-1 for San Antonio in the AHL. That’s not remarkable until you consider the last-place Rampage had a 27-42-5 record. Outlook: The rebuilding Avs will definitely offer Siemens a contract.
D Andrei Mironov, 22 RFA: Signed a two-year contract.
RW Brett Ritchie, 23 RFA: After marinating for one full AHL season (22 goals and 48 points in 68 games), the husky winger split the next two seasons between the Texas Stars and the parent Dallas Stars with mixed results. A full campaign with the big club (16 goals, 24 points, plus-11 in 78 games) playing mostly with Radek Faksa and Antoine Roussel was a huge step forward. Outlook: The 2011 44th-overall pick is showing signs of being the power forward Dallas thought it was getting when it drafted him. He gets a bridge contract.
D Patrik Nemeth, 25 RFA: Since an injury-marred rookie season, the would-be shutdown defender has had trouble getting into the Dallas lineup. Frequently a healthy scratch, the strapping Swede has played for Dallas just 78 times during the past two campaigns and a mere 12 times in the AHL. Outlook: Slipping down the depth chart and not playing enough to develop properly, the former 41st-overall draft pick might not have a future with the Stars.
D Esa Lindell 23 RFA: Getting a four-game taste of the NHL, the big Finn with the big shot had 14 goals and 42 points in a promising 73-game AHL debut two seasons back. Although six goals and 12 assists were modest totals in 2016-17, they came in 73 NHL games as Dallas showed faith in its 2012 third-rounder. Outlook: There’s no question that the Helsinki native has a future with the Stars.
LW Jujhar Khaira, 22 RFA: Edmonton’s 2012 third-rounder had a relatively disappointing season in which a wrist injury cost him more than a month and slowed his development. Twenty points in 27 AHL outings were promising, however. He’s totaled just three points in 25 NHL games over the past two seasons, so Edmonton must be playing him for reasons other than point production. Outlook: The Oilers will not fail to offer a contract to this sizable two-way power forward candidate who skates well and has some puck skill.
D Griffin Reinhart, 23 RFA: He’s still just 23 but the reputation of former NHL blueliner Paul Reinhart’s son has plummeted since the Islanders took the former Memorial Cup champion fourth overall in 2012. Outlook: The 6-4 Reinhart has slow feet and is too passive to take advantage of his size. He had one NHL point two seasons ago and didn’t skate once for Edmonton in 2016-17. The Oilers would likely have unloaded him by now like the Islanders did, but they wouldn’t get much in return.
C Henrik Samuelsson, 23 RFA: A floundering first-rounder acquired for a disappointing second-rounder (Mitch Moroz), the Swede is big, strong, talented – and massively disappointing. In fairness, injuries have played a role in his underachievement, which included three points in 20 games for AHL Tucson, followed by five pointless AHL outings for Bakersfield after the trade. Outlook: Countering his upside, the son of former NHL bad boy Ulf Samuelsson is slow, somewhat undisciplined and injury-prone. Edmonton might offer him a bridge deal for less money than a former first-rounder would expect, but Samuelsson’s current address is in Showmeville.
Los Angeles Kings
D Paul Ladue 23, RFA: Hardly the next Erik Karlsson, the sixth-round draft pick has good but not great size (6-2, 201), moves the puck well, thinks the game well, competes well and has a smidgen of puck skill. The fact he’s a right-handed shooter helps to make him a prospect among LA’s lame next wave. Outlook: A short-term contract.
RW Justin Auger, 23 RFA: The skyscraping winger picked a bad time to regress in his third AHL season, dropping eight goals and eight assists from the previous campaign and falling from plus-17 to minus-2. At 6-7, and 229 pounds, Auger is just the guy coach Darryl Sutter and GM Dean Lombardi were looking forward to – before they were both sacked. New GM Rob Blake might offer this long-term project a short-term deal.
LW Michael Mersch, 24 RFA: The U of Wisconsin grad had a promising AHL campaign with 16 goals and 33 points in 48 games. The assistant captain would have played more games for the Ontario Reign if not for a knee injury that cost him most of the second half. Outlook: Blake will probably offer Mersch a short-term deal because he shows some promise and because the Kings’ prospect cupboard is not well-stocked.
C Jonny Brodzinski, 23 RFA: He’s been compared to Tyler Toffoli, which unfortunately extends to skating ability. Brodzinski, who signed with LA after his third season at St. Cloud State, chalked up 27 goals and 49 points in 59 AHL games, adding two helpers in six games with the Kings. Outlook: Those 27 AHL goals are enough to earn him a contract.
D Mike Reilly, 23 RFA: The Wild wisely plucked the free agent out of its backyard when he had 42 points and was plus-25 in his third season with the U of Minnesota. Playing 29 NHL games as a rookie pro and 17 the following campaign (usually paired with Matt Dumba), the puck-savvy offensive defenseman nonetheless had just eight points total, a mere one the second time around. Fifty-three points in 102 AHL contests is a better indication of his offensive gifts. Outlook: Minnesota hasn’t exactly gone wild over Reilly so far, but he’s mobile, with excellent vision and an active stick. He can count on a solid, short-term contract offer.
D Gustav Olofsson, 22 RFA: Like fellow blueliner Reilly, his Swedish counterpart has had a taste of the NHL (15 games in two seasons) and seasoning (41 points in 111 games in two AHL campaigns). Outlook: The Wild like the all-around, two-way potential of the former second-round pick, and will extend a bridge contract.
G Stephen Michalek, 23 RFA: Inserting one USHL season among three at Harvard, the unheralded puck-stopper wasn’t drafted in 2011 until the sixth round. He’s coming off an AHL campaign for 36-31-7 Iowa in which his 2.63 GAA and .919 save percentage resulted in a mediocre 13-14-1 record. Outlook: As much as the Wild lacks top-drawer blueline prospects, Minnesota has virtually no young netminders coming up, meaning a contract offer to Michalek is pretty much a given, although an NHL career is not.
LW/RW Viktor Arvidsson, 24 RFA: Wow! This is how players fervently want their contract year to go. The speedy Swedish Smurf (Smϋrf?) obliterated his Dobber prospect status by racking up 31 goals, 61 points and plus-16 in his 80-game regular season, skating with Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen on a true top scoring line. As an encore, Arvidsson contributed three goals and 16 points as Smashville shockingly went all the way to the Cup final. Outlook: GM David Poile will find a way to lock up Arvidsson with a large, long contract.
LW Pontus Aberg, 23 RFA: A countryman of Arvidsson and Forsberg, Åberg is still awaiting his breakthrough after a 56-game, 52-point AHL campaign was coupled with just two points in 15 NHL games. Åberg did chip in two goals and three assists in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Outlook: The former second-rounder is speedy, smart and a good passer with an accurate shot. Competing hard, if not all the time, Åberg can expect a short-term deal.
LW Austin Watson, 25 RFA: A useful bottom-six contributor, Watson rolled up 99 PIMs and was a healthy plus-14 while adding five goals and 12 helpers in 77 games before adding four goals, nine points, plus-three and 28 PIMs as the Predators were in the Stanley Cup hunt. Outlook: Although they were both drafted in the first round, Austin will never be confused with Auston. While Watson has underachieved compared to his draft status, the Preds could still use a 6-4 muscleman who contributes occasional offense and doesn’t hurt them defensively. They’ll pay him accordingly.
G Marek Mazanec, 25 RFA: Although he played in 25 games for Nashville as a rookie pro in North America, the 6-4 Czech has been in just six NHL games in three subsequent seasons due to AHL GAAs of 2.76, 2.45 and 2.65. Outlook: If Mazanec gets a short-term contract reprieve, it will be only because the Preds are seriously short of netminding prospects.
St. Louis Blues
Nothing seemed to go right for Ty Rattie in a disastrous contract campaign:
RW Ty Rattie, 24 UFA: The disappointing former 32nd-overall pick was waived the Blues, claimed by the Hurricanes, waived by Carolina and reclaimed by St. Louis. Whew! A season like that could shake a guy out of a rut or drive him to drink. Rattie totaled seven points in 31 games between two NHL teams and an AHL squad, an outcome that made his previous 13-game, six-point stint with St. Louis seem like a Hart Trophy springboard. Outlook: The cap-strapped Blues will be hard-pressed to justify offering Rattie even a lowball contract.
G Jordan Binnington, 23 RFA: The former third-rounder has got into only one NHL game since turning pro and his AHL GAAs with the Chicago Wolves have gone from 2.35 to 2.85 to 2.71. Outlook: If the Blues offer Binnington a short-term deal, it will be because they are intrigued by his scintillating playoff stats with the Wolves and the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings.
LW Kenny Agostino, 25 UFA: The Yale grad has played in just 17 games in three seasons with Calgary and St. Louis, but his AHL point totals have risen from 43 to 57 to 83 in 65 games for the Chicago Wolves. Outlook: Agostino has to prove he can put up numbers in the NHL, but the AHL season he just had should persuade the Blues to offer a one- or two-year deal.
RW Jordan Caron, 26 RFA: Boston’s 2009 first-rounder has tumbled to the point where he’s pointless in his past 34 NHL outings with the Bruins, Avalanche and Blues. Outlook: St. Louis will let him find his own deal as a UFA.
San Jose Sharks
LW Marcus Sorensen, 25 RFA: Originally drafted in 2010 by Ottawa, the skillful winger stayed in Sweden before signing with San Jose as a free agent. Adjusting on the fly to an alien lifestyle in California, he had 13 goals and 27 points in 39 points when the Sharks promoted him in early February. Although he finished with 34 points in 43 AHL games, he had just four in 19 outings as a fourth-line Shark. Outlook: After a promising AHL debut, Sorensen scored his first Stanley Cup playoff goal. He definitely gets a short-term deal.
D Tim Heed, 26 RFA: As illustrated by his sensational 14 goals and 56 points in 55 games as an AHL and North America rookie, the converted forward has a big point shot and is gifted with the puck. Outlook: He’s small and doesn’t get involved physically, but this mature Swede is a power-play weapon who deserves a contract.
D Joakim Ryan, 23 RFA: The seventh-round steal is turning heads after coming from Sweden to play four seasons at Cornell. Paired with fellow Swede Heed, Ryan hiked his point total from 28 to 49 in 65 games as a sophomore with the San Jose Barracuda. Outlook: Ryan, who added 11 points in 15 Calder Cup games, is a keeper for the Sharks.
G Troy Grosenick, 27 UFA: Signed two-year contract.
C/LW Brendan Gaunce, 23 RFA: The former 26th-overall pick bottomed out last season, at least as much as you can while still getting into 57 NHL games. On a bottom-six line with Michael Chaput and Jack Skille, Gaunce managed just five assists, partially a reflection of “unskilled” linemates. Outlook: Three points in four AHL games likely aren’t enough to keep Gaunce in Vancouver unless it’s a short-term two-way deal.
RW Anton Rodin, 26 RFA: Eight years after Vancouver drafted him in the second round, the ultra-skilled winger made his NHL debut. Worth the wait? Nope, 2016-17 was a campaign to forget as mumps, a complex knee injury and general bad karma held the long-awaited Swede to one assist in three games each for the Canucks and Utica Comets. Outlook: If the Canucks believe his wonky hinge can respond well to surgery, expect them to offer him a cautious short-term deal.
RW Alexandre Grenier, 26 UFA: The 6-5, 200-pounder (and I mean pounder) has posted consecutive AHL point totals of 39, 43, 48 and 45 while scoring 16 or 17 goals each season, playing aggressively and bullying opponents. That qualifies him as a power forward – except he can be inconsistent and a defensive liability at a time when bottom-six brutes are virtually extinct in the NHL. Outlook: He has no points in six NHL games and as much as the Canucks have hoped to nurture him into a Cam Neely-type powerhouse, Grenier is not that guy. No soup, or contract, for you.
Winnipeg's netminding, including Connor Hellebuyck, was simply not good enough in 2016-17:
G Connor Hellebuyck, 24 RFA: How he handles Winnipeg’s goaltending will define GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s tenure with the Jets and could cost him his job if it goes badly. And Winnipeg’s goaltending has gone badly for a deep, talented team that should at least be making the playoffs by now. Perhaps the Jets needed too much too soon from a 2012 fifth-rounder, but a 2.89 GAA and .907 save percentage was not enough even if the 6-4 Hellebucyk achieved a decent 26-19-4 record. Outlook: The Jets have Eric Comrie, Jamie Phillips and Mikhail Berdin in the pipeline but they have the talent to make some playoff noise now. Frustrating UFA Ondrej Pavelec is gone and Michael Hutchinson is at best a backup for the remaining affordable season on his contract. The Jets will either ink Hellebucyk to a short-term contract and pray he improves enough to get them into the post-season or they’ll cut bait. “Hello, Jim Rutherford? It’s Kevin in Winnipeg. What do you want for Fleury?”
C/L/R Marko Dano, 22 RFA: The stocky Austrian missed more than two months with a lower-body injury, limiting him to four goals and 11 points in 38 games plus two assists in six AHL outings for the Manitoba Moose. Not the ideal contract year. Outlook: Dano has offensive skill and versatility going for him, although inconsistency and average play without the puck count against him. Winnipeg’s loaded system keeps churning prospects upward, so Dano’s time in Manitoba is limited.
C/LW Quinton Howden, 25 RFA: Yet another former first-round pick who has fallen far from the rosy glow of draft day, Howden was pointless in five Winnipeg games last season while posting 13 goals and 24 points in 58 games as a Moose. Outlook: Howden has been revealed as an inconsistent NHL bottom-sixer at best. Considering LWs Kyle Connor and Brendan Lemieux as well as C Jack Roslovic are only some of the better prospects in the pipeline, Howden’s time in Winnipeg is likely done.
Update from last week: As expected, Columbus signed G Joonas Korpisalo to a two-year contract.
We’ll see soon enough which RFA and UFA prospects stay with their current organizations. In the meantime, many of them are wondering if they did enough in their pivotal contract seasons.
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