July 1st is upon us and that means that NHL Free Agency is almost here. It’s not as strong of a class as it was last year but there are still some good players. Which players will cash out big time? Let’s take a look.
Paul Martin: Paul Martin was the second best defenseman on the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and really stepped up when Kris Letang went down with a season ending concussion. He didn’t necessarily score goals or dish out assists on a daily basis like Erik Karlsson did, (he only had three goals and 17 assists) but he was able to QB the power play and always got the puck to Crosby and Malkin. His contract is up and after making five million a year for the Pens, it seems as if he’s going to want a lot money. He’s also 34 years old which means he’s looking for his last big contract with an NHL team before he retires. It wouldn’t shock me if a team threw out over six million a year for Paul Martin as he’s one of the most underrated defenseman in the NHL.
Justin Williams: The three time Stanley Cup champion and former Con Smythe trophy winner is getting up there in age but can still help a team win as he did with the Kings in the 2013-2014 playoffs when he had nine goals and 16 assists. It’s hard to believe that Williams has not made more then 3.3 million a season but he’s easily going to get more then that this offseason. Williams, like Paul Martin will be looking for his final deal of his career as he is 34 and will no doubt get about five million a year or possibly more for about five to six years. Ideally teams that are smart will only want him for a couple of seasons but it’s not just going to happen.
Matt Beleskey: This is one of the more interesting story lines to follow during free agency. Matt Beleskey had the best season of his career for the Anaheim Ducks this season where he scored 22 goals, which is a career high for him, but also had eight goals in the playoffs. Beleskey is going to be looking for a lot of money on July 1st because of how good he was this season but buyers should beware of him. This was the only really good season he’s had in the league and he could be the next Ville Leino if teams aren’t careful with him. With all that said, I do expect that Beleskey will get upwards of four to five million from a Western Conference team. That’s where he’s projected to land according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.
Mike Green: Green has been on the Washington Capitals since 2004 when he was drafted but it seems as if it’s finally coming to an end as the Capitals don’t want to pay him the kind of money that he wants. Green is still in the prime of his career and will easily get a long term deal from some team as he is still a very good offensive defenseman and showed that this season when he had ten goals and 35 assists. I could see a team like Detroit throwing a lot of money at him since their blue line is getting up there in age. Either way, Green will make bank come July 1st.
Cody Franson: After being traded to the Nashville Predators this year, Franson really didn’t sink in well with the attacking style they play but that won’t stop teams from throwing a ton of cash at him. Like Mike Green, he is in the prime of his career, has a lot of good hockey left in the tank, and is a very good offensive defenseman. He had seven goals and 29 assists this year combined between Nashville and Toronto. He’s a very solid top four defenseman and should get paid like one this summer.