NHL Players with the Most to Gain in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistApril 19, 2014

NHL Players with the Most to Gain in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs

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    Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    The fortunes of NHL players ebb and flow all year long. The playoffs offer an even greater degree of risk and reward because the stakes are higher.

    There are players who have been in the NHL for 15 years without winning a Stanley Cup. There are guys who can redeem themselves after poor regular seasons, and others who have a chance to become legends in their own time. We will highlight them here. 

    What follows are the players who have the most to gain in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs.

Raffi Torres, LW, San Jose Sharks

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    Tom Mihalek

    What is the Backstory? Raffi Torres missed most of last season's playoffs due to suspension and then most of the 2013-14 regular season with a knee injury.

    What Does He Have to Gain? Torres is a gritty forward who plays with an edge, but he also possesses enough talent to perform with skill players. If he can stay healthy during the playoffs, he will re-establish himself on a San Jose Sharks team that is deep in forwards.

    What Are the Benefits? For the Sharks, Torres gives the club a unique physical presence and is tough enough to intimidate opponents. During the long playoff season, he can help them in a variety of ways.

Frederik Andersen, G, Anaheim Ducks

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    What is the Backstory? The Anaheim Ducks began their playoff season with rookie goaltender Frederik Andersen between the pipes. As this Calgary Herald article states, the youngster from Denmark stopped 35 of 38 shots for the win. The Canadian Press via The Hockey News details Jonas Hiller's benching and offers Andersen and fellow rookie John Gibson as preferred options at this time.

    What Does He Have to Gain? The Ducks traded Viktor Fasth at the deadline, and it appeared Hiller would own the crease during the postseason. This new development gives Andersen a chance to emerge from the crowd.

    What Are the Benefits? A starting job in the NHL doesn't come along every day, and Andersen earned the all-important first starts for the Ducks in the playoffs, winning Wednesday and Friday. If he keeps winning, Hiller and Gibson will be spectators all spring.

David Legwand, C, Detroit Red Wings

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    Carlos Osorio

    What is the Backstory? David Legwand was the first player ever selected by the Nashville Predators, going second overall in the 1998 NHL draft, and he became the face of their franchise. The Predators dealt him at the deadline to the Detroit Red Wings, giving him a new lease on life.

    What Does He Have to Gain? He's in the playoffs, and that's a big deal. Toiling in Nashville all of those years meant Legwand was on the outside most of the time. Entering this year's playoffs, he had played just 47 postseason games.

    What Are the Benefits? Every NHL player dreams of winning the Stanley Cup. Legwand has a chance this year with Detroit, and he played over 15 minutes in a winning cause Friday.

Marian Gaborik, LW, Los Angeles Kings

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    Matt Slocum

    What is the Backstory? Marian Gaborik was a high pick at the turn of the century and has been thrilling NHL fans since the fall of 2000. Now 32 years old, he's on his fourth NHL team and has made the playoffs only five times. This year, his sixth time in the playoffs, Gaborik needs to make a difference.

    What Does He Have to Gain? At this point in his career, Gaborik may not have many chances to grab a Stanley Cup. He's a free agent at the end of the season, and the Los Angeles Kings have no allegiance to him.

    What Are the Benefits? Gaborik is still a fine talent, and he's been on a nice run with the Kings since coming over at the deadline. If he can help Los Angeles go deep in the postseason, this may be a home for him next year.

Ryan Suter, D, and Zach Parise, C, Minnesota Wild

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    Jim Mone

    What is the Backstory? In July 2012, the Minnesota Wild signed two major free agents, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. As TSN confirmed, the contracts were worth $98 million to each player. Minnesota changed the power structure in the NHL with matching 13-year deals. 

    What Do They Have to Gain? The Wild made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2007-08. This spring, expectations are higher and the pressure is greater for these impact players. Minnesota is a hockey-crazy state, and a prolonged playoff run will improve the Wild's brand and validate the signings. 

    What Are the Benefits? Minnesota is very aggressive under its current management. A big run into the postseason may attract more free agents, which could help sustain deeper runs and bring a Stanley Cup championship in the future.

Bryan Bickell, LW, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Bill Smith/Getty Images

    What is the Backstory? Bryan Bickell had a major impact on last season's Stanley Cup run and was rewarded with a three-year contract in July. He did not have a strong 2013-14 season and ended up playing just over 11 minutes a night.

    What Does He Have to Gain? If Bickell can regain the magic he possessed during the playoffs last spring, all will be forgiven. A regular season lost can be saved with some big goals in the postseason.

    What Are the Benefits? The Chicago Blackhawks produce talent at an impressive rate. Those who do not perform—especially once they're making significant money—are sent out over the summer and replaced by less expensive options. Bickell can avoid that fate with some goals this spring.

Martin St. Louis, RW, New York Rangers

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    Scott Levy/Getty Images

    What is the Backstory? Martin St. Louis and the Tampa Bay Lightning parted ways at the trade deadline. The New York Rangers stepped up and paid dearly for the right to acquire St. Louis' services. The fleet winger struggled during the regular season with the Rangers, playing 19 games with one goal and seven assists after the deadline.

    What Does He Have to Gain? St. Louis is under pressure this spring. He was traded for a popular Ranger in Ryan Callahan, and the results haven't been great since his arrival. The opening playoff performance—he scored two points in his first postseason game with the Rangers—is an excellent start.

    What Are the Benefits? The Rangers have St. Louis signed through next season at a reasonable rate. If they go deep into the postseason, next year should be a better experience for the veteran.

Ryan Miller, G, St. Louis Blues

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    What is the Backstory? Ryan Miller is about to reach free agency. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues by the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline. The Blues and Miller are tied to each other for this spring, but they could part ways after the playoffs.

    What Does He Have to Gain? Miller has a chance to play hero in St. Louis. The team has no Stanley Cup victories, but the fanbase is convinced it can go all the way. Management built this roster to win, and Miller was the final piece of the puzzle. He came at a very high price.

    What Are the Benefits? If the Blues win the Stanley Cup, Ryan Miller can write his own ticket. St. Louis would no doubt be interested in signing its Cup-winning goalie, or he could wait for free agency and see what the market looks like in the summer.

Jarome Iginla, RW, Boston Bruins

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    What is the Backstory? Jarome Iginla is a veteran scorer for the Boston Bruins. He played for over 15 seasons in Calgary and led the Flames to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2004. Since then, Iginla hasn't been close.

    What Does He Have to Gain? If the Bruins win it all, Iginla will finally get his name on the Stanley Cup after 16 long years.

    What Are the Benefits? Iginla is one of the most popular players in the game and an accomplished international competitor. Adding a Stanley Cup will put the finishing touches on a Hall of Fame career.

P.K. Subban, D, Montreal Canadiens

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    Chris O'Meara

    What is the Backstory? P.K. Subban is a unique talent who gives the Montreal Canadiens an expert puck-handler on defense. He sometimes gets into trouble for his wandering ways and has seen the bench a few times this season.

    What Does He Have to Gain? Subban's contract is up at the end of this year, and the restricted free agent is poised to cash in with a big contract. The last gap in his armor is defensive play; if he can tighten up in that area, he'll score a long-term deal.

    What Are the Benefits? The Montreal Canadiens signed Subban to a bridge contract last time, putting off paying him like a franchise player. He's delivered and then some, but there's likely still doubt about his defense from the coaching staff. If he erases that, Subban will be paid in full.