10 NHL Players Due for Major Pay Raises

Lyle RichardsonFeatured ColumnistJuly 16, 2014

10 NHL Players Due for Major Pay Raises

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    Every year a number of NHL players receive new contracts containing pay raises. This usually occurs during the offseason free-agent period, though at times players are also re-signed prior to their eligibility for free agency. Sometimes these raises are criticized by fans or pundits questioning the justification behind the pay increase.

    The respective performances of the 10 players on this list make them worthy of significant pay increases. Some are established stars while others are promising talents on the rise. Several are currently restricted free agents, while others are eligible for free agency next summer. 

    Current salary, overall performance in consecutive seasons, arbitration rights and projected salary factored into this ranking.

    All player statistics via NHL.com unless otherwise indicated. All salary information via CapGeek.com.

10. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

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    John Russell/Getty Images

    Current or most recent contract 

    Tarasenko is entering the third year of his entry-level contract worth an annual cap hit of $900,000. He will become a restricted free agent (without arbitration rights) at the end of 2014-15.

     

    Why he deserves a major pay raise

    In only two seasons Tarasenko has shown promise as a scoring star. The 6'0", 219-pound winger had an encouraging debut during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season with 19 points in 38 games. Last season he tallied 21 goals and 43 points in 64 games. During the 2014 playoffs he led the Blues in scoring with four goals and was second in points.

    Though hampered by injuries, the 22-year-old is steadily improving as he adjusts to the NHL game. Maturity and a healthy 2014-15 should significantly boost his offensive numbers.

     

    Projected raise

    Tarasenko lacks arbitration rights next summer. The Blues could try to sign him to a more affordable short-term contract, as they did with his teammates T.J. Oshie,  David Backes and Patrik Berglund earlier in their respective careers. They all received between $2.2 and $2.5 million per season on their previous deals. Depending on his production in 2014-15, Tarasenko could get around $2.75 million annually. 

9. Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Current or most recent contract

    Saad is in the final year of his entry-level contract worth an annual cap hit of over $764,167. He will be a restricted free agent (without arbitration rights) at the end of 2014-15.

     

    Why he deserves a major pay raise 

    In just two seasons, the 21-year-old Saad has become a key part of the Blackhawks' forward lines. He netted 27 points in 46 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and collected six points in 23 playoff games during the Blackhawks' 2013 Stanley Cup run.

    Last season he had 19 goals and 47 points in 78 games. During the 2014 playoffs Saad finished third in team playoff scoring with 16 points in 19 games. At his current rate of development, Saad appears poised to become a significant scorer with the Blackhawks.

     

    Projected raise

    The Blackhawks currently have over $65 million invested in 15 players for 2015-16. They'll undoubtedly shed some salary to free up space for re-signing important young players like Saad. His lack of arbitration rights means he'll probably get a short-term contract worth $2.75 million per season.

8. Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens

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    Current or most recent contract

    Gallagher is entering the final season of a three-year entry-level contract worth $870,000 (with bonuses) annually. The 22-year-old will be a restricted free agent without arbitration rights at the end of 2014-15.

     

    Why he deserves a major pay raise

    Despite his youth and small stature, the 5'9”, 180-pound Gallagher quickly blossomed into an agitating offensive winger for the Canadiens. He tallied 28 points in 44 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, becoming a finalist for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year.

    Gallagher followed up with a solid sophomore season of 41 points in 81 games. During the 2014 playoffs he was tied for third in team scoring with 11 points in 17 games.

     

    Projected raise 

    As they did with P.K. Subban, the Canadiens could attempt to re-sign Gallagher to a two-year contract. Given his lack of arbitration rights, he'll have little choice but to accept it. He could see a boost in pay upwards of $2.85 million annually.

7. Tyler Ennis, Buffalo Sabres

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    Bill Wippert/Getty Images

    Current or most recent contract 

    Update: July 17, 2014 at 11:25 am ET

    The Sabres signed Ennis to a five-year, $23 million extension on Thursday morning, according to Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News.

    --End of update---

    Ennis completed a two-year contract worth $5.625 million at an annual cap hit of $2.812 million. He is currently a restricted free agent who opted not to file for arbitration.

     

    Why he deserves a major pay raise

    Since cracking the Sabres' roster full time in 2010-11, the 5'9”, 169-pound Ennis has consistently finished among the Sabres' top five scorers. He had 49 points as a rookie and last season tallied 21 goals and 43 points, good for second overall on the offensively anemic Sabres.

    Though injuries limited Ennis to only 48 games in 2011-12, he still managed 34 points. He also had 31 points in 47 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.

     

    Projected raise

    The Sabres are in the midst of a significant rebuild, of which Ennis could be a valuable part. Teammate Cody Hodgson tallied roughly the same number of points (78) over the past two seasons as Ennis (74). Hodgson is currently on a six-year, $25.5 million contract ($4.25 million annually) and Ennis could earn a similar deal.

6. Mikkel Boedker, Phoenix Coyotes

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    John Russell/Getty Images

    Current or most recent contract 

    Boedker is midway through a two-year contract worth $5.1 million, with an annual cap hit of $2.55 million. He becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the end of 2014-15.

     

    Why he deserves a major pay raise 

    Only 24, Boedker has six NHL seasons under his belt. While pressed too quickly into NHL service early in his career, in recent years Boedker has matured into a swift, solid playmaker.

    His 26 points during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign was good for fourth overall among Coyotes scorers. His career-best 51 points last season had him tied for second in team scoring, while his 32 assists were second highest on the Coyotes.

     

    Projected raise

    Barring injury this coming season, Boedker should match or exceed last season's 51-point performance. That could put him in the $5 million per season range for his next contract.

5. Nazem Kadri, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Current or most recent contract

    Kadri is entering the second year of a two-year contract worth $5.8 million, with an annual cap hit of $2.9 million. He becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the end of 2014-15.

     

    Why he deserves a major pay raise

    Over the past two seasons the 23-year-old Kadri was among the Maple Leafs' top scorers. His 44 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season ranked second in team scoring.

    While he struggled at time last season, Kadri still managed 20 goals and 50 points in 78 games, good for third overall among Leafs scorers. He also tied for second in power-play points (18).

     

    Projected raise

    Another season among the Leafs' top three scorers could ensure Kadri a lucrative long-term extension, especially as he has arbitration rights next summer. He could land something in the neighborhood of $5.5 million per season.

4. Johnny Boychuk, Boston Bruins

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    Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images

    Current or most recent contract 

    Boychuk is entering the final season of a three-year deal worth $3.366 million per season. He will become an unrestricted free agent upon completion of his contract at the end of 2014-15.

     

    Why he deserves a major pay raise 

    In the past five years Boychuk has steadily become an invaluable part of the Bruins' defense corps. He possesses good size (6'2”, 225 lbs) and a hard, heavy shot.

    The 30-year-old blueliner reached a career-best 31 points in 2013-14. He led all Bruins defensemen in plus-minus (plus-31) and was third in average ice time (21:11). Yahoo Sports indicates Boychuk was first among Bruins in blocked shots (151) and third in hits (156).

     

    Projected raise 

    Boychuk will attract considerable interest in next summer's free-agent market. It could cost around $5.5 million annually for the Bruins to keep him in Boston.

3. Derek Stepan, New York Rangers

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    Scott Levy/Getty Images

    Current or most recent contract

    Stepan is currently on a two-year deal worth $6.15 million. The average annual salary is $3.075 million. Stepan's contract expires at the end of 2014-15.

     

    Why he deserves a major pay raise 

    Over the last two seasons Stepan rose to become the Rangers' first-line center. Stepan was their leading scorer during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season with 44 points. Last season he finished second with 57 points. He also tied for the team lead in assists (40) and was second in power-play points (18).

    During the 2014 playoffs Stepan tied for second (15 points) among Rangers scorers. He also displayed his toughness by playing through half the postseason with a broken jaw. Only 24, Stepan has yet to reach his playing prime.

     

    Projected raise

    The New York Post's Larry Brooks believes Stepan “will be in line to nearly double his cap hit from its current $3.075 million” when he become eligible for restricted free-agent status (with arbitration rights) next July. A raise to $5.8 million annually isn't out of the question.

2. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Chris Schneider/Associated Press

    Current or most recent contract 

    Bishop is currently on a two-year deal worth $4.6 million with an average annual salary of $2.3 million. He becomes an unrestricted free agent when his contract expires at the end of 2014-15.

     

    Why he deserves a major pay raise

    Bishop started 2012-13 in the minors, became an emergency call-up for the Ottawa Senators, was dealt to the Lightning and became their starting goaltender. The Hockey News indicates he posted solid numbers in a 2012-13 split between Ottawa and Tampa Bay (11-9-1, 2.67 goals against average, .920 save percentage, two shutouts).

    Through 63 games last season he ranked among the NHL leaders in wins (37), goals against average (2.23), save percentage (.924) and shutouts (5). Bishop was a finalist for the 2014 Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie.

     

    Projected raise 

    Another strong outing like last season will significantly boost Bishop's value. 2014 Vezina winner Tuukka Rask currently earns $7 million per season on an eight-year deal with the Boston Bruins. Fellow Vezina finalist Semyon Varlamov begins a five-year deal worth $5.9 million annually with the Colorado Avalanche. It could cost the Lightning over $6 million per season to keep Bishop out of next summer's unrestricted free-agent market.

1. P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens

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    Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images

    Current or most recent contract 

    Subban just completed a two-year contract worth $5.75 million. The average annual salary was $2.875 million. He is currently a restricted free agent. The NHLPA reports his salary arbitration hearing is set for August 1.

     

    Why he deserves a major pay raise 

    Over the course of his recent contract, the 25-year-old Subban emerged as an elite NHL defensemen. He won the Norris Trophy in 2013 as the NHL's top blueliner. Notable for his scoring ability, Subban finished second among Canadiens scorers in 2012-13 and 2013-14. His 53 points last season ranked fifth among NHL blueliners.

    He can also play a complete game. Yahoo Sports indicates he finished third on the Canadiens last season in hits (135) and fourth in blocked shots (125). He rose to the occasion during the 2014 playoffs, leading the Canadiens in points (14) and average ice time (27:26). 

     

    Projected raise 

    The Hockey News' Ken Campbell observes several of Subban's peers—Los Angeles' Drew Doughty, St. Louis' Alex Pietrangelo and Ottawa's Erik Karlsson—earn in the neighborhood of $6.5 and $7 million annually. Pittsburgh's Kris Letang, who was a runner-up to Subban for the Norris, earns $7.25 million per season. Subban's next contract could be worth between $7.5 and $8.5 million per season.