One thing NHL general managers are most thankful for is entry level deals on drafted players just entering the NHL. Three years of paying a potential superstar a base floor salary is great, but the consequence is that once they blossom into top players it’s time to take out the check book and pay up. That is exactly what we will look at today, the top NHL prospects in for a big future pay-day. This article will not rank players in their first years of their respective contracts, so young studs having great first seasons such as MacKinnon, Nichushkin and Hertl are exempt from this list simply because its way too early to predict their futures. Although, we can already catch a glimpse of what great, dominant players they could potentially become. The following list will look at players who have at least completed one year on their contracts.
Enjoy this list of talented and future superstars who are in for a massive pay-day once their contracts expire. Good luck to GM’s all around the league attempting to keep these young superstars, and look for GM’s to try and lock these guys down for a long time.
10 Jaden Schwartz - St. Louis Blues - Final year: $830,000
It took patience and perhaps a little longer than the Blues would have liked, but ultimately taking their time with Schwartz has paid off immensely. The Saskatchewan native has become a centerpiece for the St.Louis offense this season, already scoring 19 goals and 42 points. Ken Hitchcock has been a huge fan of Jayden’s two-way play, as well as his intelligence in the game at such a young age. In addition to all of the above, Schwartz currently sits in second in team points and is first on the team in plus/minus at plus-22. This goes to show what a tremendous two-way player this young kid is becoming at such a young age. On a team stacked with four incredibly great lines, Schwartz has managed to play second line minutes on a nightly basis. Look for Schwartz to get more and more comfortable throughout the season under Ken Hitchcock’s defense system and eventually become a crucial first line player for the team. It will be crucial for the Blues to lock this restricted free agent down for a long period of time this upcoming offseason.
9 Jonas Brodin - Minnesota Wild - 1.5 years left: $894,167
This Swedish kid is developing extremely fast and the Minnesota Wild are loving it. Brodin is such a terrific, smooth skater who is very mobile at the back end. With Suter carrying the load at the back every night, Brodin’s quick development has aided the situation and seen him log more than 20 minutes a night. Brodin is considered one of the team’s top three defenders and also gets time on the second power play unit. Minnesota raves about this young kid who plays in all types of situations. If this 10th overall pick continues to develop on his current pace, he will definitely be a mainstay with Ryan Suter at the back in the future. Look for Jonas to receive a big-pay day in Minnesota if his game continues to develop at this rapid rate.
8 Brendan Gallagher - Montreal Canadiens - 1.5 years left: $685,000
This kid actually had a McDonalds burger trio named after him, literally: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wNFK6X0fOA His popularity in Montreal continues to rise game after game, as he doesn’t take many shifts off. Coming off the heels of a great rookie campaign, Gallagher has followed up with another great season. Brendan is currently 3rd on his team in goals and first in the plus/minus category. Gallagher has typically been used by his head coach, Michel Therrien, as a source of energy to get his other players fired up. Early on in the season, Gallagher had tremendous success on a line with young players, Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller. They were later split up in order to create more depth within the lineup; this is when Gallagher sparked his current linemates, Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais. The kid ignites every line he is placed on and is an absolute pest in front of the net. You love him if you’re a Habs fan but despise him if you’re not. Look for Gallagher to get awarded immensely for his hard work once his contract is up. Montreal should lock this guy up for a while.
7 Vladimir Tarasenko - St. Louis Blues - 1.5 years left: $900,000
At the young age of just 22 years old, Tarasenko got the honour of representing his home country in Sochi. This tells you just how good this kid already is. Had Tarasenko not fallen to injury last season he may have been a lock for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. Tarasenko is currently in the top four in team goals on a team stacked with offense on all four lines. Vladimir has developed some fine chemistry on a second line with Jaden Schwartz and Derek Roy. He is also a mainstay on the second power play unit. Barring any major health issues, be sure to see a massive pay increase for the Russian winger. St. Louis may have to shed some salary before locking this guy down, though.
6 Alex Galchenyuk - Montreal Canadiens - 1.5 years left: $925,000
Montreal’s 3rd overall pick showed in his rookie season that he has the potential to be something special. His on-ice vision and hockey sense, along with slick hands give Alex the potential to develop into a great player. Galchenyuk enjoyed massive success playing on a line with Eller and Gallagher, a line which has strong potential to become Montreal’s future number one. It will be interesting to watch Alex grow in the next couple of seasons. Adding a little bit more size and strength can help bring him to the next level as an elite player in the NHL. Look for the Canadians to lock this guy down for a really long time before his contract expires.
5 Justin Schultz - Edmonton Oilers - Final year: $925,000
Justin found his game quickly after signing with the Oilers, recording 48 points in 34 games with the team’s AHL affiliate the Oklahoma City Barons. Big things were expected of this highly rated prospect who seemingly every team wanted to sign, and he delivered quite nicely in his first season. This year, Justin lost his way a little bit due to injury, but his value on the team remains huge. Since returning from an injury, Justin is leading the way in ice time on a nightly basis. His value is enormous to the Oilers because of the way he plays. He's a fast paced, high risk puck-moving defensemen, something the Oilers lack amongst their defense. Expect a big pay-day for Justin considering no one on the team has characteristics similar to his. It will be crucial to keep him on the team if the Oilers want to continue to build in the right direction.
4 Brandon Saad - Chicago Blackhawks - 1.5 years left: $764,167
Despite the Blackhawks being absolutely stacked upfront, Saad has found a way to make an impact in the lineup. A Calder finalist last season for rookie of the year, Saad has used his power forward instincts and scoring touch to put up great numbers once again this season. Saad currently sits in the top 5 on the team in goals and 3rd in plus/minus. Saad has been juggled everywhere this season, in comparison to last year. In the last postseason, he found great success on the third line on the Hawks' run to the Stanley Cup. This year Saad’s responsibilities have increased, playing on different lines from the first to the third, as well as being a mainstay on the second power play unit. It will be difficult for the Blackhawks to keep this player because of the depth the team currently has. Look for the Hawks to shed some salary in order to keep Brandon long term.
3 Justin Faulk - Carolina Hurricanes - Final year: $840,000
Faulk surprised a lot of people this year by being selected to play in Sochi on the US national team. This making Justin the youngest player on the team, at the age of 21. On the other hand, those within the Hurricanes organization were not surprised at all. Faulk and his partner Andrej Sekera see the bulk of the action on defense every night. Justin is known for his incredible offensive instincts and intelligent puck possession. He plays in all situations from the power play to being a shut-down defensemen with 30 seconds to go in the game. It is remarkable to already see what Justin has accomplished at such a young age. Look for the Hurricanes to spend big bucks in locking this defenseman down for a long time and make him the number one guy on the back end for quite a while. Knowing what defensemen around the league are currently asking for, Faulk can potentially be a very rich man next season.
2 Torey Krug - Boston Bruins - Final year: $916,667
What a start to his career for young Torey Krug. The undrafted 22-year-old defensemen was seemingly called up out of nowhere from Providence due to a pile of injuries. This is when began to explode for the young man who scored 4 goals in a series versus the Rangers in his first ever playoffs. Krug never looked back, aiding the Bruins’ power play immensely with his great puck moving skills and booming shot from the point. The emergence of Torey Krug made the process of depth development much easier for the Bruins after losing Andrew Ference to free agency. The kid from Michigan has continued his solid play this season thus far, leading the Bruins defense in points. Krug also sits in the top 5 in the league in goals amongst defensemen. The Bruins do not have a player on defense with the offensive capabilities that Krug has demonstrated; look for a big cash increase this upcoming off season.
1 Ryan Johansen - Columbus Blue Jackets - Final year: $870,000
Still only at the young age of 21, the future’s looking great for the Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen. His potential to blossom into a number one center seems to already be taking shape. The 4th overall pick had a tough time last year being injured for a majority of the season. This year Ryan is finally healthy and hitting his mark in the league, leading the team in goals and points. He has been the Jackets' best player by far this season. Ryan as well has begun to develop great chemistry with the Blue Jackets’ newly acquired winger, Nathan Horton. Look for this young gun to turn into the Blue Jackets’ crucial future franchise player. With this being said, expect a massive payday coming up for Johansen in his contract year.
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