Crosby Among NHL Stars Who Could Sign 2024 Offseason Contract Extensions (2024)

Now that the dust has settled on the NHL’s 2024 free-agency period, attention shifts to the stars who are entering the final years of their contracts before unrestricted free agency.

They became eligible to sign contract extensions on July 1, and three big names quickly came off the board with deals that will take effect in the 2025-26 season.

Goalie Juuse Saros agreed to stay with the revamped Nashville Predators on an eight-year deal that carries a cap hit of $7.74 million per season. That’s a nod to his jersey number, 74, and a tidy raise from the 29-year-old’s current cap hit of $5 million.

In St. Louis, 29-year-old forward Pavel Buchnevich also moved up a bracket when he inked a new six-year deal at a cap hit of $8 million — an increase from his current average annual value of $5.8 million following three solid seasons with the Blues.

And while the Tampa Bay Lightning weren’t able to come to terms on a new deal with their captain, Steven Stamkos, they did ink an extension with longtime franchise stalwart Victor Hedman. The 33-year-old, who holds every significant Lightning franchise record for defensem*n, re-upped for another four years at $8 million. That’s up slightly from his current eight-year deal signed in 2016, which carries a cap hit of $7.875 million.

While Hedman is now likely on the back nine of his hockey career, his raise is a function of the inflationary trend that has now returned to NHL salaries with the salary-cap ceiling on the rise after several years of stagnation.

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Here’s a look at three big names who became eligible to sign contract extensions on July 1:

Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby

The Pittsburgh Penguins captain has banked more than $100 million in his storied career, but Sidney Crosby hasn’t inked a new contract since July 1, 2012 — before the last lockout, when the salary cap ceiling sat at $64.3 million.

All told, the three-time Stanley Cup champion and two-time Hart Trophy winner has played 17 seasons at a cap hit of $8.7 million — well below market value for one of the greatest players of the salary-cap era.

Crosby’s next contract should be higher — a bit of a top-up for all his fine work over the years. And while the Penguins have been on a recent downswing, missing the playoffs for the last two seasons, reports suggest that Crosby’s desire is to finish his career with the same team that drafted him first overall in 2005.

On Monday, Rob Rossi of The Athletic suggested that a new deal could come in at three years and more than $10 million per season. Crosby, who turns 37 in August, tied for 12th in NHL scoring last season with 42 goals and 94 points.

New York Rangers: Igor Shesterkin

Following a Presidents’ Trophy season and a run to the Eastern Conference Final, the New York Rangers are clearly in ‘win now’ mode under coach Peter Laviolette.

Amid a star-studded lineup, no player is more important than goalie Igor Shesterkin, the 2022 Vezina Trophy winner who finished out the playoffs at 13.1 goals saved above expected, second only to the Boston Bruins’ Jeremy Swayman.

Now 28, Shesterkin had logged just 47 NHL games when he signed his current four-year contract with a cap hit of $5.67 million. The potential upside for the 2014 fourth-round draft pick was clear, but he has indisputedly out-performed that deal and is now looking to be rewarded.

In early June, Mollie Walker of The New York Post reported that Shesterkin’s camp is looking for a long-term deal that would make him the NHL’s highest-paid goaltender of all time, with a cap hit as high as $12 million per season.

The highest cap hit for a currently active goalie belongs to recently crowned Stanley Cup champion Sergei Bobrovsky of the Florida Panthers, who has two years remaining on a seven-year deal at $10 million a year.

In 2017, Carey Price signed an eight-year extension with the Montreal Canadiens at $10.5 million per year, but he hasn’t played since 2022 due to injuries.

Despite the current salary-cap rise, two market forces are working against Shesterkin. Because it is so difficult for goalies to maintain a high level of play over a long period of time, cap hits have dropped for the top stoppers. For example, 2024 Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck settled on an eight-year extension with the Winnipeg Jets last October, which carries a cap hit of $8.5 million.

And Shesterkin isn’t the only important Ranger who will be looking to get paid next season. Alexis Lafreniere, K’Andre Miller and Kaapo Kakko will all be restricted free agents with arbitration rights at the end of the 2024-25 season, looking to climb the next rung of the pay scale.

Even with a 2025-26 cap ceiling estimated at $92 million, there is only so much money to go around.

Florida Panthers: Aaron Ekblad

As a three-time finalist for general manager of the year and now a Stanley Cup champion, Bill Zito has shown a keen understanding for maximizing value under the salary cap since taking the reins of the Florida Panthers in 2020.

Winning teams can’t keep everybody. But Zito has found ways to extend key players like Sam Reinhart, the 57-goal scorer who just went to the brink of free agency before inking an eight-year extension with a cap hit of $8.625 million on June 30.

On July 3, Zito hedged against inflation by inking promising young center Anton Lundell to a six-year deal at $5 million per season, out of his entry-level contract. Now, with a revamped roster that looks basically set for the Panthers’ title defense, Zito can turn his attention to three key players who are set to reach unrestricted free agency next July.

Topping that list is right-shot defenseman Aaron Ekblad, the rare defenseman who jumped straight to the NHL as an 18-year-0ld after he was drafted first overall in 2014.

And he was ready. Ekblad won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in the 2014-15 season. After his second year, as soon as he was eligible, he inked an eight-year contract extension at a cap hit of $7.75 million.

That deal expires next season, when Ekblad will turn 29 — and his no-move clause turned into a 12-team no-trade clause on July 1, per CapFriendly.

Zito will do everything in his power to take another run at a Cup next year. But he showed that he wasn’t afraid to deal a franchise cornerstone at a similar juncture of his career when he traded Jonathan Huberdeau to the Calgary Flames as part of the Matthew Tkachuk deal during the summer of 2022.

Zito also has two other key forwards set to hit free agency next summer: 40-goal man Carter Verhaeghe and wrecking ball Sam Bennett. Rumors have circulated that Ekblad might be on the move this summer, but after Brandon Montour signed with the Seattle Kraken on July 1, Ekblad is now the only bona-ride right-shot blueliner in Florida’s top four.

Other Names To Watch

Plenty of other NHL stars are also now eligible for contract extensions.

Other names to watch include Mitch Marner, John Tavares and Jake McCabe in Toronto, Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton, Mikko Rantanen in Colorado, Brock Boeser in Vancouver and Jamie Benn in Dallas. Top impending UFA defensem*n include Jakob Chychrun (WAS), Shea Theodore (VGK) and Brent Burns (CAR), and the most intriguing goalies are Linus Ullmark (OTT) and Charlie Lindgren (WAS).

Crosby Among NHL Stars Who Could Sign 2024 Offseason Contract Extensions (2024)
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