As we start down the path of a New Year in 2019 the NHL season is hitting its halfway mark. This means it’s soon going to be crunch time for the league’s GMs who have to start thinking about what to do at the trade deadline and how that may impact their plans for the off-season.
Jan. 1 brought us to a critical juncture for players who signed one-year contracts last summer. While players can sign extensions when they are in the final year of their contract, the CBA dictates that those who are on one-year pacts can’t extend until the calendar flips to a new year.
Who are those players? There are some big names, lots of middling ones, and a couple veterans who may end up waiting until their contracts lapse in the summer to decide what to do next in their career — if they continue playing at all.
Here are the players who signed on for one year last summer and are now eligible for contract extensions:
Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators
All eyes are on the 26-year-old, who is one year away from full UFA eligibility unless he signs a long-term deal. There’s been a ton of speculation surrounding how the rebuilding Senators would deal with UFA Matt Duchene and Stone, who is on a $7.35 million AAV that was signed days before his arbitration hearing. With 18 goals and 43 points, the excellent two-way winger is having one of his better seasons and would be the favourite for the captaincy if he stays.
“It hasn’t been a distraction yet,” Stone told the Ottawa Sun. “We’re three months into the season and it hasn’t bothered or fazed me one bit. I’m expecting things to get going in the next couple of weeks here.”
William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights
After putting together a dream season in 2017-18 with 43 goals and 78 points that came out of nowhere, Karlsson was one of the more interesting contract negotiations to watch play out last summer and, ultimately, he bet on himself when he signed a one-year extension with a $5.25 million cap hit. Predictably his pace has fallen, but not to a level of obscurity he played at before landing in Vegas. Karlsson still has 15 goals and 15 assists in 43 games on a 16.5 shooting percentage. Turning 26 next week, Karlsson again will be one of the more interesting contracts to watch play out.
“I want to show that I can be a good player and that I deserve that, but I try not to think,” Karlsson told the Las Vegas Sun last month. “I mean, why? It’s just going to weigh you down. You just gotta go about each day and try to have fun when you come in to the rink and to not put too much pressure on yourself.”
Joel Edmundson, St. Louis Blues
Like a lot of the Blues, Edmundson isn’t having his best season, but there is still a lot to like in the 25-year-old’s game. He won’t wow you with offence and rarely gets any power-play time, but he’s been a strong stay-at-home defender in St. Louis for a few years now. This year his minus-7 at 5-on-5 alone with an expected goals percentage of 48.71 ranks near the bottom of the Blues’ blue line, but overall they aren’t sharp declines compared to past seasons. He’s the team’s third-most-used defenceman in the defensive zone so some of his minus shot differentials can be explained by his usage.
The question around Edmundson is the same as it is around a lot of the Blues players these days: Who will still be around next season? So far 2018-19 hasn’t gone as planned and there’s is speculation all over that a shake-up is coming.
Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets
We’re nearing crunch time for Trouba and the Jets. Since requesting a trade in 2016, which was later rescinded, everyone has been anticipating a split in the relationship. But both Trouba and the team have played it down. This past summer Trouba went to arbitration and it was another opportunity to come to terms on a long-term extension, but instead his was one of the few cases that actually got to the arbitrator, resulting in a one-year reward. Another one of those would put Trouba on the path to UFA status in the summer of 2020. Is this the year he’s traded, or will a big contract finally get signed? Josh Morrissey has passed him on the depth chart.
Brock Nelson, NY Islanders
Second among all Islanders forwards in average ice time (18:01) Nelson is on pace for a career season with 13 goals and 25 points in 38 games so far. Nelson replaced John Tavares in the vacant top-six centre spot and given the team’s top forward prospects are wingers, the 27-year-old Nelson seems poised to lock in for at least the next few years as the Islanders continue to surprise.
Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks
Injuries have taken their toll on Thornton, who will be 40 next season if he signs an extension. With 18 points in 32 games he’s on his lowest points per game pace in 20 years and he’s lost his role as a definite top-line centre. It would be a shock to see Thornton sign somewhere else at this point and the Sharks are still challenging for a Stanley Cup. Perhaps if they win this season it’d be easier for him to retire as a winner, but if they fall short, Thornton may be inclined to try his luck again.
Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
With an average of 21:11 per game in 21 outings, age and injuries have slowed Chara, too, but he’s recognized as one of the fittest players in the game today and is seemingly capable of playing beyond this, his 41-year-old season. He has just four points and this is the first season he’s spent as a Bruin where he hasn’t been the biggest minute eater on the team. He didn’t sign his current one-year deal until March 28, so there is no rush to get this deal signed.