As the NHL season approaches, many fans and analysts alike will be keeping a close eye on players in contract years. These are players who are set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, and as such, have a lot riding on their performances.
Contract years can be a double-edged sword for players. On the one hand, they can be a huge motivator to perform at a high level. With their next contract looming, players are often extra motivated to have a standout season in order to secure a lucrative deal in free agency. On the other hand, the pressure of a contract year can also be a burden, and some players may struggle to perform under the weight of such expectations.
So who are some of the notable players entering contract years in the NHL this season? Let`s take a look:
Taylor Hall, Buffalo Sabres – Hall is one of the biggest names on the market this season, and he`ll be playing for his fourth team in four years after signing a one-year deal with the Sabres. Hall won the Hart Trophy as the NHL`s most valuable player in 2018, but has struggled to replicate that form in recent seasons. A strong campaign with the Sabres could help him secure a long-term deal next summer.
Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche – The Avalanche captain is coming off a career-best season in which he scored 75 points in just 54 games. Landeskog has been a key part of Colorado`s rise to the top of the Western Conference, and will be looking to prove that he`s worth a big payday in his contract year.
Dougie Hamilton, New Jersey Devils – Hamilton is one of the league`s top offensive defensemen, and he`ll be looking to cash in on his talents next summer. After three seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes, Hamilton signed a seven-year deal with the Devils this offseason, and will be looking to put up big numbers in his new surroundings.
Mikael Granlund, Nashville Predators – Granlund was a point-per-game player with the Minnesota Wild before being traded to the Predators in 2019. Since then, he`s struggled to find his form, but could be in line for a bounce-back season in his contract year.
There are plenty of other players in similar situations, including Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, and Phillip Danault of the Montreal Canadiens. For these players, the pressure of a contract year can be intense, but if they can perform up to their potential, they could be in for a big payday next summer.