The focus of NHL fans and pundits is on the 2022 playoffs. Once the Stanley Cup champion is crowned in late June, attention will turn toward offseason moves.
Teams that fall by the wayside or those that failed to qualify for the playoffs will begin contract negotiations with their free agents. They'll have exclusive negotiating rights with their unrestricted free agents until noon ET on July 13, after which those players can sign with any club. Restricted free agents can receive offer sheets from other franchises at that time.
Most contract negotiations end with a player reaching an agreement with their team. However, complications might exist. A team's limited salary-cap space, a player's role or his age are among the issues that can derail negotiations.
A restricted free agent who carries arbitration rights, such as the Minnesota Wild's Kevin Fiala, could attempt to use that as leverage in contract discussions. Meanwhile, an impending unrestricted free agent such as the Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau could use his July 13 eligibility date as a means of pressuring management into offering more favorable contract terms.
Here's a look at this summer's six toughest NHL contract decisions. Feel free to express your views on this topic in the comments section below.
6. Nazem Kadri, Colorado Avalanche
Since his acquisition from the Toronto Maple Leafs in July 2019, Nazem Kadri has provided the Colorado Avalanche with a reliable, physical two-way presence as their second-line center. He played a significant role in the club's rise to among the league's dominant teams over the last two years as it won the Presidents' Trophy in 2020-21 and finished atop the Western Conference this season.
Slated for unrestricted free-agent status, the 31-year-old is completing a six-year contract worth an average annual value of $4.5 million. Ensuring Kadri remains part of the Avalanche's future could be an expensive undertaking for general manager Joe Sakic. Losing him to free agency, however, will leave a big hole at center on their second line.
Making Sakic's task more difficult is Kadri's performance this season. Having previously reached a career high of 61 points in 2016-17 with the Maple Leafs, the gritty center tallied 87 points in 2021-22 to finish third among Avalanche scorers. If not for a late-season upper-body injury, he might have reached 100 points.
Kadri likely would've been in line for a raise to $6 million annually before this season. He could now receive close to $8 million annually on a five-year contract on the open market.
The Avalanche have $57.8 million invested in 15 players for 2022-23. Re-signing Kadri could make it difficult to sign other impending UFAs such as Darcy Kuemper, Andre Burakovsky and Valeri Nichushkin. Sakic could attempt to convince the Kadri camp to accept less than market value to stick with a Cup contender instead of pursuing bigger bucks elsewhere.
5. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
This was a difficult season for Brock Boeser. After netting 45 and 49 points in two COVID-shortened campaigns, the 25-year-old winger managed 46 points in 71 games in 2021-22 to finish sixth among Vancouver Canucks scorers. Time in the COVID-19 protocol and an arm injury cost him 11 games. On May 1, Boeser told reporters his father's dementia weighed on his mind and affected his performance.
Boeser is a restricted free agent, has arbitration rights and is coming off a three-year deal worth an average annual value of $5.88 million but carries a salary of $7.5 million for this season. On Nov. 24, The Athletic's Thomas Drance explained that the Canucks must make him a qualifying offer for that amount to retain his rights unless the sides can agree to a new contract with a lower salary.