From veterans looking for the next big opportunity to younger guys looking to impress in an RFA season, here are five players that have used the Stanley Cup playoffs to improve their free agency value:
After undergoing thumb surgery following Game 3 against Edmonton, we don't know if Kadri will return for the Stanley Cup final. Don’t be mistaken, though. Kadri’s play this post-season has proved a jolt to the Avs lineup and was contributing at a high rate. Prior to the injury, his 14 points were fourth-best on Colorado while appearing in only 13 games. Acquired by the Avalanche in 2019, they took on the veteran’s six-year, $27-million contract. Now, finishing his third season with Colorado, he’s really hit his stride, posting a career-high in assists with 59, best amongst Avalanche players and his 87 points, a career-high as well, was third-best behind Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon.
After missing nearly half the season, Kane finally signed a one-year, $1,375,000 contract with Edmonton towards the end of January. On the ice, it paid off for the Oilers, with Kane sitting as the league leader in goals this post-season. Across 15 playoff games, Kane totalled 13 goals and 17 points, third-best on the Oilers behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Once valued at $7 million a year, the value Edmonton got from Kane this season will be nowhere near the value that any team is going to get for his services this summer
In his sophomore season in the NHL, Oettinger was the highlight of what turned out to be a bit of a surprising season for Dallas. Statistically, the Stars had their best regular-season finish in the past seven years, winning 56 percent of the games. In the final year of his entry-level deal, Oettinger totalled 30 wins this season, most by any Stars goalie with less than 50 games played, and added a career-best .914 save percentage. In a wild seven-game series against Calgary, Oettinger’s full potential bloomed, with many considering him to be the best player from the first round, regardless of series. His .954 save percentage is a franchise-best in a single post-season with a minimum of five games played and is second all-time only behind Bernie Parent, who had a .963 save percentage during the 1968 playoffs with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Acquired from Winnipeg in March, Copp has been one of the key acquisitions from this year’s trade deadline. His 18 points in 16 games were second-most amongst players traded at the deadline, trailing only Claude Giroux’s 23 points with the Florida Panthers. However, Copp wasn’t just a key contributor during the regular season, but he was also a pivotal piece to New York’s Eastern Conference final run. He has 13 points across 18 games, ranking him in the top five amongst Rangers in goals and points these playoffs. The numbers aren’t as appealing as they were during the regular season, clearly, but Copp has been able to push success in other ways. He currently has the second-best faceoff percentage amongst Rangers centers and has drawn only one penalty throughout the post-season, playing just under 20 minutes a game.
Kempe had a breakout campaign in the last year of his three-year, $6-million contract. The Swedish center finished his sixth season setting a career-high with 35 goals, the most on LA this season, and is the most goals scored by a Kings player in a single season since Anze Kopitar did it during the 2017-18 season. Kempe also obliterated his previous high in points with 54, ranked second-best only behind, once again, Kopitar. A third-place finish in a lackluster Pacific Division led LA to a first-round matchup with divisional opponents, McDavid, Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers. Kempe’s team-leading six points, and second-highest points per game in the playoffs helped the Kings go the distance in the series, just falling short, losing in Game 7. Los Angeles will continue to have four centers under contract until the end of 2024, but regardless, Kempe is about to see a nice increase from his current $2 million AAV.