The last week marked an interesting trend with certain NHL front offices as general managers began locking up their promising young players. Pekka Rinne, Andrew MacDonald, Cal Clutterbuck and Rene Bourque all inked new deals, ensuring they would wear their sweaters for at least another couple of seasons.
The youngest of the four would be Clutterbuck who already broke his career high in goals with 12 and tied his high in points with 18. More impressive than his goal totals however would be his work throwing around his body as he set the NHL single-season record last season with 356 body checks. He currently leads the league in hits with 252.
At this rate I would compare his upside to Ryan Callahan of the New York Rangers, a gritty forward who you notice on the ice and shows promise to produce a 25-25 season in the future. With Minnesota revamping their system and bringing in players like Cam Barker a continued increase in production should be expected.
MacDonald may not be a name most fans know but he could lead the New York Islander blueline in the near future. Already playing 24 minutes a game at 23-years-old, the Nova Scotia native drew the praise of the locals relatively quickly.
GM Garth Snow may be taking a risk by signing a rookie to a four year contract but the Islanders lock up a worthy young player to a low-cost and long-term contract. Once the young Islander core of John Tavares, Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo begin producing at a more consistent clip MacDonald will likely see his production increase as well. Keep his name on your radar, certainly not a poor acquisition for a manager in a deep pool looking towards the future.
The resigning of Rinne means counterpart Dan Ellis probably hits the free agency market. With a notably limited budget the team needed to choose one of the two and devote their remaining budget to help up front or re-signing impending free agent Dan Hamhuis.
At the beginning of the season Rinne looked like the easy call but his peripherals certainly slipped with the team’s most recent slide. Ellis actually boasts a better GAA and SV% but the front office in Nashville committed to Rinne and likely will live and die by their choice. Ellis should make an interesting sleeper next season should he land a starting role.
Bourque represents the oldest and most intriguing signing made over the break, penning a six year contract worth 20 million. At the reasonable 3.33 cap hit the Flames retain an excellent source of secondary scoring to their left side. Although he rarely plays with star Jarome Iginla, he projects for 60 points over a 82 game schedule.
For pools which consider salary, the 28-year-old should be just as much of a value to your team. He also could break the 100 PIM plateau this season and remains a threat on the PK. Lack of powerplay time may be a concern but with this signing GM Darryl Sutter shows increased confidence that Bourque will play a valuable role in their future.
These signings prove an increased confidence in said players which should give each player a small boost. Look for each player to bring a heightened intensity when the NHL resumes on Monday.