Players share a common priority during the Stanley Cup playoffs: winning a Stanley Cup. But they have plenty of secondary goals during postseason runs, especially the unrestricted free agents, who can use these high-stakes games to give their contract values extra pushes under national spotlight.
Which pending UFAs have increased their contract values the most during the 2022 playoffs? The list doesn’t have to include stars coming off career years such as Johnny Gaudreau and Nazem Kadri. Those two arguably launched their values so high before the playoffs that they didn’t have much higher to go. Instead, we’ll look at a few names that opened the postseason with a bit less fanfare but may have climbed into higher income brackets with their efforts.
Evander Kane, LW, Oilers
Talent has never really been in question for Kane. He was the 2009 draft’s fourth overall pick for a reason. In an era where true throwback power forwards in the Keith Tkachuk/Brendan Shanahan/Kevin Stevens mold are rare, Kane brings a special skill set to the table. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast, he’s willing to drop the gloves and he can score. Still, the question perpetually following Kane around for his career has been whether the production is worth all his off-ice transgressions and propensity to disrupt team chemistry. Those questions surfaced when, after the San Jose Sharks terminated his contract, the Edmonton Oilers signed him this January.
But Kane found a way to keep his head down and strike up tremendous chemistry with Connor McDavid, picking up 22 goals and 39 points in 43 games. Not even that run could have prepared us for what Kane has done in the 2022 post-season: 13 goals in 14 games thus far. He’s one of 59 players to score 13 times in a single playoff year – and he’s done so in about half a playoff run. If the Oilers can fight back in the Western Conference final and find their way to the Cup final, Kane has an outside chance to threaten Reggie Leach and Jari Kurri’s shared single-season playoff record of 19 goals. Even if Kane doesn’t, he’s shown what he’s still capable of producing when his head is right. That doesn’t mean he won’t implode again, as has been his career pattern, but what he’s done has been too impressive for teams to ignore. He’s 30 and far too risky to ever dream of another seven-year, $49-million pact, but he has a chance to score a medium-term commitment if he’s willing to take less money to remain an Oiler. Other suitors might be more reticent to hand him multiple years.