Every postseason there are players that rise to the occasion as they are facing a contract year. Last spring it was Sean Bergenheim and Joel Ward who stepped up, and they were paid nicely for their breakout postseason. This year it is two oft-criticized forwards and two veterans who are seeing their summer price tag rise.
Dustin Penner, LA
Penner will always be best known for his pancakes, but the power forward has elevated his game at the most important time of the year. Everyone in the Kings lineup has bought in to the task in hand en route to plowing through the top two seeds in the Western Conference, but the contributions from Penner have been a bit unexpected.
In his first 84 regular season games with the Kings, Penner has chipped in just 23 points – not exactly what Kings GM Dean Lombardi had in mind when he paid a heavy price for Penner’s services last February. Penner has been a different player in the playoffs, though. He has seven points in nine playoff games and is effective in all areas of the ice.
His work ethic and skating ability has been dogged in recent years, but this postseason we’ve seen what Penner is truly capable of – and it’ll certainly help his free agency stock this summer.
Alexander Semin, WSH
Talk about someone who was been criticized more times than he’s been praised. Semin has one of the more lethal wrist shots in hockey, but he is the definition of an enigma. The critics always say he doesn’t play defense and takes shifts off, and it’s hard to disagree with those sentiments.
You could make an argument, however, that this has been Semin’s best all-around playoff effort. He scored in three consecutive games against Boston, including the game-winning goal in Game 4 of the series. He only has one point in the second round against New York, but his overall game has been a lot better than postseasons of the past.
If general managers know they’d be getting this version of Semin in the off-season, I think you’ll see a lot more teams try to take a chance on him.
Shane Doan, PHX
If the Coyotes stay in Phoenix – which is looking more likely with Greg Jamison’s pursuit of buying the team – Doan isn’t going anywhere. The 35-year-old is the face of the franchise, the captain, and he loves Phoenix. So the likelihood of him hitting the open market this summer isn’t favorable.
Whether he does or not, Doan has stepped up here in the playoffs. After his worst regular season offensive output in 10 years, the Coyotes captain has thrived as his team has advanced to the third round for the first time ever. Doan was an all-around difference-maker against Nashville, tallying four points in five games.
Doan isn’t going to earn a decade-long contract, but he has further proven that he can be an effective and valuable forward despite his age.
Bryce Salvador, NJ
Like Doan for Phoenix, this veteran defenseman has been a valuable commodity for the New Jersey Devils this spring. Salvador is logging the third-most ice time from Devils defensemen and has a plus-8 rating, second-best in the NHL these playoffs. He also has six points in 12 playoff games, tied for best among Devils defensemen.
Salvador, who missed the entire 2010-11 season with a concussion, has been a big part of the defense corps all year long. He was dominant in slowing down the Flyers’ vaunted offensive attack and is longer an afterthought with his clutch playoff effort.
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