Why 2014 free agents are signing now

Updated: June 21, 2013, 1:48 PM ET
By Craig Custance

There's typically an order for how general managers approach the offseason. First, there's a decision made on pending unrestricted free agents, because they are the ones who can leave the soonest. Then come the restricted free agents and arbitration cases. And then attention is turned to seeing whether progress can be made on extending the contract of a key player who still has a year remaining on his deal.

This year has been a bit different.

Some of the biggest deals made are the ones for players who couldn't hit free agency until next year. And more are coming.

Pavel Datsyuk signed a contract extension with the Detroit Red Wings. Evgeni Malkin got his extension done in short order after the Pittsburgh Penguins' elimination and GM Ray Shero and Kris Letang are currently in talks to extend his contract. Claude Giroux would only be a restricted free agent next summer but there's an expectation that he won't be waiting much for his long-term deal. And here at the Stanley Cup final, nobody believes it will take long for a Patrice Bergeron extension to be announced after the Stanley Cup is awarded to the Chicago Blackhawks or Boston Bruins.

The general managers of these teams are working ahead.

Why in this order?