2019 NHL Free Agency: Ranking the top 15 unrestricted free agents set to hit the open market
Examining the top players in this year's free agent class
With the NHL Draft officially in the rear-view mirror, the focus of hockey's offseason now turns to free agency, which will officially open on July 1.
Last year's free agency period featured a major shockwave when John Tavares ditched the Islanders to join the Leafs, and we could have some more big-time deals this offseason. Artemi Panarin is clearly the biggest prize of a pretty intriguing class of unrestricted free agents but he's far from the only name that could help shake up the landscape of the league.
Let's take a look at 15 of the biggest names that could be headed for the open market in July.
Artemi Panarin Columbus Blue Jackets LW
|Panarin is an elite winger who has steadily contributed for the Blackhawks and Blue Jackets since coming into the NHL four years ago. He's coming off a career-best season in which he scored 28 goals and had 87 points. The 27-year-old has 320 points in 322 games over the course of his career. He'll command a huge payday in UFA and has been said to be interested in a big market team or a destination city.|
Sergei Bobrovsky Columbus Blue Jackets G
|Bobrovsky, 30, is the best goaltender on the market. The nine-year veteran has twice won the Vezina as the league's best goaltender and is coming off a season in which he recorded a .913 save percentage with a 2.58 goals against average and a league-leading nine shutouts. He also had a strong playoff performance for the Blue Jackets, saving 92.5 percent of the shots he faced over 10 postseason games with Columbus. The Florida Panthers reportedly have a lot of interest in his services.|
Matt Duchene Columbus Blue Jackets C
|After being acquired by Columbus at the trade deadline this past season, Duchene finished the year strong and had a nice playoff run to increase his value on the market. He's the top playmaker down the middle in this year's free agent class and he should be able to cash in on a huge deal after a year in which hit career highs with 31 goals and 70 points. The 28-year-old Duchene will also likely benefit from the big, market-setting deal that Kevin Hayes got from the Flyers (seven years, $50 million). Duchene could draw lots of interest from the Nashville Predators , who just unloaded PK Subban in order to free up cap space for a big splash.|
Joe Pavelski San Jose Sharks RW
|Pavelski, who is about to turn 35, has spent his entire 13-year career with the Sharks but he could end up being a casualty of the massive deal San Jose gave Erik Karlsson . The Sharks' captain had 38 goals last season and is one of the league's most dangerous net-front presences, so he could be a valuable piece for a team looking for a veteran who brings offense, leadership and a strong two-way game. It will be interesting to see if he considers leaving money on the table to stay in San Jose or, if not, how many years a team will be willing to give him with the threat of a decline looming.|
Jake Gardiner Toronto Maple Leafs D
|Gardiner, 29, is probably the best defenseman on the market. He won't blow you away with offensive production (just three goals and 30 points in 62 games last season) but he's a strong play driver. He averaged over 21 minutes of TOI for the Maple Leafs last season and can be a strong complement to a shutdown partner on the blue line.|
Mats Zuccarello Dallas Stars RW
|Zuccarello, 31, was a trade deadline acquisition of the offensively starved Dallas Stars last season and he proved to be a valuable addition to their lineup when he was healthy. He's not going to lead a good team up front but he can be a strong secondary or depth playmaker. He's also a spark plug who has a tendency to deliver in big moments.|
Gustav Nyquist San Jose Sharks RW
|Nyquist was a trade deadline acquisition of the Sharks and proved to be a nice offensive piece for them down the stretch. He's coming off a career-best 60 point season (22-38-60) and he'll likely want to cash in while his stock is high. He's still a strong driver and playmaker heading into his age 30 season and could be a nice secondary piece.|
Anders Lee New York Islanders LW
|Lee saw a dip in production (28-23-51) on a defensive-minded Islanders squad without John Tavares this past season but he's one year removed from being a 40-goal scorer and has made improvements in his two-way game. He's a smart offensive player who can put pucks in the net and also brings an element of leadership, as he served as the Isles' captain last season following Tavares' departure. He has said that he prefers to stay on Long Island.|
Robin Lehner New York Islanders G
|After going to the Islanders last offseason, Lehner had the best year of his career. He finished the season with a 2.13 goals against average, a .930 save percentage and 26.24 goals saved above average, earning him a nomination for the Vezina trophy. He'll be able to use that to secure a lucrative deal heading into his age 28 season. There seems to be mutual interest between Lehner and the Islanders extending their relationship.|
Tyler Myers Winnipeg Jets D
|The Winnipeg Jets really want to keep Myers (they traded Jacob Trouba for pennies on the dollar in order to help them do that) but he may end up commanding too high of a price on a market that is lacking quality defensemen. The 29-year-old has a huge frame and (6-foot-8, 230 lbs.) is a good puck mover with a decent offensive skill set but he can be a liability in his own end.|
Marcus Johansson Boston Bruins LW
|Johansson, 28, has struggled to stay healthy in the past couple of years but he was very good for the Boston Bruins down the stretch after they acquired him at the trade deadline. His regular season numbers were pedestrian (13-17-30 in 58 games between the Devils and Bruins) but Johansson was one of Boston's better forwards during their run to the Stanley Cup Final, picking up 11 points (4-7-11) in 22 games. He's a solid middle-six playmaker who is smart on the puck and excels at gaining the zone cleanly. He has expressed interest in remaining with the Bruins but probably can find a more enticing and lucrative offer elsewhere.|
Anton Stralman Tampa Bay Lightning D
|Stralman is going to be 33 years old and he's not the shutdown force he once was on the blue line but he's still a very capable defender on the back end. He had a tough season that was marred by injuries and had the worst shot share on a Lightning team that was largely dominant during the regular season. That being said, a team looking to bolster their defensive depth may be willing to bank on him being able to bounce back.|
Joe Thornton San Jose Sharks C
|It seems unlikely that Thornton, who is about to turn 40, goes anywhere other than San Jose, especially given he's already proven he's willing to take team-friendly deals to stay with the Sharks. But it's possible that San Jose prioritizes keeping some of their other pending free agents and Thornton is forced to consider other options. He may be older but Thornton proved he can still be a valuable contributor down the middle, even if it's in a reduced third line role. He was one of the Sharks' stronger forwards down the stretch last season and finished the season healthy for the first time in three years.|
Ryan Dzingel Columbus Blue Jackets LW
|Dzingel, 27, had a career-best season split between Ottawa and Columbus as he scored 26 goals and had 56 points. However, he faded a bit down the stretch as he got less minutes away from Ottawa's terrible lineup and on Blue Jackets team that made it to the second round of the playoffs. He's got two straight seasons with 20-plus goals but can be a defensive liability and is likely best suited as a bottom-six depth piece on a good team.|
Wayne Simmonds Nashville Predators RW
|Simmonds, 31, had a tough final season of his contract last year and he doesn't seem to be aging well. He was acquired by the Predators at the trade deadline but had just three points (one goal and two assists) in 19 games for Nashville and the Preds were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. He's still got some offensive ability and is a physical presence, but his 5-on-5 play isn't what it used to be and interested teams would be wise to recognize that decline.|
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