R. Aaron Houde | July 1st, 2019
The NHL Free Agency opens up today, July 1st, and with the trading in a frenzy right now, hockey fans can expect the pace for free agency to be equally as fueled. Some of the personnel expected to be high on the list of sought-after players have been traded, but the list still remains quite impressive. What follows is an opinion-based list of the 10 most skilled players available in the Free Agency and who they are expected to sign with. This list will focus primarily on players not expected to return to their current teams.
- Artemi Panarin (RW): So much potential for this relatively new player to the NHL stage. At just 27 years old, he has accumulated 320 points (116 goals, 204 assists) between his time with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and earned the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2016 as the most proficient player in his first year in the national hockey league. With the recent blockbuster trade of Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk (and most importantly, salary cap space), you can bet the Pittsburg Penguins are going to be trying to ink this deal.
- Matt Duchene (C): Matt Duchene has been passed around the NHL since the 2016-2017 season, being dealt to the Ottawa Senators from the Colorado Avalanche in a blockbuster deal, then most recently to the Blue Jackets, where he currently sits on the pending free agency roster. The 28-year-old has shown between the three teams he has played for that he is capable of playing in a variety of roles, as he tied his season-high 70 points while splitting his time between the Senators and Blue Jackets. Speculation has been floating around about the Nashville Predators trying to lock a deal with Duchene, and the cap space freed by trading P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils will certainly make sure they can offer a substantial deal.
- Anders Lee (C/W): Lee was able to step into the limelight after the Toronto Maple Leafs were able to get John Tavares to sign with them last season. As a legitimate goal scorer, he was able to help the New York Islanders into the NHL Playoffs this last season without the help of Tavares. Lee recorded 51 points in this last season and had a career-high +20 on the plus/minus stat. He has voiced his desire to stay with the Islanders, and it is suspected that he will sign a long-term deal with them. If he does leave, he would likely move to a rebuilder like the Anaheim Ducks, which could score the centerman at a bargain.
- Mats Zuccarello (LW): After splitting this last season between the New York Rangers and Dallas Stars, Zuccarello tallied 40 points in 48 regular season games, and added 11 points during the playoffs. After being traded to the Stars, the 32-year-old was injured when he blocked a shot late in the 2nd period of his debut game. Zuccarello voiced his desire for a long-term deal this summer, and the Minnesota Wild are vying heavily for their club to give him that deal. The Wild have the cap space available, but their team has been known to lock in players long-term and handcuff themselves into mediocrity. I hope for Zuccarello’s sake this is not the case.
- Tyler Myers (D): Able to put points on the board and a solid defensive defenseman, Myers is set to hit the Free Agency Market. With names like Niklas Kronwall and Jordie Benn also set to be on the Free Agent list, Myers is arguably the best blue-liner available. However, he is rumored to be asking for a $7/year contract, which may be overreaching. With the Jacob Trouba deal to New York happening earlier this month, the Winnipeg Jets have shown they want to keep the 6’8″ defenseman in their stable, but it may be too much to net the contract. The Vancouver Canucks have the money to be able to offer a contract, and their blue line could use the support. Either way, the Texas native is most likely staying in the Great White North.
- Brayden Point (C): It is hard to imagine that Point would wear any other jersey that a Tampa Bay Lightning jersey, but as of today the Lightning have not made any news of him remaining in Tampa. The most recent post-season was not ideal for the President’s Trophy club, and I am sure the team is frustrated with being swept out of the first round. Point had a career-high season of 92 points (41 goals, 51 assists, both of which were also career highs). Point can make any offense more dangerous and would be a good choice for any team looking to rebuild. Yes, I am looking at you, Ottawa.
- Brian Boyle (F): Boyle has had a rough go since 2017. Being diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia then finishing the 2017-2018 season with the Devils, then being traded to the Predators in the 2018-2019 season. However, this is an attribute that any team would like. A competent player, and tough enough to maintain a positive mindset in the midst of a rough time, to say the least, is world class. A solid option to fill the 3rd or 4th line role virtually anywhere, Boyle’s experience would be a great asset to a young team like the Vegas Golden Knights.
- Sergei Bobrovsky (G): At only 30, Bobrovsky has been an active name in the goaltender realm since his entry into the NHL arena in 2010. When he moved to Columbus into 2012, he won the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie in the league and has continued to be the main component of the Blue Jacket’s franchise since. With a 2.58 goals against average last season and a 0.913 save average, he played a key role in the team’s success all year. But, it seems his time in Columbus is done. With the recent news of Roberto Luongo retiring, Florida may be gunning hard to sign a proven starting goaltender.
- Wayne Simmonds (RW): While many may be curious why Wayne Simmonds is on this list, ignore the name and read this. Which team would not want an aggressive right-winger who had scored 20 goals in six of his 11 years, won the Mark Messier Leadership award, and, in spite of injuries, had shown he can still produce? While that last line may seem like a downer, it could also mean you are getting a solid 3rd liner at a bargain. Wayne Simmonds may seem like his best days are behind him, but he would be a strong asset to a team who is looking to assemble a solid bottom six on their offensive line. Expect the Dallas Stars to be looking to add his name to fill their lineup.
- Valtteri Filppula (C): At 35 years old, Valtteri Filppula is still going strong. With 31 points on the last season with the Philadelphia Flyers, he adds the veteran experience as well as point production that teams will need to offset the primary point-getters. He has an innate leadership quality he carried through his career and is notorious for getting his clubs to the playoffs. Expect teams who have a desire to make the post-season to be keeping Filppula in their cross-hairs, such as the Chicago Blackhawks.
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