Right around now, you should be sitting on a dock reading this story about pending UFAs through a pair of tanning glasses. After all, you’ve earned the rest following perhaps the most eventful and earth-shattering free-agency frenzy in NHL history. But do you think Santa’s elves start winding things up after Easter weekend? No, they take the week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and then get right back at it.
So let’s look ahead to 2019. It’s never too early to start thinking about the UFA possibilities. Well, maybe it is, given the fact that the majority of the potential UFAs will be re-signed by their teams before then. In fact, it’s so likely that undisputed No. 1 Erik Karlsson was dealt and signed by the time you’re reading this, we didn’t include him on our list. But there’s plenty to get excited about. Here are 10 other pending UFAs who will have GMs and fans licking their chops.
(Honorable mentions: Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Vegas; Joe Pavelski, C, San Jose; Anders Lee, LW, NY Islanders; Pekka Rinne, G, Nashville.)
1. TYLER SEGUIN, DALLAS STARS
Only six players in the NHL have scored more points than Seguin since 2013-14. In fact, in that time, Seguin has 0.99 points per game compared to Tavares at 0.98. Does that mean he’ll get Tavares-type money? Probably not. Does that mean he’ll ask for it? Why wouldn’t he?
2. ARTEMI PANARIN, COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Panarin touched off a bit of a frenzy when he informed the Blue Jackets he isn’t ready to sign an extension this summer. He wanted the team to know that in case it chose to shop him. Seed planted. Let the speculation begin. Panarin is one of a very small number of wingers who can drive a line.
3. SERGEI BOBROVSKY, COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Bobrovsky has been the NHL’s most consistent goaltender the past couple of seasons, and there has been almost no slippage in his game. But he’ll be on the other side of 30 by the time 2019-20 rolls around and signing him to a long-term deal is a risky proposition for Columbus or anyone else.
4. RYAN ELLIS, NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Ellis signed an enormously team-friendly deal for five years at just $2.5 million per season in 2014 and will be looking to cash in. He sat out the first half of this past season to recover from knee surgery, but he finished the year tied for ninth in points per game among defensemen.
5. BLAKE WHEELER, WINNIPEG JETS
It’s almost unheard of for a player to put up his best statistical season after 30, but that’s exactly what Wheeler did this past season. He’ll be 33 by the start of 2019-20, so a long-term deal is out of the question. Would a Cup in 2019 keep him in Winnipeg at a hometown discount?
6. MAX PACIORETTY, MONTREAL CANADIENS
The Canadiens captain has been on a team-friendly deal the past five seasons with a cap hit of $4.5 million. There were rumblings throughout the off-season that he would be dealt by Montreal, something that will almost certainly happen in-season if the sides can’t come to terms on an extension.
7. MATT DUCHENE, OTTAWA SENATORS
How quickly things change. Duchene came to an Ottawa team that went from one overtime goal from going to the Cup final to quickly deteriorating into a raging tire fire. Does he want to sign up for a continued rebuild, particularly if Karlsson is no longer part of the picture?
8. WAYNE SIMMONDS, PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
The ink was not even dry on James van Riemsdyk’s five-year, $35-million contract before the speculation about Simmonds’ future started to heat up. Simmonds has been a very consistent producer for the Flyers, but there are injury and age issues to confront because of his style of play.
9. JORDAN EBERLE, NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Assuming he plays on the right side of Mathew Barzal’s line, Eberle should be good for somewhere in the 60-point range. He’ll be 29 when the 2019-20 season begins, and the big question is, after playing for so many bad teams, whether he’ll want to move to a contender.
10. YANNI GOURDE, TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
The NHL’s surprise rookie- of-the-year contender will make just $1 million this coming season and will be looking for a big payday if he can replicate his performance from 2017-18. The Lightning are always teetering on the edge of the salary cap and might not be able to afford him.
This story appears in the August 20, 2018 issue of The Hockey News magazine.