The most coveted prizes of 2019 NHL free agency have found their new homes after Day 1. Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene and Joe Pavelski have signed their multi-year pacts. But a few of the top UFA assets are still sitting out there on the open market. Here’s a rundown of the top remaining free agents.
1. JAKE GARDINER, D, 28
2018-19 cap hit: $4,050,000
Some of his mental lapses are difficult to unsee, but his skating and offensive acumen more than make up for that. He’s a legit top-four blueliner, the best left-shot on the market, and could thrive in a less hockey-obsessed city. It’s possible last season’s back injury causes enough trepidation to keep teams from offering him seven years, but he’s easily the best blueliner available and should score a multi-year contract with an AAV of $6 million or more.
2. MICHEAL FERLAND, LW, 27
2018-19 cap hit: $1,750,000
Offers size, grit and goal-scoring in a throwback power-forward mold. Any team could use that. Ferland, though, is perpetually nicked up. He plays a style that taxes his body – as we’ve seen with the likes of Wayne Simmonds and David Backes once they reached their 30s – so a long-term contract would carry risk. He’s been linked to the Colorado Avalanche, who remain swimming in cap space. A return to the Calgary Flames would make sense, too.
3. MARCUS JOHANSSON, LW, 28
2018-19 cap hit: $4,583,333
Can play all three forward positions in a middle-six role and really hiked his value later in the playoffs when, on certain nights, he looked like Boston’s best forward. Young enough to deliver some more prime-year production if healthy. As of yesterday, the Bruins had not made him an offer, so it appears his time in Boston is over.
4. JOE THORNTON, C, 40
2018-19 cap hit: $5,000,000
Just like we see with Zdeno Chara annually, every time Thornton doesn’t retire, he’ll likely remain a Shark. San Jose didn’t have enough money to keep Joe Pavelski but, considering Thornton turns 40 today, he should cost about half as much.
5. JUSTIN WILLIAMS, RW, 37
2018-19 cap hit: $4,500,000
Williams led the amazing ‘Storm Surge’ story and quietly enjoyed an excellent offensive season as Sebastian Aho’s right winger. Williams’ 53 points were his most since 2011-12. Plenty of teams would want him to help their dressing-room culture. As of Monday, he wasn’t in a huge rush to pick a destination. He’s weighing his options.