As July 1st inches closer and closer, the start of NHL free agency looms in the minds of many. NHL free agency should have many surprises and should impact the NHL tremendously. With that being said, here are my predictions for some of the top unrestricted free agents (UFAs) on the market for 2019 NHL free agency.
NHL Free Agency Predictions
2018-19 Team: Columbus Blue Jackets
2019-20 Projected Team: New York Islanders
Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets attempted to get an extension done throughout the season but to no avail. It’s clear that Panarin wants out of Columbus and it’s also clear that a number of teams could use his services. A team that I feel needs him the most; the New York Islanders. The Islanders need desperate help in their top six and Panarin fits the mold perfectly. New York is extremely deep down the middle but lacks wingers to supply consistent scoring. Pairing a guy like Artemi Panarin with a young star like Matthew Barzal is a recipe for success. The Islanders must go all-in on Artemi Panarin, and I think they will succeed at doing so.
2019-20 Projected Team: Montreal Canadiens
Matt Duchene has long been one of the most dominant centers in the league. However, his small stint with Ottawa had many forgetting what he can bring to the table. A mid-season trade with CBJ has brought more attention than ever back to the 28-year-old. Duchene is coming off of a fantastic season, totaling 70 points in just 73 games. He is undoubtedly the best UFA on the market and warrants attention from any team looking for a top-six center. The Canadiens are a team that particularly struggle down the middle, but have a few wingers that provide nearly all the production. Max Domi and Tomas Tatar would love a veteran center to play alongside with, depending on where they would slot Duchene.
All Canadiens’ fans are eager to get back into the playoff picture, and I don’t think they can pass Matt Duchene up this free agency.
2018-19 Team: Columbus Blue Jackets
2019-2019 Projected Team: Florida Panthers
Roberto Luongo is out and it’s yet to be seen who will fill the starting goalies role. Sergi Bobrovsky will be at the top of the Panthers free agency list and I think they will land him in the end. Both goalies in James Reimer and Roberto Luongo had above 3 goals against (GAA) for the 2018-19 season. That isn’t serviceable for a team looking for just their third playoff birth in the last 19 years. Sergei Bobrovsky was lights out for the Blue Jackets and most importantly has playoff experience under his belt. If the Panthers are looking to compete for the Stanley Cup anytime soon, they need to start with their goaltending situation.
The opportunity for Florida to turn over a new leaf and start fresh has come upon them and they shouldn’t pass it up. Being able to lock down an elite goalie for the next 6-7 years would be perfect for a team trying to find their identity. This signing will be far from easy, as teams such as the New York Islanders are also looking to replace their netminder. The Panthers have the cap and they should use it. Bobrovsky will be signing down south this NHL free agency.
2018-19 Team: San Jose Sharks
2019-20 Projected Team: San Jose Sharks
One of the biggest names in free agency is the veteran Joe Pavelski. Pavelski totaled 64 points in 75 games this past season with the Sharks. Although it’s tough to see Pavelski leave San Jose, the Sharks simply don’t have the room for a player looking for a bridge contract into retirement. Joe Pavelski sits at 34 years old and has yet to win a cup. His time is running out. However, there isn’t really a better option than the team he sits on right now. The Lightning has been in the mix but they would run into cap trouble almost immediately. The Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars both have space, but they are far from the talent needed for a cup run.
Pavelski has played his entire career with the Sharks and I have a hard time believing he will voucher anywhere else. The Sharks made it all the way to the WCF last year and they have the ability to do it again after locking up defenseman Erik Karlsson. Pavelski will sign back with the Sharks this NHL free agency.
Important Next Couple Months
Many teams are looking to bolster their roster this NHL free agency period. While some are looking to make a big splash, others are looking to make smaller moves to maintain their contention. Many big names will be rostered on new teams next year, which should add an even more competitive feel to the league. The next couple of months should be fun!
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