• Keith Walsh

NHL Free Agency Preview:

Photo Credit:(NHL.com)

With the NHL draft officially over it is time to look ahead to the next part of the offseason. The NHL free agency period opens tomorrow Monday, July 1st, at 12:00pm ET. It is always an exciting day as usually we get a lot of signings right away. Now there have been other years where the biggest names wait a few days before making their decision but let’s hope that’s not the case this year.

There are already some big names off the board like Erik Karlsson and Kevin Hayes to name a few but, there are still plenty of options out there for teams looking to improve their roster.

There are two different types of free agents come July 1st, you have the unrestricted(UFA)ones who are free to sign with whoever they want for however much they get offered.

Then there are the restricted free agents(RFA)who will still be property of the team they are on. That being said other teams can make these players offer sheets and if they choose to sign them the team they are currently on will have 7 days to match the offer sheet. If they choose to not match the offer then the team that put in the offer sheet will have to give draft picks back to the other team based on the money that is offered. It is a little confusing but it could be important to know how it all works based off of some of the big names that are RFA this year.

Let's get started by taking a look at the top unrestricted free agents come July 1st.

1. Artemi Panarin-Left Wing

2. Sergei Bobrovsky-Goalie

3. Matt Duchene-Center

4. Joe Pavelski-Center

5. Anders Lee-Left Wing

6. Jake Gardiner-Defense

7. Robin Lehner-Goalie

8. Mats Zuccarello-Right Wing

9. Michael Ferland-Left Wing

10. Tyler Myers-Defense

11. Gustav Nyquist-Right Wing

12. Alexander Edler-Defense

13. Joe Thornton-Center

14. Petr Mrazek-Goalie

15. Wayne Simmonds-Right Wing

16. Justin Williams-Right Wing

17. Semyon Varlamov-Goalie

18. Anton Stralman-Defense

19. Brett Connolly-Right Wing

20. Brian Boyle-Center

21. Alex Chiasson-Right Wing

22. Marcus Johansson-Left Wing

23. Brandon Tanev-Left Wing

24. Ron Hainsey-Defense

25. Ryan Dzingel-Left Wing

Now lets take a look at the top restricted free agents come July 1st:

1. Brayden Point-Center

2. Mitch Marner-Right Wing

3. Sebastian Aho-Left Wing

4. Mikko Rantanen-Right Wing

5. Matthew Tkachuk-Left Wing

6. Timo Meier-Left Wing

7. Brock Boeser-Right Wing

8. Charlie McAvoy-Defense

9. Kyle Connor-Left Wing

10. Patrik Laine-Right Wing

Unrestricted Free Agents:

The UFAs have been able to speak with teams for the past few days to try and iron out verbally agreements. They just are not allowed to sign until tomorrow at 12pm ET. With that being said there are a lot of rumors about where players will sign but nothing is definite.

As for where some of these will end up here are a few predictions based off of some of the rumors out there.

Photo Credit:(NHL.com)

Panarin and Bobrovsky

I believe that Artemi Panarin and Sergi Bobrovsky will end up on the same team once again and I believe that team will be the Florida Panthers. They have been rumored as a favorite for a long time now and have made some recent moves to clear more cap space which opens the door for both of them to sign there. Both of these guys are going to get paid...paid Panarin will most likely get around close to 12 million and as for Bob he will get close to around 9 million I believe. If Florida is the team that ends up with both of them, they better hope they don't spend too much time on the beach.

Photo Credit:(CBC)

Lee and Lehner

Anders Lee and Robin Lehner will end up back on the New York Islanders. The Islanders were one of the more surprising teams last year and Lee and Lehner were a big part of that. Originally the Islanders had interest in Panarin and Bobrovsky but in the end they will miss out on them and end up re-signing two guys who played a big role on their team last year.

Photo Credit:(NHL.com)

Matt Duchene

Duchene is an interesting player when it comes to where he will end up. He could be a first line center but I believe he would be better suited in a 2nd line center role. He is a great player and has proven no matter where is goes he can produce. The perfect fit for a big body center like him would be the Nashville Predators. They have the cap room now with their trade of P.K. Subban and he fits their system perfectly. He should get close to around 6-8 Million a year depending on the length of the contract.

Jake Gardiner

The former Toronto Maple Leaf defenseman is one of the few big names when it comes to this free agency defenseman class. He is 28 years old and is easily as top 4 defenseman who will provide a boost to whichever club he signs with. That being said I think the perfect fit for him would be with the Vancouver Canucks. They are a younger team and need some help on the back end to go along with Quinn Hughes and Gardiner would be a great fit to help move the puck to their elusive forwards. I look for him to get around 7 Million a year for 7 years.

Photo Credit:(Toronto Star)

Restricted Free Agents:

The restricted free agents are a little more tricky to try and predict. They aren't able to start talking to teams until tomorrow at 12pm ET. Now most of the time a restricted free agent ends up re signing with his current team and just uses the time past July 1st as leverage to try and force their current team into offering them more money. One of the biggest differences this year is the big names that are RFAs and how they are on teams who do not have much cap space left. Lets take a look at some shocking offer sheets that we could see over the next few days.

Photo Credit:(Toronto Star)

Mitch Marner

The Toronto Maple Leafs star winger has seen a few of his teammates get some nice deals recently and even saw his linemate William Nylander holdout last year until he got what he wanted. This does not bode well for Toronto as they are tight with money and have already had one of their top players miss almost three months of the season due to contract issues. While there will be a lot of interest in Marner from other teams I don't see anyone putting in an offer sheet for him. Instead I see him signing a bridge type deal with the Leafs for around 2-3 years with about 6 million a year.

Photo Credit:(NHL.com)

Brayden Point

Point is a very interesting player when it comes to someone who could be signed to an offer sheet. The Tampa Bay Lightning have less money than Toronto barring some moves over the next few days. Point is a great player and could easily get about 9 million a year from a team with cap space. That being said if there is one RFA who does not end up back with his current team I think it would be Brayden Point. The 23 year old center has proved to be a top line player and will have an immediate impact on wherever he ends up. The team that I think will sneak in and give him an offer is the Montreal Canadiens. They have the cap room and as a rebuilding team, they barely missed the playoffs last year. Adding Brayden Point to and already young and talented lineup along with one of the best goalies in the league with Carey Price, the Canadiens would easily become a top threat in the eastern conference.

Sebastian Aho

The Carolina Hurricanes were one of the biggest shockers of last year. Most people didn't have them finishing anywhere close to a playoff spot and they ended up getting to the Conference Finals. Forward Sebastian Aho was a big part of their success and while he isn't as flashy as Marner or Point he would still be a great addition to a team. Now, Carolina has the money to give him so it is a little surprising to see that a deal hasn't been done yet. I don't think he ends up going anywhere else as it would be a big mistake on the Hurricanes part to let him even hear offers from other teams. That being said I can see him getting locked up to a 7 year deal with the Canes probably making around 6-7 million a year.

Photo Credit:(NHL.com)

Tomorrow should be a crazy day with a lot of moves taking place whether its the signings or even trades. Its officially the start of a new NHL year and I couldn't be more excited as we are just one step closer to October. Make sure you have twitter open as well as my website here at GingerThread because I will have an up to date blog on all of the signings that happen.


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