•  Register
29

NHL 2019 Top 10 RFA and UFA Players Available

by Michael Stewart on Jun. 28, 2019

Introduction: The 2019 NHL draft has passed and many teams capitalized with their picks; while others did not. However; free agency is right around the corner (July 1st) and many teams will have the need and cap space to sign one of the top tier free agents available. I’ve assembled my list of the top 10 RFA (restricted free agents) and UFA (unrestricted free agents) in this article and what the compensation could be for RFA and what teams could be interested with the UFA.  

RFA

  1. Mitch Marner-22  years old (LW) Toronto Maple Leafs: Marner made $895k in 2018 and had a breakout season with 94 points (26G/68A) and is seeking a long term deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $10M per year; which could be highly unlikely, but perhaps closer to $8M. The Maple Leafs want him back and would need to make some moves for cap space as they have roughly $13.5M available. Compensation: Two 1st, 2nd and a 3rd round pick.
  2. Brayden Point-23 years old (C) Tampa Bay: Point was arguably the best bargain in 2018 for any team when you look at his production (41G/52A/92 points) compared to what he made ($687K). That will obviously change once Point gets a new deal; which many are projecting somewhere in the neighborhood of $8M per year. Tampa Bay will make it a priority to re-sign the gifted center long term, but need to clear out some cap space (roughly $10.6M available) to make that happen. Compensation: 1st, 2nd and a 3rd round pick.
  3. Patrik Laine-21 years old (RW) Winnipeg: Laine made $925K in 2018 and produced 50 points (30G/20A).  Many project Laine to keep improving and become one of the elite players in the league during his next contract; which could be north of $7M to $8M per year. The question is: which team will that be? The Jets have roughly $23.9M of cap space, but also have other notable free agents to make decisions on. Compensation: 1st, 2nd and a 3rd round pick.
  4. Kyle Connor-22 years old (LW) Winnipeg: Connor like his teammate Patrik Laine have only scratched the surface of their potential and should continue to improve over the next several years. Connor produced well in 2018 with 66 points (34G/32A) while only making $925K and demand the same as Laine.  Winnipeg will be one of the teams to watch to see what they decide to do. Compensation: 1st, 2nd and a 3rd round pick.
  5. Matthew Tkachuk-21 years old (LW) Cagary: Tkachuk has everything a team looks for when building a championship team. Tkachuk nearly averaged a point a game in 2018 with 77 points (34G/43A) and played both ends of the ice while only making $925K. Tkachuk should expect a huge raise ($8M-10M) once free agency starts and it’s expected that Calgary will do whatever it takes to retain the gifted winger as they have approximately $12.9M of cap space available. Compensation: Two 1st, 2nd and a 3rd round pick.  
  6. Sebastian Aho-22 years old (LW) Carolina: Aho had a magical season in 2018 with 83 points (30G/53A) while leading the Hurricanes throughout the season and into the playoffs. Aho made $925K in 2018 and is expected to receive a substantial increase in 2019 ($8M-10M). The Hurricanes will look to match any offer given to Aho and many expect him to stay in Carolina as the Hurricanes have enough cap space ($23.7M) to get it done. Compensation: Two 1st, 2nd and a 3rd round pick.
  7. Timo Meier-22 years old (LW) San Jose: Meier produced well for the Shark with 66 points (30G/36A) in 2018, while only making $894K and could get $4M-$5M. With other older free agents on the Sharks hitting the market, expect the Shark to re-sign Meier as part of their rebuilding plans as they currently have $15.4M in cap space and should clear more. Compensation: 1st and a 3rd round pick.
  8. Mikko Rantanen-22 years old (RW) Colorado: Rantanen made only $894K in 2018 while collecting 87 points (31G/56A). It is widely expected that the Avalanche will re-sign the talented winger ($8M-10M) and also add pieces around him with plenty to spend ($38.9M cap space); which they already have through the draft and also in free agency. Compensation: Two 1st, 2nd and a 3rd round pick.
  9. Travis Konecny-22 years old (C) Philadelphia: Konecny provided steady play in 2018 for the Flyers with 49 points (24G/25A) and only made $894K. The Flyers have roughly $15.1M in cap space and many project both sides will come to a quick agreement and Konecny should wind up with a multi -year deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $4M-5M per year. Compensation: 1st and a 3rd round pick.
  10. Brock Boeser-22 years old (RW) Vancouver: Boeser had a solid season in 2018 with 56 points (26G/30A) while only making $925K. It’s expected that the Canucks will want to bring Boeser back as they could use all the offense they can get (or in this case, keep). However; it will cost them to bring him back (roughly $4M-$5M per year), but should have around $14.6M of cap space available.  Compensation: 1st and a 3rd round pick.

UFA

  1. Artemi Panarin-26 years old (LW) Columbus Blue Jackets: Panarin is a right hander who has a very high skill set and will arguably be the most sort after UFA available. Panarin has recorded back to back 80 point seasons and made $6M in 2018. Panarin could be seeking somewhere between $10M-$11M per season and just might get it if teams start a bidding war for his service. Teams Interested: Florida Panthers, Colorado Avalanche and the New York Rangers are at the top of the list with many other teams as well.
  2. Matt Duchene-28 years old (C) Columbus Blue Jackets: Duchene is the best UFA center and is coming off a 70 point season where he shined in the playoffs. Duchene made $6M in 2018 and should have a handful of teams interested. Duchene should have some leverage based on the deal center Kevin Hayes received from the Flyers (7 years/$50M). Teams Interested: Ottawa Senators and the Nashville Predators seem to be the front runners.
  3. Sergei Bobrovsky-30 years old (Goalie) Columbus Blue Jackets: Columbus will lose another one of their free agents as goalie Sergei Bobrovsky should be able to find a new home. Bobrovsky made $7.425M in 2018 and that’s expected to increase to roughly $10M per year on his new deal. It’s hard to determine what the length of his new deal will be, but it’s quite possible Bobrovsky could get a 4 year/$40M deal. Teams Interested: The Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, Calgary Flames and the Carolina Hurricanes seem like the top teams interested.
  4. Tyler Myers-29 years old (D) Winnipeg Jets: Myers is arguably the best defensemen now on the market since the signing of Erik Karlsson. Myers made $5.5M in 2018 and could demand a long term deal roughly $7M-$8M per year. Winnipeg would like to re-sign him, especially since their trade of defensemen Jacob Trouba to the Rangers. However; they need to clear more cap space and there are other key players on the roster that GM Cheveldayoff must make a decision on (Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Ben Chiarot and Brandon Tanev). Teams Interested: Vancouver Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadians among the most interested teams.
  5. Jake Gardiner-28 years old (D) Toronto Maple Leafs: Gardiner was hampered with a serious back injury in 2018; which hindered his scoring production to only 30 points. Gardiner still managed to finish the season at plus 19; which speaks volume based on his injuries. Gardiner would need to take a hometown discount if the Maple Leafs are interested in bringing him back and they are. Toronto would need to clear out and make some moves to have the appropriate cap space needed. Gardiner would more than likely get a contract somewhere between 5-7 years at $7M-$8M per year. Teams Interested: Vancouver Canucks, Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild and the Montreal Canadians seem to be the top three teams showing interest.
  6. Joe Pavelski-35 years old (C) San Jose: Pavelski is the oldest on this list, but was highly productive with 64 points (38G/28A). Pavelski made $6M in 2018 and should demand roughly the same considering his age. San Jose is clearly in a rebuilding phase and Pavelski, along with other UFA players on the roster will be finding new homes: Teams interested: Pittsburgh,
  7. Gustav Nyquist-30 years old (RW) San Jose: Nyquist is another UFA on the Sharks that is bitten by the rebuilding phase. Nyquist made $4.75M in 2018 and produced 60 points (22G/38A); while also contributing defensively. Teams Interested:
  8. Anders Lee-29 years old (C) New York Islanders: Lee had a solid season for the Islanders with 51 points (28G/23A) in 2018 and made $3.75M. Lee won’t fill up the highlight reel, but he gives you production and effort on both ends of the ice. Teams Interested:
  9. Ryan Dzingel-27 years old (C) Columbus: Dzingel had a solid season in 2018 with 56 points (26G/30A); while making $1.8M, but disappeared in the playoffs for Columbus. Dzingel market should be interesting as teams must decide which player they’ll be signing; the regular season or the playoffs. Teams Interested: 
  10. Brett Connolly-27 years old (RW) Washington: Connolly is a solid support cast winger as a top 6 forward. In 2018, he recorded 46 points (22G/24A); while also playing solid defense for the Capitals. Connolly made $1.5M in 2018 and his demand shouldn’t be far from that amount for 2019. Teams Interested: Washington,

Final Thoughts: It’s extremely rare that teams are willing to forfeit these types of compensation to RFA as evident over the last decade during free agency. Most of the time teams manage to have or find the cap space to re-sign their own RFA’s.

We should see a lot of activity among the UFA group for many reasons; the first being that there’s no compensation attached to signing them. Secondly; aside from a couple of marque players, many will be available without breaking the bank and lastly; many will not demand long term deals.  It’s going to be interesting to see which teams are the most active during both the RFA and UFA phases and also how much are they willing to spent?