The NHL is a league that is constantly changing and for that reason, anything is possible when it comes to free agency and trading. The past few seasons have brought some of the most outrageous contracts and player movement that we have seen in the history of the NHL, but it could get even crazier very soon. The NHL is going to have a plethora of superstar free agents in the next few years and if these stars do not get the contracts they deserve from their current teams, they may decide to jump ship and join a new team. This offseason may be quieter one, but the years 2018 and 2019 are expected to be spectacular.
With all that said, in this article, we will be looking at fifteen superstars who will be joining new teams by 2020. It is important to note that these players have the option to sign extensions with their current teams before they hit the open market, but for this list we will be acting as if they are not singing with their current teams. A lot of NHL franchises should be very nervous about the 2019 offseason because they very well could lose some of their franchise players. Also, the 2020 offseason has many superstars entering the market as well, so the possibility of trading these players to contenders for picks is in effect too.
Nonetheless, let’s take a look at where these stars will end up by the start of the next decade.
15 Logan Couture: Ottawa Senators
Logan Couture is one of the many gems expected to hit the open market during the 2019 NHL offseason. Couture is a very reliable top-6 forward who has had consistent success in the league since arriving. With the San Jose Sharks getting older, it is very likely that Couture will opt to move on from them when he finally has his chance as a free agent.
A good prediction to where Logan Couture may end up is the Ottawa Senators. The Senators are a team that are definitely on the upswing and for a player like Couture, that is a necessity. Couture has yet to win a Stanley Cup and came very close during the 2016 NHL playoffs. Couture would love to play back home in Canada and seeing him in Ottawa would not be a shock considering they enjoy giving large contracts to forwards.
14 Tyler Seguin: Montreal Canadiens
Tyler Seguin has been tearing up the league since being traded from the Boston Bruins to the Dallas Stars. Today, Seguin is one of the best playmakers in the NHL because he is not only a gifted passer, but he also has one of the best shots in the NHL. In 2019, Tyler Seguin will be an NHL free agent and it is unlikely that he would leave Dallas. But if from here to there he decides to chase the money, there will be many takers.
Tyler Seguin would be a perfect match with the Montreal Canadiens because they need a number one centre and he could go back to an Original Six market. Seguin is still young enough where he would perform at his best level for many more seasons and could help lead the Canadiens back to contention. Also, it would be very depressing for Bruins fans to see Seguin in Montreal because it will be another reason why they never should have traded him for a bag of pucks.
13 Matt Duchene: Pittsburgh Penguins
After a long year and a half, Matt Duchene has finally been traded from the Colorado Avalanche to the Ottawa Senators. However, Ottawa may not end up being Duchene’s home long term because he is expected to hit the open market during the 2019 NHL offseason. If Ottawa does not show signs of being a true contender these next few years, Duchene may pack his bags and leave.
When Duchene was on the trading block, the Pittsburgh Penguins were extremely interested in him because they saw him as a perfect third line center and powerplay specialist. In 2019, it is easy to believe that the Penguins will go after Duchene and it would be extremely beneficial to his career if he signed there. He could easily end up being a champion making this decision.
12 Jordan Eberle: Calgary Flames
Jordan Eberle was surprisingly shipped out of Edmonton this past offseason and it is apparent that the Oilers are regretting this move already. Eberle is one of the most talented right wingers in the NHL and is playing very well on the New York Islanders right now. If John Tavares decides to leave the Islanders this offseason, Eberle is as good as gone in 2019.
Jordan Eberle should look to sign with a team that has a very good chance of success over the next few years. With that, the Calgary Flames would be an excellent location for him to move to because they have an abundance of young superstars like Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Eberle would slot perfectly on their top line and have a chance at finally being on a winning team.
11 Artemi Panarin: Chicago Blackhawks
Artemi Panarin is one of the most intriguing players to watch in the NHL because he is incredibly gifted and has a natural ability to score goals. Panarin has been a very solid addition by the Columbus Blue Jackets and is still young enough to build on his career. In 2019. Panarin is expected to be a free agent and if he hits the open market, he will have a lot of takers.
I would not be surprised at all if Panarin ends up going back to the Chicago Blackhawks because of the chemistry he had with Patrick Kane. With the sudden and devastating incident with Marian Hossa, the Blackhawks need a top winger and they have a past of bringing in former players. Panarin back to Chicago would be the perfect match for both parties.
10 Jeff Skinner: New York Rangers
Even though Jeff Skinner is one of the best snipers in the NHL today, it is clear that he is underrated because he is on the Carolina Hurricanes. Now, that is not a knock on the Hurricanes, but they are one of the smallest markets in the NHL and receive very little publicity. They are off to another poor start this season and if this continues, it will not be surprising to see Skinner move on in 2019.
One team that would definitely take a look at Skinner is the New York Rangers because they will be dumping some bad contracts very soon. Skinner would be an excellent addition to their top-6 because the Rangers now lack a true top winger with the rapid decline of Rick Nash. Skinner is still young too, so the Rangers could use him as their top player in a small retooling.
9 Blake Wheeler: Philadelphia Flyers
Blake Wheeler has made it through a lot of adversity in his NHL career and many deemed him to be a bust before he got his career started off. Wheeler struggled to find consistency as a top-6 winger with the Boston Bruins, but today he is one of the top players on the Winnipeg Jets and their captain. Yet his days in Winnipeg could be numbered because the Jets have openly said they view Mark Scheifele as their future captain.
Wheeler will not find any trouble joining a new team as a free agent during the 2019 offseason because he is easily one of the top talents in the league. Wheeler would make an excellent addition for the Philadelphia Flyers because they are a team on the rise and need offensive help. Wheeler could be used as a top veteran for the Flyers and help them reach contention again.
8 Sergei Bobrovsky: Minnesota Wild
Sergei Bobrovsky has become on the best goalies in the NHL since joining the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Flyers gave up on Bobrovsky far too quickly and if they kept him they probably would be playoff contenders today. Bobrovsky is one of the main reasons why the Blue Jackets have finally built themselves a consistent playoff team.
Now, in my opinion, it is very unlikely that the Blue Jackets will let Bobrovsky walk in 2019. For the purpose of this article, Bobrovsky could be a prime candidate to join the Wild. The Wild have a very strong team, but it is clear that Devan Dubnyk is simply not as good as his best season showed. The Wild need a true number one goalie to win the Stanley Cup and Bobrovsky could be that guy.
7 Oliver Ekman-Larsson: Boston Bruins
Oliver Ekman-Larsson probably cannot wait to finally be a free agent because he will have the chance to permanently say goodbye to the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes have been abysmal every season he has played for them and Ekman-Larsson has to be thinking about winning by now. Although Ekman-Larsson could be viewed as the future captain of the Coyotes, it will not happen with him being a free agent so soon.
The Boston Bruins are a team on the rise once again and could look to bring in Ekman-Larsson as a defensive partner for Charlie McAvoy. The Bruins will have some cap space to make one more big signing and Ekman-Larsson could be the guy they use it on. Ekman-Larsson would have the chance to play with a handful of superstars and could be the replacement for Zdeno Chara.
6 Alex Pietrangelo: Edmonton Oilers
Alex Pietrangelo is currently the captain of the St. Louis Blues and is doing a very stellar job in the process. Pietrangelo is set to become an NHL free agent in 2020, but if he does not agree to an extension with the St. Louis Blues before that time, there is a good chance that the Blues will end up trading him. Ideally, it is quite apparent that Pietrangelo would like to stay in St. Louis, but stranger things have happened.
If Pietrangelo is available during the 2019-2020 NHL season, one team that could look to acquire him is the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers are officially a team that are in a win now mode, so acquiring Pietrangelo as a potential rental would make a lot of sense to them. If they fix their cap issues by then, they may even be able to sign him long term. The Oilers need a superstar defenseman on their backend and Pietrangelo could be that guy.
5 Taylor Hall: Buffalo Sabres
Taylor Hall has been a victim of consistently playing on terrible hockey clubs. Right when the Edmonton Oilers got good, he was shipped to the New Jersey Devils and they were bad in his first season there. However, this season could end up being the first year Hall partakes in the NHL playoffs. It appears that this may end up being a fluke year for the Devils and when the 2019-2020 season comes along, Hall will be traded if the Devils go back to their normal ways.
Although the Buffalo Sabres are struggling this season, they could be a prime candidate to acquire Taylor Hall because they are on the rise and they need a superstar winger for Jack Eichel. For this to occur, everything has to go right for Buffalo over these next few seasons. The Sabres need to find consistency in their progression because the possibility of getting Hall in this case would actually be pretty high.
4 Joe Pavelski: St. Louis Blues
The San Jose Sharks are going to have a very tough 2019 NHL offseason because they not only could lose Couture, but also their captain Joe Pavelski. With the Sharks getting older and their championship window closing more and more each year, it is likely that Pavelski may decide to leave them. This would be a monumental loss for the team and would be the start of a rebuild.
A team that Pavelski may look to signing with is the St. Louis Blues because it is clear that they need a top centre and Pavelski could fit that fold. Although Pavelski has mainly played on the wing these past few years, having him down the middle would benefit the Blues immensely. Also, with stars like Tarasenko being so young, the Blues are likely to be contenders for a long time.
3 Braden Holtby: Detroit Red Wings
Braden Holtby has been one of the best goalies in the NHL since his arrival and he should continue to have success for years to come. Although Alex Ovechkin is a superstar and the best skater on the Capitals, Holtby is the main reason why they won back to back President’s Trophies over the past two years because of his stellar play. If the Capitals continue to lose when it counts and get old, could Holtby move on?
The Detroit Red Wings could look to trade for Braden Holtby in his contract year because they are trying to make themselves contenders again. Although they are not as good as Washington right now, they have enough prospects developing where they can improve. The Red Wings are one of the most storied franchises in NHL history and they need to move back to what they used to be. Holtby could be the real spark for that to happen.
2 Erik Karlsson: Tampa Bay Lightning
Erik Karlsson is arguably the best defenseman in the NHL today because he scores better than most NHL forwards and is extremely gifted on the back end as well. Karlsson is expected to be a free agent in 2019 and if he hits the open market, he will be pursued by just about every team. Yet, if Ottawa wants to continue working toward the future, they need to lock Karlsson up because he is their best player by far.
If Karlsson becomes a free agent, he would look amazing on the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning surprisingly have money to bring in another superstar and Karlsson could be the best choice for them. He could join fellow Swede Victor Hedman on the Lightning’s top pairing and that would be absolutely lethal. If Karlsson were to somehow join the Lightning, it would create a new super team in the NHL.
1 Drew Doughty: Toronto Maple Leafs
Drew Doughty is going to be a free agent during the 2019 NHL offseason and the Los Angeles Kings should be nervous about losing him. The Kings are clearly on the downswing as of now despite a hot start and due to atrocious contracts, it will be hard for them to build into a contender again. With all of these factors present, there are many signs that Doughty may elect to leave the Kings and that would be devastating for them.
Doughty has openly stated that he would love to play for his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs and this signing would make a lot of sense. The Maple Leafs are desperate to find a top right handed defenseman and Doughty is the perfect player to do that. Also, it is apparent that the Maple Leafs are close to being true contenders and because they are so young, this is not going to change anytime soon. With that, Doughty will be in blue and white fairly soon.