The National Hockey League free agency period is always a good one to say the least. It is always fun to see who stays with their current team and who decides that they want to take their talents elsewhere to try and win a Stanley Cup. There are a lot of different scenarios that take place during the free agency period. You have guys that stay loyal to a franchise, players that want to go out and make the most money, or you have guys that want to win a Stanley Cup and will play for no matter the amount of money.
There are several factors that go into players’ decision making such as families, the amount of money, being able to put food on the table for their family, etc. Some of these go more into place then what people think because of how much a players life can change in an instant. That change brings not only a difficult scenario for the player alone, but the players’ family as well.
Each player in the National Hockey League has their own agenda and looks to make sure that they can do the most with whatever opportunity that they get. This coming summer’s free agents and the summer after that have some big names that could more than likely switch teams. With that being said here are the eight players from the 2018 free agency class that will change teams and seven players from the 2019 free agency class that will change teams as well.
15. 2018 – Tobias Enstrom
Tobias Enstrom has been a part of the Atlanta Thrasher/Winnipeg Jets franchise for his entire 11 year career, but he has failed to remain healthy for a full season since 2013-14 which makes it hard to believe that Winnipeg won’t want to move on from the 33-year-old defenseman. Enstrom has the ability to be a 50 point guy on the blue line, but with the lack of staying healthy and the inconsistency of his play makes it hard to believe that it is possible.
Enstrom will have some suitors that will be interested in prying him away from Winnipeg and look for him to be one of their top four defenseman. Some teams looking for a veteran presence will be huge in the signing of Enstrom because they’ll be a team that will decide to overpay his value for a long term deal.
14. 2019 – Jason Spezza
Jason Spezza will be 35 by the time his contract with the Dallas Stars expires and he is set to hit the free agency market. Now there are several people that believe if Dallas looks to lock him up that he will easily accept it, but I don’t see him staying in Dallas after the 2018-19 season. In fact I see him either returning to his hometown of Toronto or heading back to where his career started; in Ottawa.
Now Spezza isn’t the same player that he once was especially with his age starting to catch up to him. He can still give you around 50 to 60 points when fully healthy as the Stars are looking to build around their young talent, and it doesn’t look like Spezza is going to be apart of that plan.
13. 2018 – Patrick Maroon
Patrick Maroon is coming off all career highs last season for the Edmonton Oilers and will try to improve his stock with another quality year like 2016-17. There will be teams that are interested or are infatuated with the thought of Maroon being a part of their top six. Also he could be making double the amount that he is making in Edmonton, especially when he looks to be just like a Matt Beleskey type of free agent; a winger who had a career year and goes out and gets close to four million per season to do absolutely nothing after he signs the contract.
Now I think Maroon is more talented than Beleskey, but at the end of the day, the National Hockey League is a business and there is no way that the Oilers will pay Maroon the amount of money that he wants to keep him in Edmonton.
12. 2019 – Steve Mason
Steve Mason signed a two year deal this summer with Winnipeg, but there is no way that Mason will stay long term in Winnipeg. They have Michael Hutchinson and Connor Hellebuyck who are both young goaltenders that can be the franchise goaltender for the Jets for the next 10 plus seasons. Mason was signed just in case one of them doesn’t develop the way the Jets hope they will.
At the moment Hellebuyck looks like he is the guy, while Mason looks to be serving as his backup. The Jets look like they have figured out a plan for the long term and unfortunately it does not look like that Steve Mason, who they recently signed will be a part of it.
11. 2018 – Valtteri Filippula
Valtteri Filippula is a veteran that can consistently put up anywhere from 40 to 60 points a season depending on his health. Filippula is on his third team in his NHL career, and after this season he is set to be a unrestricted free agent. He could decide to head back to Detroit where his career started, or he could decide to go Stanley Cup chasing and join a team that is already in contention.
Nothing against Philadelphia, but they look like they will be happy with just making the playoffs this season. They have some good young talent in the NHL and AHL, but they need to find the core that will help them out in the long term. Look for Filippula to be wearing a different jersey come the start of the 2018-19 season.
10. 2019 – Jimmy Howard
Jimmy Howard has been splitting time the majority of the past three seasons and when Howard hits the free agent market it is expected that he will leave the Detroit Red Wings. With Howard going to be 35 years old when he hits the free agency market will put a big damper on his value, but a team in need of a starting goaltender will be lucky to have him as their number one goaltender.
He has the talent to be a number one goaltender, but he needs to be in the right situation. Also the goaltender controversy shouldn’t have lasted for the past three seasons. It should have went one season and Detroit should have realized we need to focus on one goaltender to build around, but instead they kept both because of how indecisive they are.
9. 2018 – Mike Green
Mike Green is a solid offensive defenseman and the 13 year old veteran has shown how valuable he is on the power play, and on the blue line. Green signed with Detroit back in 2015, and will look to take his talents to a contender as he would like to win a Stanley Cup before he decides to retire. Also he wants to get the money that he feels he is deserved and he did in Detroit, and will look for the same if not more when he hits free agency again after this season.
Green started his career in Washington, but won’t go back there. I could see him signing with a Pittsburgh, or a Nashville, or somebody that is in contention for a Stanley Cup. Watch out for that one contender that will put up the money to sign Mike Green because he will make a difference for any team.
8. 2019 – Jordan Eberle
Jordan Eberle was traded from the Oilers to the Islanders before the start of this season. Eberle was acquired by the Islanders to try and see if they can build a solid foundation to keep John Tavares in New York after this season. Tavares and Eberle have developed some chemistry together and look like they can produce consistently night in and night out.
When Eberle hits the free agency market in 2019 there will be a lot of factors that will help him make his decision. The biggest one is if John Tavares is still a New York Islander after this season or not. If not, I see Eberle either following Tavares or signing with a contender for elite top six forward type of money. He is still a valuable contributor to any team, and will look to prove it after what looks like it will be a successful 2017-18 campaign in Brooklyn. With the way UFAs are paid nowadays, it’s hard not to see Eberle hitting the market to see what he could get.
7. 2018 – Rick Nash
The former number one selection in the 2002 NHL Draft is looking like he still has a couple more seasons left in the tank. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like it will be as a member of the New York Rangers. One team that I feel has Rick Nash written all over it is the Los Angeles Kings, but one team I would love to see him play for again is the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he started his career.
The story that could come from that move by Rick Nash could be amazing to see. Imagine a guy who was their first ever number one overall selection in franchise history returning now that they’re actually a contender. It would be a good story in my opinion, but as of next season you won’t see Rick Nash playing in New York.
6. 2019 – Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Oliver Ekman-Larsson has had the unforunate pleasure of being with the Arizona Coyotes for his entire eight year career which wasn’t always that bad. As of recently though it has been pretty disastrous as Arizona has been horrible since the 2012-2013 season. Ekman-Larsson has been a part of this rebuilding process and it does not look like he will be a part of the future in Arizona.
Ekman-Larsson can get a huge part of any team and is in line for a huge pay day. The Coyotes don’t have the assets that will make Ekman-Larsson want to continue to play his career in Arizona. Now entering the prime of his career if Ekman-Larsson wants to win a Stanley Cup he will get out of Arizona the first chance that he gets.
5. 2018 – Evander Kane
Evander Kane is entering the prime of his career and Buffalo is not the place Kane wants to be playing during his prime. Kane’s name is already swirling in trade rumors at this very moment, so it makes it hard to believe that he will be in a Sabres uniform in 2018-19. He has had a hot start and will look to do more of the same so he can get paid this offseason.
The 26-year-old could be in line for a big pay increase if he can keep up the pace that he is currently on. Kane is a name to watch out for during the rest of the season to see if he will either get traded or if he will finish out the year in Buffalo and then hit the free agency market.
4. 2019 – Max Pacioretty
Max Pacioretty has been under fire alot recently in Montreal due to how bad the team has been playing especially while he has been the captain. I believe that the Connecticut born player could find his way back to the states to play hockey when he finally hits the free agency market in 2019. Pacioretty is a natural goal scorer and is able to put up anywhere from 30 to 40 goals a season.
He has four straight 30 plus goal seasons, and can do that playing for another team as well. Pacioretty has been playing on a contract well below his worth the last few seasons, as he only carries a $4.5 million cap hit, despite being his team’s leading scorer and serving as captain. Pacioretty will want to get his big payday and with the Habs having to deal with Carey Price’s $10.5 million cap hit, it will make it difficult to keep Pacioretty around for the price he’ll want.
3. 2018 – James Neal
James Neal was one of the biggest names that the Vegas Golden Knights acquired in the Expansion Draft and why would he want to move from a franchise that could pay him the world to stay. Well Neal is a Pittsburgh Penguin type of guy in my opinion a great goal scorer that can score at will with any team. I just can’t see him deciding to play the end of his career in Vegas. Taking nothing away from Vegas, because I absolutely love what they are doing right now with that team.
It is just that I don’t think that Neal is committed to playing there long term. I believe that he went there to prove his worth, because he wasn’t doing it in Nashville. So he goes off this season, then another team will decide to break the bank to have him on there team. It will be interesting to see what Neal does, but at this moment I don’t see him returning to Vegas.
2. 2019 – Tyler Seguin
Tyler Seguin is one of the biggest free agent names in the 2019 NHL Free Agency, and looks like he could be taking his talents elsewhere after the 2018-19 season. Toronto is his hometown team, and he has been linked there, but I honestly don’t see Dallas as the place where Seguin will decide to play the next chapter of his career at. Seguin will be 26 years old when he hits the free agent market, and will gain a lot of attention and will get a lot of money as well.
The prime of his career is in the next couple of seasons and he has a big decision to make when the 2019 free agency period begins. He’ll be able to cash in big time if he hits the market, as centers in the prime of their careers rarely hit the open market. That means Seguin can command a king’s ransom.
1. 2018 – John Tavares
John Tavares is another top name that is linked to Toronto which means Toronto potentially has two summers to sign one of the top centers in the National Hockey League today. Tavares is a former number one overall selection back in 2009 and has spent his entire nine year career as a member of the New York Islanders. There are several reports going around that unless the Islanders build a championship team by the end of this season, Tavares will take his talents elsewhere.
Well I believe that no matter what the Islanders do, Tavares is on his way out. Tavares will get money anywhere he goes because he is an elite centre in the prime of his career; a player like him practically never hits the open market anymore. Look for the 27 year old to go out and earn a mega contract this summer.
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