The 2018 NHL Free Agency Class is definitely one that many hockey fans will be looking forward to. This year’s offseason was fairly weak in terms of talent, but that will not be an issue during this time next year. There is a lot of elite talent that will be testing the free agent waters, such as John Tavares and John Carlson, so expect it to be a crazy summer. Every NHL hockey team will have an amazing chance to improve and this very well could go down as the best free agency period of this decade.
Through this article, we will be evaluating the top ten free agents of this class and where they should sign. In some cases, it may best for players to stay with their current team, but in others, it definitely seems to be time for them to move on. The free agency period is always an exciting time for NHL fans, but next season’s will truly be insane. That is why a sneak peak this early on it should be intriguing.
With that, here is the list of top ten NHL free agents of 2018 and the locations where they should sign.
20 Bryan Little
Bryan Little has quietly been one of the most productive playmakers in the NHL for a decade now and yet, he is still considered to be in his prime. Although he is a player who has suffered with injuries throughout his career, he has still managed to put up very solid seasons and will be offered by many teams during the 2018 offseason.
This past season Little only played 59 games, but managed to put a respectable 47 points during that time frame. Any hockey team would benefit immensely picking up a center who comes with that production because in today’s NHL, scoring is hard to come by. By adding Little, any team’s powerplay would become far better. The injury troubles will definitely make teams worry, but it is definitely worth the gamble, especially short term.
19 Bryan Little Should Re-sign With the Winnipeg Jets
Bryan Little has been part of the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets organization since 2006 and for that, it makes sense for him to stay put. He is absolutely loved and respected by the fans in Winnipeg and has thrived immensely since the relocation. Little should definitely stay there because he will have a permanent top-6 role waiting for him and the Jets are finally on the rise.
It may be tempting for Little to leave Winnipeg, but that may not be the best idea for his career. He is the type of player that may struggle to fit with a new team because he has been with Winnipeg for so long. In numerous cases, players tend to drop when they join new teams, especially via free agency after they sign big deals. Due to his loyalty, expect to see Little back in Winnipeg after next offseason.
18 Kyle Turris
Kyle Turris is very similar to Bryan Little because he is an effective playmaker who seems to fly under the radar quite often. Although he was the 3rd overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, he never received much press from the start because he was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes, a team that also does not receive much attention.
Turris struggled at the beginning of his career in Arizona, but his game picked up when he was traded to the Ottawa Senators during the 2011-12 season. Since then, he has put up very solid numbers and has been the top line center for the Senators. With Turris, you can expect to receive between 50 to 65 points each season, which would be a great pick up for any team.
17 Kyle Turris Should Sign With the Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens have been looking for a true first line center for years now and they could get that with Kyle Turris. Due to Carey Price’s huge contract extension, it seems unlikely that the Canadiens would be able to bring in John Tavares, but Turris would be a solid consolation prize. Turris would work nicely on their first line and could help players like Max Pacioretty reach new levels in goals.
Turris would fit nicely in Montreal because he already has experience playing in a strong hockey city in Ottawa. Sometimes players have a tough time adjusting to the Canadian game, but Turris would not have to worry about that too much. Although the Senators and Canadiens are rivals, Turris should join Montreal because it will give him the best chance to succeed and could even get him to win a Stanley Cup.
16 James Neal
Although James Neal is starting to get older, he will still be a player that many teams will go after during the 2018 offseason, He may be the best natural scorer from this free agency class, but with that, he also provides a strong side of physicality and defensive play. Neal will definitely test the market because it is doubtful that he will want to stay in Vegas, an expansion team that is starting to build.
Although Neal’s numbers dropped off last season, expect him to have a turn-around year this season in Vegas. A lot of players play at a higher level the year before they are free agents because they want to score the best contract they can. Expect Neal to get at least five years at five to six million dollars per year because teams will be in desperate need of scoring.
15 James Neal Should Sign With the Philadelphia Flyers
James Neal would be an excellent fit for the Flyers because they are fairly weak on the left side. In Philly, Neal would have the chance to play with great offensive talent such as, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds. Neal’s numbers would go up a lot playing with good players, as demonstrated by his tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Neal would also do well in Philadelphia because they are a team that loves the physical side of the game. Neal would be a fan favorite in Philly because he possesses many qualities that their fans enjoy. Although a large contract may end up not panning out perfectly with the later years, Philadelphia should sign Neal to help the Flyers move from a tweener team to a contender.
14 Patric Hornqvist
Who would have thought that the last pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft would be a top free agent choice for the 2018 offseason? It is absolutely crazy how much Patric Hornqvist has progressed as a player and has beaten the odds to earn a full time job in the NHL. Hornqvist has played marvelously since his days in Nashville and has become a true veteran presence for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Hornqvist will be coveted by a lot of NHL teams during the offseason because he is now a two time Stanley Cup champion. These type of players tend to be overpaid when they hit the market, but Hornqvist still would help any team be far better. He is a very versatile player who can play on any line between the 1st and 3rd, so expect a number of teams to offer him a spot on their roster.
13 Patric Hornqvist Should Sign With the Anaheim Ducks
Patric Hornqvist is an excellent fit for the Ducks because they are in desperate need of a winger who can play with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The Ducks love power forwards and Hornqvist would be a great addition for that reason. The Ducks need more offensive help upfront, so adding a player like Hornqvist may be a necessity, especially because their championship window is closing.
The Ducks’ desire to win the cup should be what ultimately encourages them to add Hornqvist during the 2018 offseason. The Ducks have been so close to winning the Stanley Cup over the past few seasons, but have not had enough offensive support to make it happen. Expect to see Hornqvist in Anaheim during the start of the 2018-19 season and a potential Stanley Cup there once again.
12 Mark Stone
Mark Stone is another NHLer who overcame a lot of adversity and became a very productive player. In fact, just a few seasons ago, no one had even heard about him or expected him to be anything special. Yet, now with the 2018 offseason approaching, Mark Stone is going to be one of the top free agents available.
Stone is definitely the type of player that would benefit any team because he is not only great offensively, but he provides stability on the back end as well. Although this season was a down year for him, he still put up 54 points, which is very strong in today’s NHL standards. Expect Stone to have a turnaround season this year and gain the interest of every team around the league.
11 Mark Stone Should Resign With the Ottawa Senators
Mark Stone is the type of player that should definitely stay put. Although he is emerging into a superstar and would play well elsewhere, it may be a bit of gamble for him to leave Ottawa at this point. As previously stated, sometimes player have a tough time adjusting to going to a different team and Stone very well could be that type of player.
Stone has a permanent spot in the Senators’ top-6, so he should take advantage of that and play the next few seasons in Ottawa. He is still young enough to have another opportunity at a big contract during another offseason, so that is when he should take advantage of this. Stone should help the Senators continue to improve, but also, work on making his game grow before signing a huge contract somewhere else.
10 Cam Atkinson
Cam Atkinson has stepped his game up immensely over the past two seasons and that will be demonstrated more this upcoming season. Atkinson has been an excellent sniper for the Blue Jackets over the past few seasons and even put 35 goals in 2016-17. With that, any team that goes after him during the 2018 offseason will know that he completely transform their offensive numbers.
Atkinson is a shoot first type of a player so teams will need to realize that he will need to play with their top playmaking center. Atkinson’s goal numbers could drop if he is not a line that is primarily focused on scoring, so he needs to be in the top-6. However, this should not be a problem because Atkinson has proved that he is a legitimate star in the league.
9 Cam Atkinson Should Sign With the New York Rangers
With Rick Nash’s atrocious contract coming off the books during the 2018 offseason, the Rangers should replace him with a younger Cam Atkinson. Atkinson grew up in Connecticut as well so there is a good chance that he would love to play near his hometown and with the Rangers. The Rangers have a lot of talent up front so Atkinson could put up many solid seasons in the Big Apple.
This signing would make a lot of sense on both sides because each party wants to win now. The Rangers know that Henrik Lundqqvist is getting older and they need to build a team for him to win now. Atkinson on the other hand has tasted success in Columbus, but has yet to reach past the first round. For both of these reasons, expect Cam Atkinson to be playing for the Rangers very soon.
8 Evander Kane
Evander Kane has so much talent and would be an excellent piece for any team, but his behavior issues are his biggest downfall. Kane has the potential to be a 30 to 40 goal scorer in the NHL, but he has yet to reach those numbers because it is apparent that, at times, he does not take his job completely seriously. Yet, if this were to change, Kane could end up being one of the best players from this free agency period.
Kane has showed time and time again that he can be a great scorer in the league and he very well could fit on any team’s top-6 group. This past season, he scored 28 goals for a Sabres team that has been consistently struggling each season. He has also been the subject to many trade rumors, so it is good to see that he is able to remain consistent even with all that pressure.
7 Evander Kane Should Sign With the Vancouver Canucks
Evander Kane should consider playing for his hometown team and joining the Vancouver Canucks. Although the Canucks are in a rebuilding phase, Kane could fit there perfectly and be a solid veteran presence in the locker room. Maybe Kane having more responsibility would help him mature and stay away from his off-ice antics.
Every hockey player wants to play for the city they grew up in so Kane very well could actually respect and enjoy playing for the Canucks. Although they are years away from contending again, Kane could lead them in the right direction, while helping his career grow in the way it should have already. Also, from an individual standpoint, Kane could land a very large deal from them because the Sedin twins could retire as well.
6 James van Riemsdyk
James van Riemsdyk has grown into a very solid hockey player for the Toronto Maple Leafs and is due for his first ever big contract. JVR is still at an age where he is considered young, so a long term deal would not necessarily be a bad thing for teams that are pursuing him. JVR would be a great addition for any club because he is a talent power forward who has the ability to put up high offensive numbers.
There is no doubt that the Maple Leafs would love to bring JVR back, but it just cannot happen with their cap issues and their young players set to get their extensions as well. It will be hard for them to replace his 25 to 30 goal seasons, but at the end of the day, letting him go is necessity for their future. JVR will also benefit when he has the chance to make a huge raise.
5 James van Riemsdyk Should Sign With the Carolina Hurricanes
James van Riemsdyk would be a great addition for the Carolina Hurricanes because they are definitely on the rise and could be a legitimate force in the NHL for many seasons to come. The Hurricanes have the money to acquire a player like JVR so they should seriously consider this. JVR would fit nicely in their top-6 and give the Hurricanes some size, which is something they need to contend.
JVR’s brother, Trevor, also was recently traded to the Hurricanes so joining them would reunite the two brothers. It is always cool to see two brothers on the same team, so JVR very well could be considering Carolina as a future destination. The Hurricanes need help on their wings so JVR could give that to them. Do not be surprised if JVR is playing in Carolina at the start of the 2018-19 season.
4 John Carlson
With the Washington Capitals having bad salary cap issues, expect John Carlson to test free agency and be on a new team at the start of the 2018-19 season. John Carlson has been the best offensive defenseman for the Capitals over the past few seasons, so he will definitely have a lot of interest from NHL teams. Players like Carlson are very hard to come by.
Carlson is not only great offensively, but his defensive game has also improved immensely as he has grown as a player. Although the Capitals have had a lot of struggles in the postseason, Carlson has always played very well during those periods and looked like the best defender on that team. However, with the inevitable demise of the Capitals, expect Carlson to move on to a different club.
3 John Carlson Should Sign With the Boston Bruins
John Carlson is a Natick, Massachusetts native so expect him to sign with the Boston Bruins. The Bruins should aggressively pursue Carlson because they are in dire need of defensive talent. Their captain, Zdeno Chara, could very well be playing his last season so the Bruins need to find a replacement for him. Although Carlson is right handed, he very well be a strong upgrade.
The Bruins are a team that have not been contenders for a few seasons now, but they do have the pieces to make that become a reality again. Their core is getting up there in age, so they desperately need to turn it around if they want to see another banner with their current players. The Bruins have a few bad contracts they need to rid of first, but expect to see Carlson wearing the Spoked B.
2 John Tavares
John Tavares is by the best player from this free agency class and he will definitely earn his pay day on July 1st, 2018. Tavares has been stuck on a struggling New York Islanders team for years now and it is time for him to move on. Tavares has not received as much attention as he should for his elite talent playing in New York, but changing teams would instantly allow that to happen.
Every fan will be anxiously waiting Tavares’ decision on his new team and praying that he will join their team. The Islanders have tried to build a roster around Tavares, but have failed miserably. They recently let go of their top defenseman, Travis Hamonic, so that should be a clear indicator that the Islanders are on the down swing. This should make Tavares run for the hills.
1 John Tavares Should Sign With the Toronto Maple Leafs
If Tavares’ number one goal is to win the Stanley Cup, he needs to join the Toronto Maple Leafs. They have such a bright future with their amazing offensive talent and Tavares would help them get over the top. Although he would have to take a small paycut to make this happen, Tavares should seriously consider joining his hometown team. This could truly be the chance of a lifetime for him.
Tavares would fit beautifully under Auston Matthews and provide great veteran support for the young talent around him. The Leafs very well could become a dynasty if Tavares joins them, so that has to be something he needs to consider. Tavares’ number one goal during this offseason should be to leave the Islanders because they are not improving. Toronto will be calling and Tavares should answer.