Way-too-early 2019 NHL free agent rankings

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The ink has dried on the contracts. The courtship of John Tavares has concluded with his return to Toronto. The 2018 NHL free-agent frenzy ended as it began: With some very wealthy people getting wealthier, general managers spending beyond logical means and fans stressing about the future.

So … let’s do it again in 2019, shall we?

Here’s a way-too-early look at the 2019 NHL free-agent frenzy, placing 27 of the best available names into five tiered categories. As we’ve already seen with Drew Doughty, Logan Couture and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (to name a few), some players won’t make it all the way to free agency. In fact, that’s why Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks, Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights, Ryan Ellis of the Nashville Predators and Erik Karlsson of … well, wherever he ends up, aren’t listed here, as we expect they’ll sign extensions before reaching unrestricted free agency.

But for the rest of the players with expiring contracts after this season, we’ve calculated the probabilities on whether they’ll be under contract on July 1, 2019, or on the market.


The elite

Matz

Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Columbus Blue Jackets
Current cap hit: $7,425,000
Age at free agency: 30

This kind of goaltender rarely hits the open market: Good for 65 starts, a save percentage among the best in the NHL and a two-time Vezina winner. If he makes it to July 1, he’ll have no shortage of suitors looking to stabilize their goaltending spot with a legitimate All-Star talent who’s still in his prime. Provided, of course, they excuse some rather putrid career playoff numbers (.891 save percentage) in comparison to his regular-season work.

Chances he’ll hit free agency: 50 percent. There haven’t been extension talks with the Blue Jackets, although that shouldn’t cement that he’s gone. If they were to move him before his contract expires, it could be to a team renting him, or it could be to a team seeking to sign him long-term.



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