2019 UFA Class: The most notable NHLers eligible for extensions

Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty clarifies the comments he made about free agency and Erik Karlsson.

Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of an article originally published on June 29.

When signing season opened on July 1, it wasn’t just this year’s unrestricted free agents open for business. It’s next year’s, too.

July 1 ushered in a whole new group of pending unrestricted free agents eligible to sign extensions with their respective clubs. And boy, is it a deep class.

Already, we’ve seen some substantial contract extensions dealt out, with defencemen Drew Doughty (Kings) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Coyotes) and forward Logan Couture (Sharks) all inking eight-year deals as their clubs keep them well out of free agency’s grasp. Ryan McDonagh found enough chemistry on Tampa Bay’s blue line to earn himself a seven-year, $47.25-million extension with the Lightning, while goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will be the (always smiling) face of the Golden Knights’ franchise for the next four seasons after signing a three-year, $21-million pact to stay in Vegas through 2021-22.

There are plenty more big names still eligible to sign extensions, with some cases garnering more trade rumours than contract talks. Let’s dig in.

DEFENCEMEN

Erik Karlsson

Team: Ottawa
Age: 28
2018-19 salary cap hit: $6.5 million

Senators general manager Pierre Dorion reportedly made an eight-year offer to Karlsson on July 1, but that has come and gone with no deal done which means those trade talks are getting louder.

Ryan Ellis

Team: Nashville
Age: 27
2018-19 salary cap hit: $2.5 million

Ellis’ five-year, $12.5-million contract signed back in 2014 has proven to be a real bargain. While he won’t be in the same paygrade as, say, John Carlson, Ellis would be a highly sought-after rearguard should he hit the open market — which is exactly why Predators GM David Poile sounds intent on avoiding that altogether by signing him to an extension this summer.

Tyler Myers

Team: Winnipeg
Age: 28
2018-19 salary cap hit: $5.5 million

We finally saw what Myers is capable of when he stays healthy (six goals and 30 assists in his first complete season since his rookie year). Wonder if the ongoing left-side, right-side debate on Winnipeg’s blue line could be part of negotiations here.

Jake Gardiner

Team: Toronto
Age: 28
2018-19 salary cap hit: $4.05 million

Gardiner had a career year in 2016-17, then topped it with a 52-point campaign this past season. The blue line has been the Maple Leafs’ biggest weakness these days, so it makes sense to add and not subtract here. By which we mean: Add Gardiner’s contract to a long list of other extensions requiring GM Kyle Dubas’ attention.

FORWARDS

Tyler Seguin

Team: Dallas
Age: 26
2018-19 salary cap hit: $5.75 million

Locking up your leading goal scorer four of the past five years is a total no-brainer, and you need not look far to get a sense of what an extension for the 26-year-old could look like. Teammate and fellow winger Jamie Benn signed an eight-year, $76-million deal ($9.5-million cap hit) in July 2016 at the same age Seguin is now. While it’s risky to lock up so much money in just two players, this dynamic duo is worth the price.

Max Pacioretty

Team: Montreal
Age: 29
2018-19 salary cap hit: 4.5 million

A dismal 2017-18 aside, Pacioretty has been scoring at a pace well above his paygrade, making him one of the biggest bargains going in the NHL right now. While he’s certainly due for a raise — it wouldn’t be surprising to see him earn close to $7 million per year on a new deal — all signs point to it being increasingly unlikely that it will be Montreal footing the bill.

Artemi Panarin

Team: Columbus
Age: 26
2018-19 salary cap hit: $6 million

In addition to being the Blue Jackets’ highest-paid skater, Panarin also led the club in goals (27), assists (55), and total points (82) this past season. As Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, indicated earlier this off-season this situation is bound to get more interesting.

Blake Wheeler

Team: Winnipeg
Age: 31
2018-19 salary cap hit: $5.6 million

Wheeler is coming off his best season yet, having registered 23 goals and 68 assists for a team-leading 91 points through 81 games as the Winnipeg Jets’ top playmaker.

GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has his work cut out for him as he attempts to juggle contracts and divvy up cap space among players in need of new deals. He lost out on UFA Paul Stastny, locked up Connor Hellebuyck, and still has a long list of RFAs to get through. That’s not even including next year’s RFA class (see Laine, Patrik).

Wayne Simmonds

Team: Philadelphia
Age: 29
2018-19 salary cap hit: $3.975 million

He played through several injuries for much of 2017-18, and still managed to tally 24 goals and 22 assists through 75 games. Trade rumours rumbled, but GM Ron Hextall has indicated he wants to get a deal done. Time for a raise.

Matt Duchene

Team: Ottawa
Age: 27
2018-19 salary cap hit: $6 million

With Karlsson trade rumours dominating the headlines in Ottawa, it’s easy to forget that there’s another big name slated for free agency in 2019. Duchene has been clear about his desire to stay in Ottawa, saying he sees a bright future in the nation’s capital.

Joe Pavelski

Team: San Jose
Age: 34
2018-19 salary cap hit: $6 million

If he’s smart, the Sharks captain will get his grandmother in on the negotiations.

Jordan Eberle

Team: N.Y. Islanders
Age: 28
2018-19 salary cap hit: $6 million

Eberle’s contract status is worth keeping an eye on, especially if he can put together a performance like he did in his first year with the club (25 goals 34 assists, 59 points).

Jeff Skinner

Team: Carolina… but not for long
Age: 26
2018-19 salary cap hit: $5.725 million

Trade first. Then we’ll talk extension. According to report in The Athletic, the Chicago Blackhawks could be looking at Skinner. Their new-found cap space, following the trade of Marian Hossa’s contract, certainly helps.

GOALTENDERS

Sergei Bobrovsky

Team: Columbus
Age on July 1: 29
2018-19 salary cap hit: $7.425 million

His playoff performances have left something to be desired, but the two-time Vezina winner is a must-have if Columbus hopes to get there in the first place.

Pekka Rinne

Team: Nashville
Age on July 1: 35
2018-19 salary cap hit: $7 million

He’s getting up there in age, but that 2017-18 Vezina Trophy in his cabinet proves he’s still got it.

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