The Latest on This Summer’s Notable NHL Unrestricted Free Agents

The Latest on This Summer’s Notable NHL Unrestricted Free Agents

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Speculation is growing over the potential suitors for this summer's top unrestricted NHL free agents. Here's a look at the latest from the NHL rumor mill.
© Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL’s free-agent period opens at noon ET on July 1. As that date approaches, speculation is growing over the potential suitors for this summer’s top unrestricted free agents. Here’s a look at the latest.

Artemi Panarin

The 27-year-old left wing is the best player potentially available on the open market. With back-to-back 80-plus point campaigns, Panarin was the Columbus Blue Jackets leading scorer during those seasons.

On Sunday, ColoradoHockeyNow’s Adrian Dater reported Panarin’s agent met with Colorado Avalanche management. The next day, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun tweeted it was between the Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, and New York Islanders.

The Athletic’s Rick Carpiniello reported Panarin had a meeting this week with Rangers president John Davidson. He knows the winger well from their time with the Columbus Blue Jackets. However, the New York Post‘s Larry Brooks is skeptical of the Blueshirts chances. If Panarin’s asking price is between $11-$12 million annually, Brooks feels that’s too expensive for the Rangers.

Sergei Bobrovsky

Bobrovsky, 30, is the top goaltender in this summer’s UFA pool. He’s the only active two-time Vezina Trophy winner, backstopping the Blues Jackets this spring to their first-ever playoff series victory.

Like Panarin, Bobrovsky’s being courted by the Panthers and Islanders.  On Monday, the two players met with Florida Panthers brass. With the retirement of Roberto Luongo, the Panthers need a new starting goaltender. The duo then jetted to New York, where Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes they met with the Islanders.

Matt Duchene

In a season split between the Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators, Duchene tallied a career-best 31 goals and matched a career-high with 70 points. He’s the top center in this year’s UFA market.

Duchene, 28,  hasn’t ruled out re-signing with the Blue Jackets. However, the Nashville Predators could be pursuing him after shedding P.K. Subban’s $9-million salary-cap hit.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports Duchene’s slated to meet with the Predators on Thursday. He also visited the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.

Into The 2019 NHL Unrestricted Free Agent Class: Matt Duchene

Joe Pavelski

The San Jose Sharks captain matched a career-high for goals (38) this season. Pavelski, 34, is also the highest-scoring player among this summer’s UFA talent.

It’s difficult to imagine Pavelski leaving San Jose. The Sharks’ limited salary-cap space, however, makes his departure a possibility.

The Score’s Josh Gold-Smith cited reports claiming Pavelski visited the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday. Earlier in the week, The Athletic’s Craig Morgan reported his agent also met with the Arizona Coyotes.

Jake Gardiner

One of the best defensemen in the UFA pool, the 28-year-old is a skilled puck-mover with good offensive skills. While an injury limited him to 30 points this season, he’s a year removed from a career-best 52-points with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman thinks the Vancouver Canucks could be interested in Gardiner. The Toronto Sun‘s Steve Simmons recently tweeted the Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, and Minnesota Wild are high on the blueliner’s destination list. Gardiner would also like to stay with the Leafs but their cap crunch makes that unlikely.

Robin Lehner and Anders Lee

Both were key factors in the Islanders reaching the playoffs and sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins from the opening round. Lehner was a Vezina Trophy finalist and won the Masterton Trophy for perseverance. Lee, the Isles captain, is coming off his third straight 50-plus point season and was their leading goalscorer with 28.

Lehner and Lee stated their wish to re-sign with the Islanders. Over the weekend, Lehner said he didn’t intend to speak with other clubs. However, their futures with the Isles appear cloudy following reports of the club meeting with Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Already there’s speculation suggesting the Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, and Minnesota Wild could pursue Lee.

Mats Zuccarello

Zuccarello, 31, had a difficult 2018-19 campaign. He struggled through the first half of the season with the New York Rangers and broke his arm the day after the Dallas Stars acquired him. Nevertheless, he tied with Tyler Seguin (11 points) for the Stars’ postseason scoring lead.

Though Zuccarello intends to test the market, the Stars haven’t given up trying to sign him. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes he’s on the Colorado Avalanche’s radar, though they could be leery of giving him a lengthy deal.

Into The 2019 NHL Unrestricted Free Agent Class: Mats Zuccarello

Tyler Myers

A former winner of the Calder Trophy, Myers is a solid, all-around defenseman. The 6’8″, 229-pounder netted 31 points and averaged over 20 minutes of ice time this season with the Winnipeg Jets.

The Vancouver Canucks are courting Myers but the 29-year-old’s asking price is steep. Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre reported the big blueliner could seek over $50 million on a seven-year deal. Meanwhile, TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported the Jets were looking at bringing back Myers.

Into The 2019 NHL Unrestricted Free Agent Class: Tyler Myers