In continuation of last week’s piece, let’s look at another batch of players heading for unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2019, barring a prior contract signing.
Blossoming into one of the most consistent offensive forwards in the league since coming to Texas five seasons ago, Tyler Seguin finds himself without a contract beyond the coming season. We can assume Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill will sign him to a lengthy contract extension before he ever sniffs free agency but there are no guarantees if this team does not make the postseason in 2018-19. Now approaching 27 years of age, if Seguin feels the team no longer has what it takes to claim the Stanley Cup, he may very well test free agency after seeing the astounding amount of money John Tavares signed for. The fact that only six players have more points than the Plymouth Whalers alum since 2013-14, coupled with his 0.99 pts/gm compared to Tavares 0.98 pts/gm in that timeframe, he more than deserves that type of deal. Second to only Alexander Ovechkin in shots on goal last year, Seguin is one of the most dangerous shooters in the game, finally ascending to the 40-goal plateau in 2017-18. With improvement in his play away from the puck as apparent in his plus-12 last year compared to minus-15 in 2016-17, Seguin is also seemingly rounding out his game with age. His consistency needs be coveted far more by fantasy owners as not many are a lock for 70-points year in and year out. Whether in Dallas or elsewhere, Seguin stands to be paid handsomely next summer with the production to back it up.
On arguably the deepest team in the league, Yanni Gourde is never going to receive the acknowledgement he deserves for his arrival in the NHL. With 64 points in his first full 82-game season, rarely seeing time with Steven Stamkos and never with Nikita Kucherov, the Saint-Narcisse native would be a top line player potentially for other franchises. Quite literally coming out of nowhere, Gourde is a relentless energy player who can put up goals and assists whilst pestering the opposition across all 200 feet of ice. Perseverance is the word to use when describing the undersized forward who took a long path to the game’s top league. That will and determination will only motivate him ever more to put his best foot forward in 2018-19 to secure another contract. Being on a team with so much cap space locked up in a handful of players, there are no guarantees he stays with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Playing with dynamic Brayden Point and versatile Ondrej Palat, do not sleep on Gourde in fantasy drafts, as he will be an afterthought to the Lightning’s bevy of household names. His shooting percentage is certainly high at 18% but even with regression he can still cross the 20-goal plateau in 2018-19.
Anytime I draft this guy his groin explodes, so while I’ll personally be cautious, 2018-19 may be the time for you to invest in the Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender. Entering his age-30 season, Sergei Bobrovsky has established himself as a top-five goaltender in the league with a good squad in front of him. Able to appear in over 60 games in the two prior campaigns, the Russian is not a Cam Talbot-level workhorse but collects far more wins in his outings with better statistics. An average of his past two years translates to 39 wins/2.24 GAA/.926 SV% in 64 starts. One word describes this well; stud. Bobrovsky is going to be paid handsomely as elite level goaltending is at a premium. The Blue Jackets will do everything to retain their man in net but he will have plenty of suitors elsewhere should he enter the free agent pool. On what should be considered a strong postseason contender, Bobrovsky is in a great position to once again put forth quality goaltending that would be of high value to any owner in the fantasy realm. The price for his services will be high but it’s more than worth it to have an elite goaltender.
Brian Elliott/Michal Neuvirth
Plenty of hype surrounding the Philadelphia Flyers these days as there should be, with their group of promising young players both already on the roster and in the farm system. One thing that seems to not be mentioned whatsoever is the interesting complex in goal that has both netminders set to become unrestricted free agents. Now for the Flyers themselves, this isn’t a huge issue, as one would expect their number one goaltending prospect, Carter Hart, is ready to debut soon. As for Brain Elliott and Michael Neuvirth, both are playing for their future, so this will be quite an interesting timeshare to observe in 2018-19. Neuvirth has always flashed the ability to dominate but he cannot maintain health long term and most likely never will as he is 30 years old. Elliott, a little older at 33, is somewhat more durable but by no means a workhorse, just a solid serviceable netminder. Both have the utmost motivation to perform well this coming year as Hart will drive them out in due time, so view this campaign as a showcase for both. Gambles are worth it in fantasy, this could be a great timeshare to invest in later in drafts as it will be approached with apprehension.
Poor Max Pacioretty, watching his team get worse and worse with each passing year of his prime. Already facing a feeble scenario in the coming season with Shea Weber out until December and Alex Galchenyuk traded to the Arizona Coyotes, Pacioretty has to be dying for a change of scenery while he can still be an effective goal scorer. The Canadiens just do not have the defensive corps to be a contender next year and Carey Price can only do so much on his own. If Marc Bergevin wants to somewhat rectify what has been a tumultuous run at the helm of this organization, he needs to trade the American winger while he can still receive something of value. The good graces of the puck were not with him last year, with his lowest overall shooting percentage the past eight campaigns and his 5-on-5 rate below six and a half percent. This is a dangerous shooter at the end of the day despite this. One has to expect regression towards the mean in 2018-19 either way, with surpassing the 20-goal plateau as a safe bet. Like all others listed here, he’s playing for his future and at 30 years old, this may be the last chance to score a lucrative, long term deal. He will surely fall in coming drafts and is worth gambling on to rebound despite the team around him currently.
Auston Matthews, William Nylander, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, etc. etc. It’s always the same names when the Toronto Maple Leafs are discussed, yet not many mentions of Jake Gardiner’s 95 points from the blue line over the past two years. I surmise it’s because 1) he’s not a sexy name, 2) a late bloomer, and 3) assist-heavy production. Nonetheless, the man has arrived as a premier offensive producer from the back end, crossing the 50-point plateau in 2017-18. Though his PDO is high, it’s impressive that he was able to put up the point totals he did seeing less than 50% of his shifts start in the offensive zone. Looking back to 2014-15, his point totals have slowly but surely risen year after year, with increased shots, power play points and time on ice. The Minnetonka native is breaking out later in his twenties as is customary for defenders in comparison to their forward counterparts. Because he is buried behind so many household names on the Maple Leafs, he’ll never garner the attention he deserves and that’s where you the fantasy manager takes advantage in the draft. Producing more offense than the likes of Kris Letang, Ryan Suter, Dustin Byfuglien, and Dougie Hamilton, Gardiner should be more coveted by owners. This is an offensive defender with contract desires on his mind, only so many of them available out there, don’t miss out.