A handful of interesting players will be entering 2019-20 going into the last year of their contract and unless re-signed will be UFAs on July 1, 2020. Too soon to be talking about this, you ask? Never! Contract years will lead to some pretty good seasons from some of these players.

Nicklas Backstrom

Backstrom will be 32 years old by the end of this season and has been one of the most consistent NHL forwards in his 12 years in the league. I almost forgot he put up 101 points as a 21-year-old in 2009-2010, but he still consistently scores 16-25 goals and 50-60 assists each and every season.

I would like to think he will re-sign with Washington, but you never know, as Washington will have to make a pretty big decision in the next two years with Ovechkin and these two seem to go hand in hand.

Alex Pietrangelo

Many people (including myself) thought that the 29-year-old Pietrangelo would be traded before the deadline last season, but we all know what happened after that.

He did have a bit of a down year in the regular season and he will be looking to sign a contract with St. Louis that will keep him there for his career. If healthy, he should be able to still get 12-15 goals and 30-40 assists next year.

Braden Holtby

Holtby has struggled over the past two regular seasons, aside from that little Stanley Cup win in 2017-2018. Even though his SV% has dipped to 90.7 in 2017-2018 and 91.1 last year, he still won 34 games and 32 respectively. His years of winning 41 games or more are probably gone (it will be tough for any NHL goalie going forward), but he should be able to get 25-35 wins, no matter where he ends up.

I can’t see it being in Washington, as they have Ilya Samsonov ready to take over the reins and Holtby will be too expensive. If he wants similar money to what he is making now, he will need to get his game back above 91.5 SV% and be more consistent.

Taylor Hall

Hall will only be 28 years old next July and potentially could get Artemi Panarin-type money if he elects to sign elsewhere. It’s an important and exciting year for New Jersey with the additions of P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Nikita Gusev and Jack Hughes as well as the hopeful continued improvements from Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Damon Severson and Pavel Zacha. Will Hall want to be a part of the Devils moving forward?

There are some pieces missing still, but the Devils will be fighting for a playoff spot it would seem this season. Hall might be shy of repeating his experience in Edmonton, when his prior scenario with great young talent didn’t end so well. When I look at the 2015-2016 roster in Edmonton and where they are now, I’m regretful for what they could have been together.

Mikael Granlund

Granlund will need to settle in with Nashville, as he really struggled there after being dealt last season. He managed one goal and four assists in 16 games in the regular season and only one goal and an assist in six playoff games. The hope is that he finds some chemistry with either Matt Duchene or Ryan Johansen  and puts up 60-65 points.

Nashville is a low-scoring team, so reality might have him getting 18-22 goals and 35-40 assists. The Predators will need to re-sign Roman Josi, so Granlund’s stint in Nashville might be for one season only.

Tyson Barrie

It is up for debate whether the Maple Leafs’ defence has improved from last season. My vote would be no, and they are also in the precarious position of having only Morgan Rielly signed for 2020-2021. Barrie has consistently put up points in his six full seasons in the NHL and had 25 power-play points last year and 30 the year before. By comparison, Rielly put up 21 last year and 25 before. Something has to give for one player or the other, as they are both used to being the only defenceman on the PP1 and I think it is safe to say that only one will have more than 20 power-play points next season.

With all the skill that Toronto has, they should be higher than 8th in the NHL as they were last season, but that could hardly fall on Rielly as he played lights-out for most of the year. A conservative approach for Barrie has him with 17 PP points on his way to 12-14 goals and 35-40 assists. Will the Leafs be able to afford him in 2020-2021? I don’t see how, but it’s a long time away.

We will look at a few more players in the upcoming weeks, over three or four parts.

Thanks for reading, and you can follow me on Twitter @gampbler15.