NHL free-agents 2018: Where will they go?

Predicting where the top NHL free-agents will sign this summer.

NHL free-agents 2018: Where will they go?
NHL free-agents 2018: Where will they go? (Photo Courtesy of NHL.com)

The free-agent crop is rather thin this offseason, aside from John Tavares there aren’t too many big names on the market.

As a result, Tavares’ decision will likely have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the teams around the league.

Here is a look at the top-free agents available this summer, and predictions of where they might end up.  

1. JOHN TAVARES, C

John Tavares is the most obvious place to start.

We are aware that the Dallas Stars, San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Islanders are all in play.

With the recent changes on Long Island; with Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz coming in, the Islanders might have a better shot at retaining their superstar than a few months ago.

But if Tavares were to leave New York, one must like the chances of San Jose being the desired destination. They are a competitive team with a decent core (Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Martin Jones, Logan Couture, Evander Kane) and are ready to win now.

Prediction: New York Islanders

The idea of Tavares leaving the New York Islanders might be a bit hard to fathom. In a likely scenario, he will pull a “Steven-Stamkos” and extend with the Islanders at the 11th hour.

Simply because the New York Islanders has made significant improvements to their organization this summer.

They re-tooled their management, brought in a Stanley Cup winning coach and is quietly putting together a nice young core of players (Matt Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Noah Dobson, and Oliver Wahlstrom).

With so much upside surrounding this team going forward, it might be Tavares’ best bet to stay put on Long Island.
 

2. PAUL STASTNY, C

It looks like there is still a lot of mutual interest between the Winnipeg Jets and Paul Stastny.  

Winnipeg is a contending team in the Western Conference, so it will be hard to imagine that Stastny wants to leave a situation like that.

According to TSN’s Darren Dreger,  “There is one thing standing in the way, and it’s an enormous hurdle, it’s called cap space, Kevin Cheveldayoff has none of it…To even get him at a bargain rate of say $5.5M, he’s going to have to move bodies.”

On another note, much of where Stastny signs are dependent on the Tavares’ situation.

As the second-best center on the open market, he will likely be pursued by the teams that missed out on Tavares.  

According to TSN’s Pierre Lebrun, a team like the Montreal Canadiens have expressed interest in Stastny but they are far from contending so he might not want to sign with them long term.

Prediction: San Jose Sharks

Assuming that Tavares stays in New York, San Jose will likely go after Stastny.

It makes a lot of sense as Stastny is looking to win-now and San Jose is looking for another center to beef up their top-six.

3. JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK, LW

James van Riemsdyk is the top-winger in this year’s free-agent class.

He brings size, skill, and finishing ability.  

At 29 and still in the prime of his career, van Riemsdyk is looking for a big payday.

Many teams around the NHL could use a reliable scorer like van Riemsdyk but the price won’t be cheap.

Prediction:  New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils are an up-and-coming team in need of a proven offensive forward and van Riemsdyk would be a perfect fit.

Money-wise the Devils also have the cap space to give JVR the deal he wants.

JVR returns home to New Jersey!


4. MIKE GREEN, RD

Right-handed defenseman with offensive upside is a highly sought after commodity in the NHL.

Luckily for Mike Green, there aren’t many out on the market this summer, so he should generate plenty of interest around the league.

At 32, Green has some mileage on him and health concerns as well. But overall he should still be able to give his team a useful 15-20 minute a night.

Green might end up being one of the most overpaid players this summer.

Prediction:  Philadelphia Flyers

The Philadelphia Flyers are in desperate need of a right-handed D to round out their top-four and Green might be their best option.

They might have to overpay to get him, but he would be a nice addition and give young players like Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere some much-needed help on the back-end.

5. JAMES NEAL, RW

James “The Real Deal” Neal is a proven-scorer with back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals experience.

He is not that old at 30 and should still have 3-4 more years of decent hockey left.

Like many on this list, Neal is likely looking for a nice-payday with long duration (6 years) so it might scare some teams away.

Prediction:  Dallas Stars

James Neal returns to Dallas aka where it all started.

The Stars are looking for another proven offensive forward and adding James Neal will go a long way. Having him play alongside Tyler Seguin or Jamie Benn would be an excellent upgrade for the Stars this off-season.

6. JOE THORNTON, C

Joe Thornton will be turning 39 this summer but still looks like he has a little bit left in him.

The San Jose Sharks overpaid him ($8 million) to retain him last summer but they might not be keen to do it again.

At this point in his career, the Stanley Cup is likely his biggest priority and if the San Jose Sharks doesn't give him another chance, Thornton can sign for cheaper on several contending teams around the league.

Prediction: Boston Bruins

Not only will this be a nice story (originally drafted by the Boston Bruins) but it makes a lot of sense for both sides.

If Thornton is willing to take a pay-cut he will join a very good team and can be a solid contributor in a secondary role.  

With Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Joe Thornton rounding out the top-three center positions, one must like the Bruins chance of contending next season.

7. DAVID PERRON, LW/RW

Despite coming off a career-year (66 points in 70 games), it doesn't look like the Vegas Golden Knights plan to bring back David Perron.

The 30-year-old  is at a point of his career where he likely looking to maximize his earning potential with a long-term deal.

Perron is a very useful swiss-army-knife type of player and will instantly improve any team that signs him.

Prediction: Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars are in need of more scoring depth in their lineup and they also have the cap space to do it.

If they are able to sign both Neal and Perron this summer it would be considered a very successful one.

Not only will they have improved their offense significantly, they would have also taken away to of the Vegas Golden Knights top scorers from last season.

8. RICK NASH, LW/RW

At 34, Rick Nash is no longer a 40-goal scorer in the NHL.

There has been news that Nash is undecided about his playing future, so he will not sign on July 1st.

But if he does choose to play next season, he will likely sign with a contending team and play a secondary role.

Teams like the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vegas Golden Knights, Pittsburgh Penguins might be on his radar.

He will likely have to take a massive pay cut from the 7.8 million he made last year, but it might be worth it for a shot at the Stanley Cup.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins

It would be a stellar way to end of a stellar career if he is able to join Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh.

Obviously, the Penguins have a tight budget but there have been rumors suggesting that they are trying to move Phil Kessel.

So if Nash is able to come in on a cheaper affordable deal, the Penguins might be able to find him a spot.

Nash would be a player who could really help the Penguins take a few more runs at the Stanley Cup.

What do you think of these predictions? Let us know in the comment section below.