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Free agency primer: Cream of the crop

Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene among the bigger names to hit the open market on July 1

by Pierre-Antoine Mercier, translated by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

MONTREAL - Now that the 2019 NHL Draft is behind us, it's time to have a look at some of the top names slated to hit the unrestricted free agent market on Sunday.

This list was prepared by the Editorial staff for informational purposes only, and is not a reflection of the organization's strategy or assessments for the 2019 free-agency period.

Forwards:

Artemi Panarin - LW - CBJ - 27
The 2015-16 Calder Trophy winner is coming off his best season with the Columbus Blue Jackets thanks to a 28-goal, 87-point season in 79 games. The Russian, who was never drafted, jumped into the NHL after spending seven seasons in the KHL. Panarin closed out his career in his home country by winning the Gagarin Cup with SKA Saint Petersburg in 2014-15, and he was named playoff MVP that year. The winger also represented his country well at the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2011, where he scored the winning goal against Canada in the final. Panarin will surely be one of the most coveted free agents to hit the market on July 1.

Matt Duchene - C - CBJ - 28
The centerman set a new career high last season when he scored 31 goals with the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets. Duchene also finished the campaign with 70 points in 73 games, which ties his highest points total set in 2013-14 with the Colorado Avalanche. The Haliburton, ON native has enjoyed success on the international scene, winning gold at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi with Canada. The third-overall pick in 2009 will be the best center available in unrestricted free agency this summer.

Joe Pavelski - C - SJS - 34
The San Jose Sharks captain will be the top goal-scorer available on July 1 after lighting the lamp 38 times in 75 games in 2018-19. That marked the fifth time in 13 seasons that Pavelski has hit the 30-goal mark. The seventh-round pick (205th overall) in 2003 by the Sharks has 355 goals, 406 assists, and 761 points in 963 career games, all with San Jose. The 34-year-old American is a three-time All-Star (2016, 2017, and 2019).

Gustav Nyquist - RW - SJS - 29
Tomas Tatar's good friend could be tempted to be reunited with his former teammate, with whom he's enjoyed lots of success in Detroit. The two former Red Wings forwards won the Calder Cup together in 2012-13 with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL. The 29-year-old Swede is coming off his best season in the NHL with 22 goals and 60 points in 81 games.

Ryan Dzingel - LW - CBJ - 27
The Ottawa Senators' seventh-round pick (203rd overall) in 2011 is probably the best skater in free agency this year. Acquired on February 23 by the Columbus Blue Jackets, Dzingel finished the 2018-19 season with 26 goals and 56 points in 78 games. Since cracking the NHL in 2015-16, the 27-year-old American has 66 goals for 138 points in 268 games.

Anders Lee - LW - NYI - 28
The 28-year-old American has reached the 20-goal plateau four times in five full seasons in the NHL so far. Lee also managed to hit the 40-point mark in 2017-18 with the New York Islanders. The left winger finished last season with 28 goals and 51 points in 82 games. The Islanders' captain last season has 152 goals and 256 points in 425 career games.

Corey Perry - RW - ANA - 34
The veteran of 14 seasons with the Anaheim Ducks had his contract bought out on June 19. The 34-year-old forward was certainly slowed down by injuries last season, suiting up for just 31 games in 2018-19. Perry has a wealth of experience, however, as he owns a Stanley Cup ring, a Maurice Richard Trophy and a Hart Trophy. In 988 NHL games, the Peterborough, ON native has 372 goals for 776 career points.

Brett Connolly - RW - WSH - 27
The 2017-18 Stanley Cup champion with the Washington Capitals enjoyed his best year last season thanks to a 22-goal, 24-assist effort (46 points) in 81 games. The Tampa Bay Lightning's first-round pick (6th overall) in 2010 has 79 goals and 155 points to his name in 427 career NHL games.

Mats Zuccarello - RW - DAL - 31
Acquired by the Dallas Stars on February 23, Zuccarello only played 48 games last season due to injuries. Zuccarello still managed 12 goals for 40 points in 2018-19. The 31-year-old Norwegian has hit the 50-point mark four times in his career with the New York Rangers. The winger has 114 goals for 355 points in 511 games in the NHL.

Wayne Simmonds - RW - NSH - 30
Simmonds ended the 2018-19 season in a Predators uniform, registering one goal and three points in 17 games with Nashville. But the winger has five seasons of 25 goals or more on his resume with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Scarborough, ON native has 243 goals, 231 assists, and 474 points in 841 career games.

Marcus Johansson - C - BOS - 28
The 28-year-old Swede made it to the Stanley Cup Final with the Boston Bruins this season, Johansson had a successful playoff run, collecting 11 points in 22 games. The Washington Capitals' first-round pick (24th overall) has endured some injury problems the past few seasons. The centerman as 120 goals for 334 points in 588 career games.

Defensemen:

Tyler Myers - D - WPG - 29
The 6-foot-8, 229-pound defenseman is surely the most physically imposing rearguard on the free-agent market. The Buffalo Sabres' first-round pick (12th overall) in 2008 completed his 10th season in the NHL, collecting nine goals for 31 points. The 29-year-old right-hander has 74 goals and 265 points in 635 career games with the Sabres and Winnipeg Jets.

Jake Gardiner - D - TOR - 28
The Anaheim Ducks' first-round pick (17th overall) in 2008 has played eight seasons in the NHL, all of them with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 28-year-old American finished 2018-19 with three goals and 27 assists for 30 points in 62 games. Gardiner has 45 tallies and 200 helpers for 245 points in 551 NHL games.

Anton Stralman - D - TBL - 32
A veteran of 12 NHL seasons, Stralman's 2018-19 campaign with the Tampa Bay Lightning was shortened due to injury. The native of Tibro, Sweden collected 17 points last season and has 47 goals for 242 points in 749 career games.

Ben Chiarot - D - WPG - 28
The 28-year-old defenseman is coming off his best season with the Winnipeg Jets with a five-goal, 20-point campaign in 78 games. The left-hander from Hamilton, ON was the Atlanta Thrashers' fourth-round pick (119th overall) in 2009. In 305 career games, Chiarot has posted 12 goals for 64 points.

Anthony Bitetto - D - MIN - 28
The 28-year-old American was claimed off waivers by the Minnesota Wild on January 25. Bitteto has two goals for 17 points in 132 career games with the Nashville Predators and Wild. He was the Predators' sixth-round pick (168th overall) in 2010.
 
Goalies:

Petr Mrazek - G - CAR - 27
The 27-year-old Czech enjoyed one of his best seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2018-19. Mrazek posted a 23-14-3 record, 2.39 goals-against average, .914 save percentage, and four shutouts. The netminder is also a good friend and former teammate of Tatar's. Mrazek was the Detroit Red Wings' fifth-round pick (141st overall) in 2010.

Cam Ward - G - CHI - 35
The veteran backstop had a 16-12-4 record, 3.67 goals-against average and .897 save percentage with the Chicago Blackhawks last season. Ward owns 701 games of NHL experience and won the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005-06.

Keith Kinkaid - G - CBJ - 29
The Farmingville, NY native joined the Blue Jackets at the trade deadline last season, but didn't play any games for Columbus. In 41 games with the New Jersey Devils in 2018-19, he posted a 15-18-6 record, 3.36 goals-against average, and .891 save percentage.

Cam Talbot - G - PHI - 31
The native of Caledonia, ON owns 288 games of NHL experience with the New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, and Philadelphia Flyers. Talbot has a 138-112-24 record, 2.60 goals-against average, .915 save percentage, and 20 shutouts in his career.

This list was prepared by the Editorial staff for informational purposes only, and is not a reflection of the organization's strategy or assessments for the 2019 free-agency period.

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