An early look at 2019's star-studded free-agent class
Eric Bolte / USA Today Sports

The initial rush of offseason player movement across the NHL is long gone, and we're now deep into the extended lull of summer activity.

Save for a few big names remaining on the trade block, the free-agency well has run dry after a bevy of transactions. Now, let's take an early look at what we may be in store for next year when an unprecedented crop of superstars potentially hit the open market.

Forwards

Tyler Seguin, C, Stars
Age: 26
2018-19 Cap hit: $5.75M

Since arriving in Dallas, Seguin has produced 384 points in 387 games, yet the Stars have missed the playoffs in three of his five seasons with the club. With the hefty salaries of Jason Spezza and Marc Methot slated to come off the books after next year, the Stars will have plenty of cash to throw at Seguin in the form of an extension. But, another fruitless campaign in the Lone Star State could play a factor in Seguin's offseason decision.

Blake Wheeler, RW, Jets
Age:
31
2018-19 Cap hit: $5.6M

Wheeler is the heart and soul of a deeply talented Jets roster and is coming off a 91-point regular season, adding 21 more in a playoff run that ended in a Western Conference Final appearance. He'll undoubtedly have a ton of suitors, and based on Winnipeg's impending cap crunch, he could be one of the more likely candidates to be playing elsewhere come 2019-20.

Artemi Panarin, LW, Blue Jackets
Age: 26
2018-19 Cap hit: $6M

After a stellar debut season in Columbus, Panarin's name has been thrust into the trade spotlight. Following a report indicating he's not interested in signing a long-term extension with the Blue Jackets, the game-breaking sniper could potentially be on the move sooner than next summer. But, if he hits the open market next July, he'll become one of the richest wingers in the NHL.

Max Pacioretty, LW, Canadiens
Age: 29
2018-19 Cap hit: $4.5M

Pacioretty's days in Montreal appear to be numbered, as GM Marc Bergevin intends on trading his captain and won't be negotiating an extension. Pacioretty's potential landing spot will, of course, play a big role in whether he tests free agency, but no matter what team he signs his next contract with, he'll fetch more than what he's made with Montreal over the past five seasons.

Matt Duchene, C, Senators
Age:
27
2018-19 Cap hit: $6M

Could there be more Duchene drama? After working his way out of Colorado, Duchene has to decide if he wants to re-up in Ottawa for the remainder of his prime years. If he stays, kudos for sticking it out. If not, Ottawa's move to acquire him could go down as an all-time blunder, particularly if the Avs end up using the Sens' original pick to select presumed 2019 No. 1 choice Jack Hughes.

Jordan Eberle, RW, Islanders
Age:
28
2018-19 Cap hit: $6M

Due to the departure of John Tavares, the outlook for the Islanders heading into 2018-19 remains in limbo. On top of the loss of their captain, New York made a series of questionable signings and trades to supplement the roster. Eberle has always been a polarizing talent, but, for the most part, has been stuck on lousy teams, and if that doesn't change next season, hitting free agency for the first time in his career seems like a reasonable idea.

Wayne Simmonds, RW, Flyers
Age:
29
2018-19 Cap hit: $3.975M

Since 2011-12, Simmonds ranks 15th in the NHL with 187 goals, and, due to his consistent production, the Flyers intend to lock him in to an extension. That said, Philly's top six is crowded with the return of James van Riemsdyk, and a potentially diminished role may not entice Simmonds to stick around.

Defense

Erik Karlsson, Senators
Age:
28
2018-19 Cap hit: $6.5M

Until he's traded, trying to map out Karlsson's future is a fool's errand. In the meantime, let's enjoy imagining the insanity of this generation's top defenseman going through a Tavares-esque free-agency process.

Tyler Myers, Jets
Age: 28
2018-19 Cap hit: $5.5M

Like Wheeler, Myers might not fit in the Jets' future plans due to their financial squeeze. Winnipeg would be losing a solid piece, but Myers would be set for a nice payday. Several teams would certainly make a pitch for a 6-foot-8 right-handed shot capable of putting up 30 points.

Jake Gardiner, Maple Leafs
Age:
28
2018-19 Cap hit: $4.05M

Speaking of cap crunches, the Maple Leafs face the distinct possibility of losing Gardiner next summer. Tavares, Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner will all be making big money after next season, and Gardiner will likely have to take a discount to stick around. The swift blue-liner has his flaws, but he is an offensive catalyst who can run a power play, making him highly desirable as a UFA.

Ryan Ellis, Predators
Age:
27
2018-19 Cap Hit: $2.5M

The Preds won't be able to get away with paying Ellis peanuts for much longer as he's proved to be more valuable than his current cap hit over recent years. Fortunately for Nashville, the team has $9 million in available cap space as it stands right now, and could get an additional $7 million off the books if Pekka Rinne departs after next year. With this in mind, Ellis re-signing in Nashville is more probable than the defenseman exploring his options in free agency.

Nate Schmidt, Golden Knights
Age:
27
2018-19 Cap hit: $2.225M

If Vegas can come close to replicating what the club accomplished in their inaugural season, Schmidt is a virtual lock to re-up in Sin City. But, if the regression everyone predicted over the course of their fairytale season finally hits, he's in for a tricky decision.

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets
Age:
29
2018-19 Cap hit: $7.425M

Conceivably, the Blue Jackets could lose both Panarin and Bobrovsky in the same offseason. Ouch. While he's already paid handsomely, Bob has authored a .922 save percentage over his current contract to go with a Vezina Trophy, so it's within the realm of possibility he demands a higher figure. It just depends how much Columbus is willing to pay.

Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche
Age:
30
2018-19 Cap hit: $5.9M

A healthy contract year will go a long way for Varlamov, who's been shut down early in back-to-back seasons. When he's actually on the ice, he's been effective, stopping pucks at a .919 clip since his Vezina runner-up season in 2013-14. If he does hit the market next July, surely one of the many teams in need of a productive goalie will take a chance.

(Photos Courtesy: Getty Images)

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An early look at 2019's star-studded free-agent class
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