Ted Kulfan’s top 20 NHL free agents: Red Wings, Jake Gardiner a match?

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Go through the gallery to see Ted Kulfan’s top unrestricted NHL free agents for 2019, with analysis. Go here if you are having trouble seeing the gallery.

Detroit – The NHL Silly Season has arrived.

Unrestricted free agency begins at noon Monday and some staggering contracts will be doled out to capable players.

Jake Gardiner

Most of them are not true difference-makers, or worthy of the money they’re about to receive – just good, solid players who can help their new teams.

And some of those contracts will bring buyer’s remorse in a couple years, as production declines and those big salaries remain on salary cap-strapped teams.

But that always happens on day one of unrestricted free agency, as teams see those players available to sign, many of them coming off impressive seasons.

Players such as Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene lead an unrestricted free agent class that has depth – just not major stars.

In unrestricted free agency, however, there is some elite talent – young players such as Mitch Marner, Patrik Laine, Brayden Point and Brock Boeser, among so many more, are available to sign.

But the singing team would be liable to hand over up to four first-round draft picks, depending how much the player signs for – with the original team still having the right to match.

General manager Steve Yzerman is expected to be cautious wading into this free-agent pool, given the Red Wings’ current rebuilding situation.

Yzerman said if a player is available who fits into this retooling of the roster, he’d be willing to sign someone. But there has to be consideration of next season, and the fact Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha are all up for new contracts, which will affect the salary structure.


Twitter @tkulfan