The 2019 Superclass is losing some of its power. At this point a few months ago, hockey fans across North America were drooling with anticipation while thinking about the group of players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2019. There were some incredible defensemen set to hit the open market, and real questions about whether their current teams would be able to hammer out an extension in time. Now, just six weeks into that extension period and we’ve already seen several names crossed off the list.
On July 1st alone, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Drew Doughty, Ryan McDonagh and Niklas Hjalmarsson were all removed from a possible free agent frenzy by inking huge contract extensions with their respective teams. Ekman-Larsson and Doughty would re-up for eight years each, while McDonagh would receive seven and Hjalmarsson an extra two. It took a few more weeks but Ryan Ellis would join them with an eight-year extension of his own, taking another elite defenseman off the market well before anyone could even prepare a sales pitch.
It wasn’t just defensemen. Logan Couture received an eight-year $64MM extension from the San Jose Sharks as soon as they could give it out, and Adam Henrique was given five more years from their state rival Anaheim Ducks. Marc-Andre Fleury was rewarded for his playoff performance with a three-year deal that makes him one of the highest-paid goaltenders in the league, despite only playing 46 regular season games for the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18.
A ton of talent has already been locked up, but it wasn’t dubbed a Superclass because of just a few players. The 2019 market still has a long list of talent scheduled, including superstar forwards like Tyler Seguin and Artemi Panarin. Erik Karlsson hasn’t signed an extension with the Ottawa Senators and may still be traded before the season, while Sergei Bobrovsky and Pekka Rinne provide some elite goaltending options if they aren’t re-signed.
So who will be the best free agent to make it all the way to market? After John Tavares showed that a superstar can indeed change teams in the prime of their career, who will be next to follow the money (or the home cooking) to a new club? Cast your vote below not for the player who you think is currently the best, but the best player you think will actually become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, 2019. Explain your thoughts in the comment section below.
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