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Photo Credit: NHL.com

Which UFA Left Wingers Are Available To Sign This Offseason?

In our ongoing series centering around the 2019 offseason, we’re back for another look at the upcoming free agency market.

The Vancouver Canucks have cap space to burn in the summer of 2019—but the question of whether or not they should spend that money is another question entirely. Most Canuck fans are tired of seeing veteran role players enter the roster on bloated contracts, only to underperform—and it’s easy to understand why. Still, the Canucks lineup has some definite holes that need filling, and there are few who would argue with the addition of a true star player—no matter how they’re acquired.

The question then becomes: are there any premium players about to hit the open market?

The Cap Considerations

The Canucks are currently scheduled to have more than $28 million in cap space during the 2019 offseason, though much of that is already earmarked for Brock Boeser, Alex Edler, and a handful of other important RFAs. After all is said and done, it stands to reason that GM Jim Benning will still have more than $10 million in available room to play around with—not that he’s looking to hand out any enormous contracts:

In other words, the Canucks could afford to add one premium free agent during the summer of 2019—but they might not be willing to pay the required cost. These days, star players are signing contracts well in excess of $10 million per year. If Vancouver won’t pony up for a top-tier free agent, they’ll still have ample cap space to offer some of the secondary options.

Why Left Wingers And What Kind?

The Canucks have plenty of middle-six forwards, but their stable of true top-six players is woefully thin. Currently, only Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Bo Horvat qualify—and that leaves a gaping hole at the left wing.

Vancouver currently has a bounty of competent left wingers—including Nikolay Goldobin, Tanner Pearson, Josh Leivo, and Antoine Roussel—but no one who stands out as a de facto top-line option. Sven Baertschi probably comes the closest, but his injury issues qualify him as a question mark at best. It’s the exact type of left winger Jim Benning should be looking for in free agency—one capable of stepping directly onto the number one line and producing.

Anything less would be redundant at this point.

UFA Left Wingers

Artemi Panarin, Columbus Blue Jacket

Age Games Goals Assists Points Shots Taken At 5v5 With/Without Shots Allowed At 5v5 With/Without Previous Cap Hit
26 70 25 51 76 +21%/-6% -1%/-1% $6 mil

Panarin is the premier forward option in 2019 and—aside from Erik Karlsson—the single best free agent on the market. As such, he’ll come at an enormous price-tag and have most NHL teams after his services. Despite Panarin reportedly showing interest in Vancouver in the past, expect him to sign for somewhere north of $10 million a season—and thus price himself out of GM Jim Benning’s plans.

It’s a shame, too, because he’d look really, really good alongside Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser.

 

Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres

Age Games Goals Assists Points Shots Taken At 5v5 With/Without Shots Allowed At 5v5 With/Without Previous Cap Hit
26 72 37 22 59 +16%/-13% +5%/+4% $5.73 mil

Skinner has cooled off considerably after a scorching hot start to the 2018/19 season, but he’s still on pace for a career year and due to cash in on free agency in a big way. Skinner’s track record isn’t as impressive as Panarin’s, yet he’s scored at least 37 goals in two of the past three seasons—and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Like Panarin, Skinner will almost certainly price himself out of Vancouver’s plans. That’s probably for the best, however, as a pure goal scorer like Skinner isn’t the best fit for the Canucks’ top line anyway.

 

Anders Lee, New York Islanders

Age Games Goals Assists Points Shots Taken At 5v5 With/Without Shots Allowed At 5v5 With/Without Previous Cap Hit
27 73 27 20 47 +14%/-6% +6%/-1% $3.75 mil

Lee is the captain of the Islanders and chances are good he’s not going anywhere—but there will be an intense bidding war for his services if he does hit the open market. Whether he signs in New York or elsewhere, Lee is due for a major raise and can be expected to double his current salary at the very least.

As a premier offensive difference-maker, Lee deserves the money he is going to get—which is probably more than Vancouver can justify giving him. He’s not the best fit for the Pettersson/Boeser unit, and it’s doubtful he’ll have much interest in leaving the east coast.

 

Ryan Dzingel, Ottawa Senators

Age Games Goals Assists Points Shots Taken At 5v5 With/Without Shots Allowed At 5v5 With/Without Previous Cap Hit
26 69 23 27 50 -1%/-3% +21%/+8% $1.8 mil

Long-time observers of free agency have come to be wary of players like Dzingel—those who suddenly post unprecedented offensive totals in the season before they hit free agency. The relatively low return that Ottawa got for him at the Trade Deadline suggests that league GMs are skeptical of Dzingel—but one of them is going to overpay him when he hits the open market.

The odds of Dzingel replicating his 2018/19 scoring rate in future seasons are slim, and Vancouver is not in any position to gamble. Chances are good he’ll revert back to a 0.5 point-per-game winger moving forward, and the Canucks have plenty of them on hand.

 

Michael Ferland, Carolina Hurricanes

Age Games Goals Assists Points Shots Taken At 5v5 With/Without Shots Allowed At 5v5 With/Without Previous Cap Hit
26 61 17 19 36 +11%/+19% +3%/-5% $1.75 mil

Who? The former “Public Enemy Number One” in Vancouver now represents the best combination of skill and physicality on the free agency market. Carolina’s decision to keep Ferland at the Trade Deadline suggests they’re planning on signing him long-term, but Ferland will almost certainly get overpaid for his physical attributes if he makes it to unrestricted status—and that’s something the Canucks should steer clear of. Ferland simply doesn’t move the needle enough offensively to warrant the contract he’s going to get.

 

Richard Panik, Arizona Coyotes

Age Games Goals Assists Points Shots Taken At 5v5 With/Without Shots Allowed At 5v5 With/Without Previous Cap Hit
27 67 13 19 32 +4%/-5% +3%/+3% $2.8 mil

Panik continuously puts up solid middle-six numbers, but at 27 years old he is what is. There’s not much reason to expect any progression in Panik’s game beyond this point, and his current quality of play would make him a redundant asset in Vancouver. The Canucks should say no to Panik even if he maintains his current salary.

 

Thomas Vanek, Detroit Red Wings

Age Games Goals Assists Points Shots Taken At 5v5 With/Without Shots Allowed At 5v5 With/Without Previous Cap Hit
34 62 14 20 34 -13%/-6% +12%/+10% $3 mil

Vanek remains one of the most productive wingers on the free agency market, but the Canucks have been there and done that. Now more than ever, Vanek is a complementary scorer—and Vancouver is crawling in complementary scorers. There’s no doubt Vanek can still put up numbers, but he’s just not enough of a genuine driver of offense to consider.

 

Patrick Maroon, St. Louis Blues

Age Games Goals Assists Points Shots Taken At 5v5 With/Without Shots Allowed At 5v5 With/Without Previous Cap Hit
30 65 8 15 23 +4%/+4% -19%/-7% $1.75 mil

If the Canucks are looking for someone who can score and play physical, Maroon looks like the best option on the market. However, that still doesn’t make him a good option. Maroon is currently having his worst season in years, but he’s had plenty of opportunity to show his scoring potential in past seasons. If Connor McDavid can’t turn Maroon into a legitimate top-six winger, don’t expect Elias Pettersson to.

 

Jamie McGinn, Florida Panthers

Age Games Goals Assists Points Shots Taken At 5v5 With/Without Shots Allowed At 5v5 With/Without Previous Cap Hit
29 15 4 3 7 -9%/-7% +20%/-1% $3.33 mil

After missing much of the season following surgery, McGinn has one of the highest point-per-game averages of all free agent wingers. Unfortunately, those numbers don’t really jive with McGinn’s overall body of work—suggesting he’s on a hot streak more than anything, and should be avoided on the open market. While he brings physicality to the table, McGinn’s defensive metrics are poor.

 

Kenny Agostino, New Jersey Devils

Age Games Goals Assists Points Shots Taken At 5v5 With/Without Shots Allowed At 5v5 With/Without Previous Cap Hit
26 55 6 15 21 +1%/-7% -12%/0 $700K

Agostino is definitely the budget option on this list—but he’s not half bad as far as budget options go. After bouncing around six NHL organizations, Agostino finally caught on full-time with the Devils partway through the season. He’s scored at a 0.5 points-per-game clip ever since. Agostino could be a low-risk, high-reward type of signing—but it’s hard to argue that he brings anything to the table that Nikolay Goldobin or Josh Leivo don’t already.

  • Goon

    If Benning could find a way out from under the contracts of Eriksson and Sutter, he would have the space to sign both Panarin and Karlsson (or Myers) long-term. Those additions, plus the addition of Hughes and the continued maturation of Pettersson and Boeser, could transform the Canucks completely.

    Almost certainly isn’t going to happen, but a man can dream.

    • apr

      The Canucks have a ton of cap space, which doesn’t preclude them from signing Karlsson or Panarin – or even both. The reality is they San Jose is likely to keep Karlsson, and Panarin wants to play in New York and live in a Russian community. Ferland has 3 goals more than Jake. Lee is re-signing with Islanders. The only reasonable/accessible winger is Skinner – and I hate the idea of paying him more than Bo.

      • Goon

        They have room *this year*. They’re going to be signing these guys long-term. You don’t want to be paying $20 million for Panarin and Karlsson AND still be paying $6 million for Eriksson when you’re trying to re-sign Pettersson and Boeser.

      • Goon

        But yes I agree the reality is that neither are likely to want to sign in Vancouver. That’s why I said “almost certainly isn’t going to happen” in my original post.

      • Killer Marmot

        The Canucks don’t have as much as cap room as it appears. Stecher, Hutton, Virtanen, Leivo, Boeser, Pettersson, and Hughes will all be seeking significant raises over the next few years. In total these guys could get around $25 million more.

        It would be a pity if the Canucks had to trade away good young players because of a cap squeeze brought on by purchasing high-priced free agents.

        • DJ_44

          Significant raises? Let’s ignore Boeser and Pettersson for the. Stecher? maybe $3.5M, Hutton … he should be moved in the offseason, but nothing above a QO is required, Virtanen …. $3.M Leivo …$2.5M
          Total add with those players is $4.5M to $5M. Boeser and Pettersson my total $16-18M.

          This is easily manageable within their current cap situation.

    • Dirty30

      Yes to Panarin, no to the rest.

      EK may be the best D on the planet but there’s just a risk there that could kill this team for a long time.

      I’d like to see what Hughes can do before committing $11-12 million for 7 years of EK.

      • Cageyvet

        Agreed, it’s unlikely to happen, but Panarin is the one guy on the market worth opening the chequebook for. The top line and powerplay would change this team in a big way. We’d still suck defensively but Karlsson is not still trending up, Panarin is and is better long-term value.

    • I think Sutter is moveable this offseason. Room could also be made by not re-signing Edler, though I think that’s unlikely. There’s definitely ways to make one or both of those players fit if Benning is so inclined.

      I think the safe bet on Eriksson is to wait and see if the CBA negotiations result in any compliance buyouts this time around.

        • truthseeker

          Yep. This weird canuck fan attitude of wanting to move on from productive vets just because their vets is…..weird.

          The canucks are in a great situation with Edler in my opinion. He clearly wants to stay here and it’s probably pretty clear he wants NTC/NMC protection. So you simply offer him a choice. A three year type deal at a decent market value, like 4 to 5 million per, but with no trade protection, or you make him pay for the protection. So for example, a single year at 4 to 5 million with NMC. (then he and the team can go year to year after that) If he wants 2 years with NMC then it’s 3.5 to 4 million per. If he wants 3 years with NMC then it’s 2.5 to 3.5 etc.

          • TD

            The problem with signing Elder is that the left side already appears clogged. I like him as a player, but will he still be effective in 3 years when (hopefully) they are contending for a cup. Personally, I think Hutton will be a better player in 3-4 years. With Hughes and Juolevi occupying 2 of 3 left side spots over the next year or two, do you keep the 32 year old Edler or the 25 year old Hutton? Especially knowing the team is at least a couple of years away from being a legitimate threat for the cup.

            A two year contract may be okay and you start Juolevi in the AHL regardless of how he plays at camp. If you are going to sign Edler it has to be a 2 year max contract. The two year contract would be off the books and would not need to be protected during the expansion draft.

          • truthseeker

            I think he can be effective for three years fairly easily. OJ is a question mark and plans now should not be made with the assumption that he will be a top 4 player. I think there will be room for both Hutton and Edler. There are always injuries as well. Having that kind of depth is what the goal should be in my opinion.

            Having said that, I do agree with you that a two year deal is probably ideal for the team.

      • TheRealPB

        Don’t you think Eriksson is going to be fairly tradeable after July 1 when the Canucks pay out the $4 million signing bonus? For an internal cap team or one struggling to reach the minimum like a Carolina or Ottawa, he’d only cost $9 million in real dollars for the next three years, which is much more in line with what his diminished performance is worth (I mean it’s still probably overpaid but you could likely get a 4th rounder for him, especially if the Canucks retained a bit of salary).

    • I think the best way to acquire premium talent is always through the draft. Matthew Boldy is a good option in the 2019 Draft, and should be available when the Canucks pick.

      If the team is going to go the high-profile free agency route, I’d hope they wait a season or two so that they can leverage being a contender as they try to sign players.

  • Marvin101

    first and foremost looks at how durable any free agent would be. it would be nice if you could include average games played per season for the past 5 years in your stats.

  • Doodly Doot

    Neat article Stephan! I think that the Canucks should be thinking hard pass on all these UFAs. Baertschi minus his injury is a 25+ goal LW. They have a few interesting in-house options right now with Leivo and Pearson. All are friendly value contracts. Addition by inaction.

      • Doodly Doot

        Exactly. Get the most out of current assets and focus on the draft. I really like Broberg in our pick-range this year. Let’s go for more D! With Edler probably getting another 3 years, this is the kid to slot into the line-up as Edler is phased out. I’m of the mind that a good D prospect is often worth a lot more than a good F prospect in trade negotiations. Fun stuff!

      • DeL

        How do you know the player you draft is going to become a premier winger in the NHL? The league is full of bottom six forwards that were premier wingers in junior and don’t forget the AHL which has a number of top scorers who can’t transition their game to the big club. Utica has a couple. If you could free up cash by letting some UFAs and RFAs go getting rid of Sutter and Eriksson if possible and sign Karlsson and Panarin if it fits the budget why wouldn’t you? I’m sure Karlsson and Edler would be great mentors for the young D the Canucks have and Panarin would as has been pointed out look good with Petey and Boeser.

  • Kootenaydude

    Why no mention of Gustaf Nyquist from SAN Jose? Plays both wings and puts up better numbers than most of the guys listed. Usually 50 points a year. UFA at the end of this season.

    • Everywhere I look has Nyquist listed as a RW, and that’s where he’s played for all or most of this year. If he is capable of playing LW effectively, I’d probably slot him pretty high on this list–probably ahead of Dzingel.

  • Killer Marmot

    The Canucks have plenty of middle-six forwards, but their stable of true top-six players is woefully thin.

    One should not over-estimate what a top-six forward is. Last year, only 202 forwards scored 32 points or more in the regular season. Thus any forward capable of 35 points a season can be considered a “true top-six player”.

    Having said, yeah, the Canucks lack an elite left winger.

    • Goon

      The best teams in the league typically have 1-2 elite (PPG+) wingers and another 1-2 very good (40-50+ pt) wingers. The Sharks have Hertl, Meier, Kane, and Nyquist. The Flames have Gaudreau, Lindholm, and Tkatchuk. The Leafs have Marner, Kapanen, Johnsson, and Nylander. The Bruins have Marchand, Pastrnak, and DeBrusk. The Lightning Nikita Kucherov and then just have centres playing every other position.

      The Canucks have Boeser.

      The Canucks need to add, at a minimum, one more high-end winger, and they need one of their young wingers like Goldobin or Lind to grow into a 50-point guy.

      • truthseeker

        I’d rather see the canucks go with the lightning model then. (if we’re talking through the draft). Unless the winger draft prospect is clearly head and shoulders better than the others around him at whatever draft level you’re talking, it’s just not worth it to take a chance on them because their trade value is so low.

        Draft the best center, and convert them to wing.

  • Kootenaydude

    Wingers I had looked at. Not mentioned above.
    Nyquist- San Jose
    Zuccarello – Dallas
    Johanson – Bruins
    Simmons – Nashville
    Panarin is really the guy though. Also here’s a thought outside the box. Pavelski to centre Pettersson. Best tipper in the league. Rarely injured. Great on the powerplay. 3 year contract.

      • MattyT

        Exactly. The level of fanboy dreaming here is laughable.

        Erik Karlsson keeps getting name-dropped (LOL). Panarin is the latest flavour of the moment (LOL) and now Pavelski is suggested (LOL).

        Newsflash – NONE of these guys are even thinking of coming to Vancouver with their SC Cup window quickly ticking away! Why would they!!!!!

        Hey – I know.. McDavid or Eichel can’t be happy, let’s make a play for them. Pftttt. Deluded.

        *tumbleweeds*

      • Kootenaydude

        Sharks only have roughly 20 million in cap space to sign 10 players. If Karlsson takes 10-11 million. That’s roughly 10 million left to resign 10 players. Pavelski will get around 7 million. The reason SAN Jose doesn’t sign both Pavelski and Karlsson is because of cap space. They haven’t been talking to Pavelski regarding an extension. It’s just a thought. Going after teams that won’t have cap space. No more. No less.

    • Adamemnon

      He’s a jerk, I don’t agree with the way he makes his points, but unfortunately at least in this case, his points are valid. Why in the world would Karlsson, Panarin or Pavelski, the Sharks’ captain, want to sign with the Canucks when they basically have their pick of destinations? Pavelski on a three year contract would be amazing, any team in the league would sign that which is precisely why it will never happen.

      Plus, Benning has already indicated that he will not be shelling out that kind of money to anyone not to mention two or three players. And that’s a good thing, because as much as you would like to believe the opposite, even the addition of both Karlsson and Panarin does nothing but guarantee a long stretch of mediocrity with the supporting cast we currently have, will prevent them from being able to sign a better supporting cast, and will hamstring the Canucks long into the future, past the days when those players are useful.

      You don’t build a contender through free agency, that much should be obvious by now, you build one through the draft. Adding value through free agency is a very rare thing these days.

      • Killer Marmot

        Why in the world would Karlsson, Panarin or Pavelski, the Sharks’ captain, want to sign with the Canucks when they basically have their pick of destinations?

        1. The Canucks’ money is still good.
        2. Vancouver is a desirable place to live in, if you have the money.
        3. The Canucks have some good young young players, suggesting that they won’t be average for long.
        4. It seems to have, on the whole, good relations between players and management.
        5. It’s got a large and knowledgeable fan base, as opposed to many teams in the American south.

        • Adamemnon

          All 5 of these arguments assume that professional hockey players do it as a job primarily, and care more about ancillary benefits of their profession, and money than they do about winning. The number of players of players that this is true of is vanishingly small. They’re professional hockey players. You don’t get to where they’re at by not being insanely competitive. Sure, loyalty to an organization as evinced by the Sedins and Karlsson, plus not wanting to uproot their families sometimes trumps that competitiveness (though I would argue that it is simply the same stubborn competitive spirit that refuses to settle for anything but the initial goal).

          And then occasionally there is a player like Artemi Panarin, who may be influenced by factors other than winning, ie. controlling his own destiny. But I think your bias toward Vancouver as a destination is clouding your rationality. Nobody is going out of their way to play in front of Vancouver fans. They may not be a net negative, but they certainly aren’t a net positive, I’m sorry, but we just haven’t done enough to overshadow the amount of vitriol and negativity, nor the two major black eyes that the riots caused. Note: I am not blaming the riots on Canucks fans, simply pointing out that they don’t do anything for our perception around the league. And Vancouver is a beautiful place, but mainly in the off season, when players often go elsewhere to be with their extended family anywhere.

          Plus, to point number 1, the Canucks’ money isn’t as good as the American market where lower tax rates, and a stronger dollar means the Canucks have to overpay significantly to match the same dollar amount from American teams.

          • Adamemnon

            Sorry, 4 of the 5 assume that. Point 3 is just wrong. The Canucks have a number of good young players. As does just about every other team in the league. There is nothing about the Canucks makeup currently, nor management’s “direction” — despite how good Brock and Pettersson are — that suggests that the Canucks will be anything other than average for a long time.

            Some players like being in a Canadian market with passionate fans that hang on their every move and word. Some prefer to live in a city where you can walk from the beach to the rink in flip flops and live your life like a normal person. I would wager that both Panarin, and Karlsson (after his Ottawa experience), fall in the latter category.

  • Kanuckhotep

    The Canucks presently are not at a point where a Panarin or EK65 will take them from a 22nd or so place club to a contender over night. Let Benning re sign Brock and others (and when the time comes, Petey) and develop his own talent before taking chances on players of that calibre if not price tags. This is simply not the year to make this kind of move IMO. Next year is THE pivotal year for management and coaching staff. They’d better make some post season noise of even the smallest kind and if they do then consider signing the big name FAs available.

    • Kootenaydude

      I seen an interesting stat stating that when Tanev and Edler were both playing together. The Canucks are 7 games over 500. Now if you add a little development time to our young players, some depth and a UFA. This team makes a big jump in the standings.

  • Burnabybob

    It’s possible the Canucks will be able to address their need for a winger who can score through the draft this year, especially if they pick in the top 2. Hughes and Kaako both look like they could slot into the lineup in the fall. If that happens, hopefully the free agent market for wingers is a moot point.

    • Kootenaydude

      Remember a guy named Hossa? A free agent that brought teams to the finals. Lots of free agents make a team better. Look at Las Vegas with Stone. Your comment makes no sense whatsoever.

      • Adamemnon

        On its face, maybe, but if you take the comment to mean that you don’t build a contender through free agency in today’s NHL, that is unassailably true. Marian Hossa was a deadline acquisition for the Penguins when they went to the finals, not a UFA signing. Then he signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings. If you’re a contender looking for a final piece and that piece happens to be Marian Hossa, an elite play-driving winger that’s a no-brainer. But the Canucks are nowhere near that and nobody is signing one year contracts in free agency these days anyway. The Hawks signed him to a 12 year, front-loaded contract, mainly to keep his cap hit down to $5 mil a year. Having such a great player at such a low AAV is what helped keep the Hawks competitive long enough for them to win three cups with Hossa. Those contracts are now illegal, precisely for that reason. So, Hossa is definitely not the example you’re looking for when trying to argue that the Canucks should hitch their wagon to two superstars that are already likely past their primes for what would have to be more than a decade, hamstringing their ability to build anything more than a mediocre supporting cast around them, leading at best to a few years of playoff one-and-dones and/or 2nd round exits, followed by an even lengthier rebuild in which they would have to jettison assets to dump the bad contracts.

        • Adamemnon

          Secondly, the Knights were in the Finals last year. The Canucks are not one or even two players away from winning the Cup. Even players as good as Karlsson and Panarin. Surely even the most naively optimistic Canucks fan can see that. Even one that seen a bit of old news about how good Tanev and Edler used to be together.