The 2019 NHL draft was held last weekend, which means free agency is the next stage in the offseason. While teams hope to eventually improve through their draft selections, those looking for a more immediate talent upgrade will be active when the market opens Monday.
One of the top pending free agents is San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski. The Sharks recently locked up defenseman Erik Karlsson with an eight-year, $92 million contract and are projected to have just over $5 million in cap space, which may leave little chance of re-signing the forward.
If he does become available, teams are going to be interested in Pavelski, who scored 38 goals and had 28 assists last season.
According to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun, Pavelski could take visits with teams, including the Dallas Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning, early in free agency. He hasn't ruled out a return to San Jose, however.
"Maybe I come back," Pavelski said. "I don't know."
Another team to keep an eye on in regards to Pavelski is the Arizona Coyotes. His agent, Dan Plante, has already had a meeting with the franchise, according to The Athletic's Craig Morgan.
Another top free agent will be winger Artemi Panarin, who spent the last two seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was responsible for 28 goals and 59 assists last season.
Panarin was traded to Columbus by the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2017 offseason. Though Chicago may now be interested in bringing him back, it isn't likely to happen. According to David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period, Panarin isn't planning on a Blackhawks reunion.
The New York Islanders, however, may have a legitimate chance of landing the former All-Star. According to Pagnotta, New York plans to be "very active" in its pursuit:
David Pagnotta @TheFourthPeriod
Hearing the Islanders plan on being very active in their push for Panarin. Sounds like Lou's going big-game hunting; I don't believe Lee's out of picture regardless of Panarin outcome. IMO, Isles want to make a splash this off-season. Whether they can is a wait-and-see.
The Islanders' interest in Panarin should not mean the team won't try bringing back winger Anders Lee, according to Pagnotta.
For his part, Lee doesn't seem to want to leave New York and appears unhappy that he hasn't received a new deal ahead of free agency.
"I didn't think it we'd get to this point," Lee said, per Brian Compton of NHL.com.
While Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon isn't scheduled to become a free agent next week, he could find himself looking for a new home. According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, the Sharks "are trying to move" Dillon in an effort to free up some cap space.
Dillon is 28 years old and could draw quite a bit of interest on the open market. The Sharks could view him as expendable with Radim Simek set to return from injury and Artemi Knyazev possibly coming in via the draft.
With players like Joe Thornton, Timo Meier and Kevin Leblanc scheduled to join Pavelski in free agency, Dillon may be dealt even if the Sharks don't view him as expendable.
All contract and cap information via Spotrac.