Regular-season performance is the usual measuring stick for evaluating the worth of an NHL free agent. However, their efforts in the playoffs can also play a part in determining their next contract.
As the 2019 playoffs approach the midpoint of the second round, here’s a look at the potential effect this postseason is having upon several of this summer’s notable unrestricted free agents.
All stats (as of April 29) are via NHL.com.
Calgary Flames: Mike Smith
Smith’s performance was among the few bright spots for the Flames’ during their first-round elimination by the Colorado Avalanche. Despite a porous defense, the 37-year-old goalie finished with a respectable .917 save percentage. Coming off an erratic regular season, Smith’s postseason will give his free-agent value a boost for clubs seeking an experienced, affordable netminder.
Full marks to #Flames goalie Mike Smith, who was his team’s best player. He sat in the dressing room last night out of his pads, still wearing his skates, staring at the floor for a long time. .917 save pct on 205 shots (avg 41/game), Game 1 shutout, he more than did his part pic.twitter.com/ODEEm6KpDy
— Dave Stubbs (@Dave_Stubbs) April 20, 2019
Carolina Hurricanes: Justin Williams and Micheal Ferland
The 37-year-old Williams defied Father Time with a 23-goal, 53-point regular season. He despises the nickname “Mr. Game 7” but burnished that reputation with an assist on the game-winning goal that sent the Washington Capitals packing. His stock is up but the Hurricanes will ensure their captain stays put.
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Ferland and the Hurricanes talked contract during the season but failed to reach an agreement. There was speculation he sought a deal comparable to the six-year, $31-million deal of Washington’s Tom Wilson. Injuries, however, have limited him to three playoff games and lowered his free-agent value in the process.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene
The uncertainty over the futures of Panarin and Bobrovsky in Columbus made them the focus of considerable trade speculation this season. Both are expected to test the free-agent waters this summer and their postseason stats will only bolster their already high value.
Panarin leads the Jackets with nine points while Bobrovsky’s stats (2.01 goals-against average, .930 save percentage) rank among the playoff leaders in both categories.
Acquired by the Jackets before the trade deadline, Duchene is ensuring he’ll be the top center in this summer’s UFA market. He sits second to Panarin among the Jackets’ scorers with eight points.
Dallas Stars: Mats Zuccarello
Following an inconsistent regular season and a broken arm suffered in his first game after being acquired by the Stars, Zuccarello’s become an invaluable asset to their playoff run. The 31-year-old right winger’s tallied three goals (including a game winner) and seven points in nine games. Teams seeking an experienced scoring winger will come calling for Zuccarello this summer but the Stars could re-sign him.
Mats Zuccarello ➡️ Roope Hintz ➡️ Net. pic.twitter.com/R6CNvjAIbK
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 27, 2019
Nashville Predators: Wayne Simmonds
Shipped to the Predators at the trade deadline, Simmonds’ stock was already declining as he was hampered by the effects of offseason pelvic surgery. Managing just three points in 17 regular-season contests with the Preds, he saw just two playoff games before a knee injury sidelined him.
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New York Islanders: Robin Lehner, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle
A Vezina Trophy finalist, Lehner’s free-agent stock was already soaring entering the playoffs. His stellar postseason numbers (1.47 GAA, .952 save percentage) will have him jockeying with Bobrovsky as the best goalie in this year’s free-agent market. Don’t be surprised, however, if the Isles re-sign him first.
Huge save by Robin Lehner. pic.twitter.com/HPfNopyH3G
— Anthony Spilotro (@AnthonySpilotro) April 27, 2019
Lee, Nelson and Eberle struggled to score through their first two games of their second-round series with the Carolina Hurricanes. However, they all played key roles in the Isles’ first-round sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Eberle answered critics of his thin postseason record with a team-leading four goals and seven points, providing a much-need boost to his UFA stock.
San Jose Sharks: Erik Karlsson, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Gustav Nyquist
Coming off an injury-shortened regular season, there was some concern over Karlsson’s effectiveness entering the postseason. With 10 points in nine games, the 28-year-old defenseman is tied for the playoff assists lead. He’s silenced the doubters while ensuring he’ll remain perched atop the summer’s list of free-agent talent.
Barclay Goodrow wins it in OT pic.twitter.com/yA7OpHvkAG
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 24, 2019
The postseason play of Pavelski, 34, and the 39-year-old Thornton could lead to contract extensions from the Sharks. Thornton has eight points in nine contests while Pavelski had four before being sidelined by a head injury in Game 7 of their opening-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Acquired at the trade deadline, Nyquist’s two-way play is making him a valuable addition to the Sharks. If he hits the open market he won’t lack for suitors.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Jake Gardiner
Some Leafs followers painted Gardiner the scapegoat for their club falling yet again in a seventh game to the Boston Bruins. However, he was praised for playing through a back injury. With 30 points in an injury-shortened regular season, the 28-year-old still has considerable value as a mobile right-shot defenseman. The Leafs’ early exit shouldn’t hurt his free-agent stock.
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Winnipeg Jets: Kevin Hayes and Tyler Myers
Acquired at the trade deadline, Hayes proved a disappointment as a second-line center for the Jets and finished the playoffs bouncing between the third and fourth lines. That won’t help his effort to land a lucrative long-term deal.
Myers had an unspectacular playoffs, finishing with no points in six games. Given the high interest in right-shot defensemen and his all-around play, he should be able to land a long-term deal with another club.
Related slideshow: 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Provided by imagn)