NHL free agency 2019: Five narratives to watch on July 1

There’s a lot going on in the NHL right now and free agency hasn’t even started yet.

Phil Kessel was traded, as was Carl Soderberg, and a couple of big-name free agents have already signed, like Erik Karlsson and Jeff Skinner.

But even with all that action, there’s still a lot to be decided and a number of storylines to follow when free agency starts July 1.

We put together a list of things to keep track of in the coming days before it begins.

Five narratives in NHL free agency 2019:

The big names

As with any sport, free agency has to begin with the big names. Those men this year are Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Joe Pavelski. As these men go, so will the market. At this point, it looks like Panarin prefers the Rangers if he can’t sign with his old coach in Florida, but the Islanders still appear to be an option. Duchene has zeroed in on Nashville and very well may find his way to Tennessee. As for Pavelski, you would be hard-pressed to find a team that couldn’t use his services. Odds are some other names could sign first, but if they don’t they may have to wait for these three men to find a home.

Other names to watch: Anders Lee, Jake Gardiner, Gustav Nyquist

The goalies

You may have complained in the above section because Sergei Bobrovsky was absent, but we only left him off the list because we were saving his story. Bobrovsky is not going back to Columbus and will sign with a new team. Odds are it will be Florida and it makes sense. The Panthers have the money and need a goalie, especially after dealing James Reimer to the Hurricanes. Bobrovsky is bound to make some big money, but there are other names of value available in net as well.

Robin Lehner who was a Vezina Trophy finalist this year looks like he may be on his way out with the Islanders. He is coming off a career year and could be in line for a huge payday. And Petr Mrazek is no one to laugh at, either. He was pivotal to the Hurricanes’ playoff success and is still only 27 years old. He could be a big pickup for someone.

Other names to watch: Mike Smith, Curtis McElhinney, Semyon Varlamov

The RFAs

These are the men their teams don’t want to give away and include Mitch Marner of the Maple Leafs, Mikko Rantanen of the Avalanche, Brayden Point of the Lightning and Matthew Tkachuk of the Flames. All are coming off huge seasons and could be due huge money — and odds are none of them will get away. It’s just a matter of what they get. And if they don’t get what they want, will we seen another William Nylander situation? If they do get paid, what will that mean for the rest of their teams’ respective rosters? Like the big names, these signings will have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the league. We’ll just see how much of an effect that will be.

Other names to watch: Sebastian Aho, Patrik Laine, Brock Boeser

Trade bait

As we mentioned before, several big names have already moved, but what other names could we see traded? There are several potential guys out there, like Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri, Wild winger Jason Zucker and Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie. All of these men will have impacts on teams and likely present value in the postseason as well. So who else could we see moved?

Other names to watch: Ryan Murray, Connor Brown, Shayne Gostisbehere

The under-the-radar guys

There are guys who are going to get talked about no matter what. But who are some of the guys that maybe get lost in the shuffle? Mats Zuccarello is a big name and got overlooked because many assumed he would re-sign with Dallas. But he is apparently taking more meetings with teams and the Stars are far from a guarantee. What about Tyler Myers? He’s a good defenseman who could easily be a top-4 guy on a lot of teams. Where will he go? And how about Wayne Simmonds? It seems like Philly fans absolutely loved him and he’s the type of grinder a lot of teams could use? How much could they get? Where will they go?

Other names to watch: Pat Maroon, Ryan Dzingel, Brandon Tanev