Most of the major names from the 2019 free agent class have now dropped off the board, and some of the dust has now settled. The Nashville Predators, New York Rangers and Florida Panthers landed some of the biggest names on the market and have helped to bolster their teams’ depth and competitiveness immediately. On the other hand, they’ve also taken steps to blockade their prospects into further development. While this forced development of some prospects isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s certainly disappointing for fantasy owners of players who may have otherwise had a shot. Luckily, it seems that this year, more prospects benefited from the location of major free agent signings, than were hindered. Considering some of the biggest free agent signings so far, here are the prospects who’ve come out on top as a result.
Matt Duchene, Nashville Predators
The Canadiens, who are rumored to still be in the market for a top-6 pivot to solidify their forward corps, already actually have some solid depth at that position. The acquisition of Matt Duchene would only have hindered players like Ryan Phoeling and Nick Suzuki, both of which will have an opportunity to seize an offensive opportunity in Montreal this fall. Likewise, Alexandre Texier who broke out for the Blue Jackets in last year’s playoff tournament will stake a claim to the top-9 in Columbus with the absence of Duchene.
Despite having what many would consider the three best pure centermen in the NHL, the Predators have very little prospect depth down the middle. This move does nothing to hinder the Pred’s prospect development.
Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers
By Panarin signing in Manhattan, Panthers and Blue Jackets prospects alike dodged a bullet. Players such as Bemstrom and Tippett who have a legitimate shot at cracking NHL rosters this fall will have all the more opportunity to access favorable offensive deployment due to their teams losing out on the Panarin sweepstakes.
Hinders: Filip Chytil
Despite the acquisition and continuing development of prospects within their ranks, this move does relatively little to hinder the Blueshirts prospect core. Filip Chytil who had a highly successful rookie campaign may have been in line for an increased role if it weren’t for Panarin. There’s likely enough room for him to grow as a third-line center or wing, though, before the Rangers need to consider making more room up front.
Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers
Seeing off Bobrovsky opens the door to budding backup netminder Joonas Korpisalo, and newly signed 2014 draft pick Elvis Merzlikins. The two “prospect” netminders appear to be set to battle for the crease in Columbus to start the season. With only sub-0.900 save percentage netminders remaining in the open market, it’s more than likely that the organization forgoes the option to seek further assistance for now, and stay the course with their two seemingly capable, but highly unproven options.
Hinders: Spencer Knight
It’s a little disappointing for Spencer Knight owners (or prospective owners) to see Bob sign such a long-term deal in Sunrise. NHL-readiness, in fact, one of the major factors that were seen in selecting Knight so high in the draft. That’s not to say that the USNDP netminder was ready to step into the league immediately, however, most expected him to be on a development track that could see him in the NHL as soon as the fall of 2022. This development makes it unlikely that the Panthers have an NHL job for him until well beyond that. Bob’s contract holds an NMC for the first five years only though, meaning that if Knight is ready by 2024, the Panthers will be capable of making a shuffle.
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