BOSTON – Bruins forward Marcus Johansson is trying to win a Stanley Cup, not worrying about what’s going to happen to him July 1.
But his three goals and seven points in 12 games, including a goal and an assist in Game 1 of Eastern Conference final, has moved him into the top 20 of USA TODAY Sports’ 2019 list of potential unrestricted free agents.
“Good stick, good acceleration and then has the composure to make a play,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said about Johansson’s work to set up the Bruins’ first goal in a 5-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The speedy Johansson knocked the puck away from Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk and then delivered a nifty backhand pass to Steven Kampfer, who drove the puck into the net. In the third period, Johansson knocked home a rebound on the power play to tie the game and start a momentum reversal.
And the first goal of the Eastern Conference Final has been scored by… Steven Kampfer, just as we all drew it up. #NHLBruins lead 1-0 pic.twitter.com/NAkHjEL3vN
Those are plays general managers remember when they start handing out free agent deals.
“Hundred percent they remember what happened in the playoffs,” Carolina general manager Don Waddell said. “Remember when Bryan Bickell had a great playoff?”
Bickell had nine goals and 17 points during the Blackhawks’ 2013 championship run, and the Blackhawks gave up a four-year, $16 million contract to prevent him from going to free agency that summer. He would have been among the hottest free agents.
“In the regular season, you see the stats, but you may not watch a guy a whole lot, but in the playoffs everyone is watching,” Waddell said.
Johansson has proved he is a 20-goal finesse scorer at the NHL, but in these playoffs you see that he can do the dirty work and perform in high traffic areas. We have him No. 15 on our list. Here’s the rest of the list.
Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson is having a strong postseason. (Photo: Neville E. Guard, USA TODAY Sport)
1. Erik Karlsson, defenseman, San Jose Sharks: Posted 45 points in 53 games and still has a shot at earning a Stanley Cup. He has 12 assists in 14 playoff games with potentially two rounds to go. He’s still the game’s most dynamic offensive defensemen.
2. Artemi Panarin, right wing, Columbus Blue Jackets: He is the most dangerous offensive player among potential unrestricted free agents. He has 116 goals in his first four NHL seasons.
3. Matt Duchene, center, Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets will try to keep him, but he will have plenty of options if he wants to explore free agency.
4. Anders Lee, center-wing, New York Islanders: He has scored 25 or more goals four times in his first five full-time seasons. He might lead the league in teams interested in signing him.
5. Kevin Hayes, center, Winnipeg Jets: Centers are in high demand, and he’s a 6-5, 220-pound center who can do whatever you need him to do.
6. Jake Gardiner, defenseman, Toronto Maple Leafs: Given how few defensemen are available, Gardiner might have 10-12 suitors. He has defensive flaws, but he can move the puck effectively.
7. Mats Zuccarello, left wing, Dallas Stars: The Stars' offense became far more dangerous after he arrived in a trade and joined the second line. He was tied for the team lead in playoff points with 11 in 13 games. He was one of the Stars' best postseason players.
8. Joe Pavelski, forward, San Jose Sharks: The marriage between the Sharks and Pavelski seems strong, but we thought that about Patrick Marleau, too.
9. Jeff Skinner, right wing, Buffalo Sabres: He’s the only 40-goal scorer available as a free agent. But also factor in this: He is a minus-98 over the past eight seasons and he never has been in the playoffs.
10. Sergei Bobrovsky, goalie, Columbus Blue Jackets: The Calgary Flames will not be Bobrovsky’s first choice, but he'd be a great fit for a contending team.
11. Jordan Eberle, right wing, New York Islanders: Increased his value by registering eight points in nine games in the playoffs. He’s only 28, but has scored 20 or more goals six times, and 19 goals once.
12. Robin Lehner, goalie, New York Islanders: Lehner found his game with the Islanders. He should be inclined to stay there.
13. Tyler Myers, defensemen, Winnipeg Jets: If the Jets are going to trade Jacob Trouba, it seems like they would make every effort to keep Myers.
14. Brock Nelson, center-wing, New York Islanders: Averaged 22 goals per season for five seasons and he has only missed two games in that span. He also had four playoff goals in eight games.
15. Johannson: Two seasons ago, he had 24 goals and 58 points for Washington. He is only 28.
16. Micheal Ferland, right wing, Carolina Hurricanes: He can score goals and play with an edge, and that will earn him a nice raise from his $1.75 million contract.
17. Justin Williams, right wing, Carolina Hurricanes: At 37, he isn’t going to be looking to move unless the Hurricanes lowball him. He is important to the team in the dressing room and on the ice.
18. Gustav Nyquist, right wing, San Jose Sharks: With eight points in 14 games, he is having the best playoff showing of his career. He has also scored two or more goals four times, including in each of the past two seasons.
19. Brett Connolly, right wing, Washington Capitals: At 27, Connolly’s game is coming together. He scored a career-high 22 goals and added two more in seven playoff games.
20. Petr Mrazek, goalie, Carolina Hurricanes: Even though he has been important to Carolina's playoff success, he won’t have many options in the free agent marketplace. The best place for him is probably Carolina.
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