So we are a few days into the NHL free agency period. Many contending teams didn’t have a lot of wiggle room due to the flat cap that will probably be around for several more years. Teams needed to get creative to create space. We saw several teams move regulars to teams for pennies on the dollar to increase their cap space. My thoughts about each teams moves below. Here is a NHL free agency recap:
Anaheim Ducks: Other than re-signing veteran centre Ryan Getzlaf to a 1 year deal things were pretty quiet in Duck land. With over 17 million left in cap space a few RFA’s to re-sign Anaheim is in the midst of a retooling and aren’t in any hurry to add to their young core with a big splash or 2 just yet.
Arizona Coyotes: The ‘Yotes were very busy lately as they added 8 picks in the upcoming three amateur drafts simply by taking on some contracts off of teams desperate to attain extra cap space. Both the New York Islanders (Andrew Ladd) and Philadelphia Flyers (Shayne Gostisbehere) simply gave away players and picks for nothing in return from Arizona. They then turned around and did something similar by dumping the large contract of defenceman Oliver Ekman Larsson and up and coming forward Conor Garland to Vancouver for a bunch of veterans. Moving starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper to Colorado is also an indication that Arizona is clearly in a rebuilding mode. With 33 million coming off the books at season end, look for their management to be active next season in the free agency market.
Boston Bruins: Boston was active both in free agency and in retaining their own players. Re-signing F Taylor Hall and D Mike Reilly took care of some in house issues. Adding free agent C’s Erik Haula, Tomas Nosek as well F Nick Foligno added to Bostons bottom 6 forward base. Goaltending was an issue that needed addressing due to the departure of backup Jaroslav Halak and the health issues of starter and now free agent Tukka Rask. Management was proactive here as well and added former Buffalo starter Linus Ulmark. Boston is now hovering about 1 million below cap so retaining veteran yet still productive centre David Krejci will certainly be difficult to do now. Bostons roster is ready to compete in the strong Atlantic Division.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres rebuild has begun. They traded away RFA and 25 goal scorer Sam Reinhart to the Florida Panthers for goaltending prospect Devon Levi and a ’22 first round pick and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to Philadelphia for picks. Captain Jack Eichel is probably the next domino to fall as the Sabres attempt to once again rebuild and compete in a very competitive Atlantic Division. Their young core is promising but more needs to be added. Patience will be key as GM Kevyn Adams attempts to retool a proud franchise that has been spinning it’s wheels for too long.
Calgary Flames: Flames GM Brad Treliving added Stanley Cup winner Blake Coleman to his underachieving team. Letting captain Mark Giordano be claimed by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft was a way to clear some cap space but Calgary will need more than Coleman to put the failures of last season behind. Work is still left to be done by the Flames as the minor moves they’ve made along with the Coleman signing isn’t enough to overtake Vegas or Edmonton for top spot in the Pacific Division.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Carolina off season is one in which they traded away a young promising starting goaltender (Alex Nedeljkovic) for only a 3rd round pick only to watch him re-up with Detroit for 3.5M per year then turn around and add veteran goalies Freddy Andersen and Anti Raanta for a combined 6.5M per year for 2 years. The madness didn’t stop there as they let the top defenseman in free agency depart. Dougie Hamilton split for New Jersey. Carolina has a great head coach who they extended in Rod Brindamour but even he must be scratching his head at those two moves. Adding D’s Ethan Bear, Ian Cole and troubled offensive D Tony DeAngelo won’t adequately replace the top minutes that Hamilton gave them. Carolina has a deep and talented roster so it will be interesting to see how the goaltending situation and loss of Hamilton plays out.
Chicago Black Hawks: The Black Hawks traded away veteran defenceman Duncan Keith to Edmonton but added the Jones brothers by way of getting Caleb in the Keith trade and Seth in a separate deal with Columbus then extending Seth with a whopping 8 year 76M dollar deal. Trading with Vegas for Vezina winner Marc Andre Fleury and taking on skilled F Tyler Johnson from TB has upped the ante in Chicago. With the expected return of captain Jonathan Toews from a season long injury, the hope is that a return to the playoffs is in the forecast in the Windy City.
Colorado Avalanche: After blowing a 2-0 games lead and dropping the final 4 games in their quarter final matchup vs Vegas, Colorado had some issues that needed addressing concerning a trio of their star players. After re-signing captain Gabriel Landeskog and star young defenceman Cale Makar they couldn’t come to terms with goaltender Philip Grubauer. After Grubauer signed on the the expansion Seattle Kraken Colorado quickly set their sights on Coyotes starter Darcy Kuemper and struck a deal for him. The Colorado roster is deep on the back end and up front. If Kuemper can provide what Grubauer did in the crease then the Central Division is theirs for the taking.
Columbus Blue Jackets: After Seth Jones informing them that he would not be signing an extension with them Columbus flipped Jones to Chicago for promising defenseman Adam Boqvist. They also traded for young D Jake Bean from Carolina who also possesses plenty of upside. Trading Cam Atkinson away to Philadelphia for winger and former Blue Jacket Jakub Voracek was interesting. Extending star defenceman Zach Werenski to lead a young D core was smart. Goaltending is strong with the combination of Elvis Merzlikens and Joonas Korpisalo. Columbus is still one of the younger teams in the league and will be an interesting team to watch going into the 21-22 season.
Dallas Stars: After appearing in the Stanley Cup finals in the 19-20 season Dallas fell back to earth and missed the playoffs. They extended young star defenseman Miro Heiskanen and added 2 veteran players that were bought out from their previous teams, Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter and Vancouver goaltender Brayden Holtby. Dallas has enough talent to get back to the playoffs and make some noise.
Detroit Red Wings: After stealing starting goaltender from Carolina for merely a 3rd round pick and handing him an affordable contract extension the Red Wings added some stability on their blue line by acquiring Nick Leddy from the Islanders. Detroit is in full rebuild mode and under the leadership of GM and former Wings captain Steve Yzerman they are in good hands. Free agent Swiss F Pius Suter was a good addition. Detroit will exercise patience and develop their homegrown talent the Red Wings way.
Edmonton Oilers: GM Ken Holland has done some heavy lifting this off season thus far. He acquired veteran D Duncan Keith from Chicago and added free agent D Cody Ceci as well as retaining offensive D Tyson Barrie to help solidify a blue line that has relied way too much on Darnell Nurse. They are hoping for a healthy return for Oscar Klefbom to help on the blue line as well. The big add up front aside from retaining Ryan Nugent Hopkins was the signing of former Maple Leaf forward Zach Hyman. Edmonton hopes that his presence in the lineup will help both star forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatl. Aging goaltender Mike Smith was brought back for 1 more year to team with Mikko Koskinen but is this tandem enough to help propel the Oilers to a top finish in the Pacific division and compete for Lord Stanley?
Florida Panthers: Florida’s big splash was acquiring F Sam Reinhart from the Sabres. They also extended some key pieces in Fs Anthony Duclair and Sam Bennett. D Brandon Montour was also retained. With bench boss Joel Quenneville leading the way and a deep and talented roster the Panthers are going to be a tough opponent in the Atlantic Division.
Los Angeles Kings: With a good amount of young talent in their pipeline and some key veterans on the roster the Kings are a team in transition. They added W Viktor Arvidsson through trade and signed key free agent D Alex Edler and strong 2 way C Phillip Danault. Veteran leadership from star D Drew Daughty, C Anze Kopitar and W Dustin Brown will help oversee the ascent of their top prospects on the verge of becoming regulars in the NHL.
Minnesota Wild: The big news in Minnesota this off-season so far is the buyouts of popular long time stars D Ryan Suter and F Zach Parise. A trio of D were added though free agency in Alex Goligoski, Jon Merrill and Dmitri Kulikov. They extended star F Joel Eriksson Ek. RFAs and important pieces Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov have to be re-signed. Minnesota competed hard last season and will definitely be in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Central Division.
Montreal Canadiens: The Cinderella story of the 2020-21 season, the Canadiens made some interesting moves thus far. Star goaltender Carey Price and war horse defenceman Shea Weber are both dealing with injuries heading into the 21-22 season. Webers injury is significant enough that he may have to retire. Price’s injury won’t keep him out as long. GM Marc Bergevin went out and added a capable replacement for Weber by signing Stanley Cup champ David Savard away from Tampa Bay. He also added to the attack by inking F Mike Hoffman to a deal. Big forward Joel Armia was re-signed. Also added for depth were D Chris Wideman and F’s Mathieu Perrault and Cedric Paquette on cheap 1 year deals. A key loss though was two way centre and playoff hero Phillip Danault. Danault’s exit will be felt.
Nashville Predators: Other than extending F Mikael Granlund the Preds have been pretty quiet. Goaltender David Rittich was added after long time local favourite Pekka Rinne retired. Nashville was involved in a 3 team deal that netted them young C Cody Glass and D Phillippe Myers but cost them D Ryan Ellis. A pretty ho hum off-season thus far.
New Jersey Devils: New Jersey came out of free agency with the biggest prize, defenseman Dougie Hamilton. They also traded for Colorado D Ryan Graves. By adding veteran Jonathan Bernier in goal, young Mackenzie Blackwood has a competent partner. One of the leagues youngest teams will be fun to watch this upcoming season.
New York Islanders: The quietest off-season of any team so far. Other than trading D Nick Leddy to Detroit for F Richard Panik the Isles simply moved Andrew Ladd’s contract along with some draft picks to Arizona.
New York Rangers: Trading for the rights and extending former Tampa Bay forward Barclay Goodrow was a good move on the Rangers part. He was a key contributor for Tampa’s consecutive Cup runs. The young trio of studs (D Adam Fox, F’s Alex Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko) should help resurrect the Rangers.
Ottawa Senators: Another team in the midst of a rebuild, Ottawa is playing this out. They made room for another younger forward shipping out F Evgeny Dadonov to Vegas for veteran D Nick Holden. The kids are on the rise in the Nations Capital. Head Coach DJ Smith provides strong leadership and gets the most out of this young squad. They may be a year or two away but they are coming.
Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers set out to reshape their back end and accomplished it. Trades brought in Ryan Ellis from Nashville and Rasmus Ristolainen from Buffalo. Veteran Keith Yandle was also added. Popular forward Jakub Voracek was moved to Columbus for scoring winger Cam Atkinson. Veteran goaltender Martin Jones who was bought out by the San Jose Sharks was brought in to team up with young Carter Hart. The changes the Flyers made should help stabilize the blue line and help get them back to the playoffs.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pens are up against the cap big time and didn’t add anyone of significance thus far.
San Jose Sharks: Another team short on cap space. They signed veteran goaltender James Reimer and traded for young goaltender Adin Hill who is an RFA that they need to sign. They also added veteran F’s Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano. This aging team is at a crossroads.
Seattle Kraken: after failing to acquire any extra assets through the expansion draft process (as the Vegas Golden Knights did) Seattle instead spent cap space on some decent free agents. They signed G Philip Grubauer away from Colorado, inked C Alex Wennberg and D Justin Schultz. Seattle then flipped expansion selections G Vitik Vanecek, F Tyler PItlick and D Kurtis MacDermid for future draft picks. Seattle will be able to defend but who will score???
St Louis Blues: The Blues traded for F Pavel Buchnevich and re-upped him on a 4 year deal and signed F Brandon Saad to a 5 year pact. The Blues most likely aren’t done as they still have sniper Vlad Tarasenko who has requested a trade.
Tampa Bay Lightning: After winning back to back Stanley Cups the Lightning are going to find it tough to replace what they lost after the season. Heart and soul players and big contributors to their success the past 2 seasons, F’s Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson have all moved on due to salary cap concerns. The Lightning have signed veteran F’s Pierre Edouard Bellemare, Corey Perry and D Zach Bogosian as well as back up goaltender Brian Elliot but the losses up front will be hard to overcome. The Brayden Point contract extension was a must but Tampa is tapped out cap wise. We will see if management has any other tricks up their sleeve with regards to adding to this roster.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Maple Leafs first recent first round playoff exits have been well documented. The Leafs went out with limited cap space and signed G Petr Mrazek to pair with the surprising Jack Campbell who became the number 1 goalie by default due to Freddy Andersens inury. The Leafs were impressed enough to feel comfortable simply looking for an experienced goalie that can share the next with him. Other than that the Leafs just didn’t have the cap space to make a splash but did gather a bunch of mid 20 something players to provide depth and hope a couple take advantage of the opportunity to compete for a roster spot and make a difference. The Leafs still are in need of some LW help and will survey what’s left out on the market and hope to lure someone to come and play on one of the top two lines.
Vancouver Canucks: Vancouver GM Jim Benning wanted to change up things on his team and he accomplished that. Moving out are some aging veterans to Arizona and in came a couple of players that should make a difference, defenceman Oliver Ekman Larsson and crafty F Conor Garland. Free agent goalie Jaroslav Halak was brought in to back up starter Thatcher Demko. With a return to health of sniper Elias Pettersson and the additions of offensive minded Ekman Larsson and Garland the Canucks should improve enough to compete for a playoff spot in the Pacific Division.
Vegas Golden Knights: Cap issues forced the Golden Knights to flip their most popular player to Chicago for a small return. Goaltender Marc Andre Fleury was the one that had to go. Vegas had enough cap room to then re-sign top 4 defenseman Alex Martinez and retain W Mattias Janmark and ink backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit. Veteran defenseman Nick Holden was traded to Ottawa for W Evgeni Dadonov. These moves still leave Vegas without it’s most pressing need, a significant upgrade at the centre ice position.
Washington Capitals: Washington re-signed goal scorer Alex Ovechkin. He will continue his pursuit of becoming the NHL’s all time leading goal scorer for another 5 seasons. The Caps lost goalie Vitek Vanicek to Seattle in the expansion draft but traded to get him back. Defenseman Brandon Dillon was moved to Winnipeg for two future 2nd round draft picks. No real cap space left for Washington to complete anything else on the free agent front.
Winnipeg Jets: After a first round upset of the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs, the Jets followed that series up by going out meekly to the eventual Stanley Cup finalist Montreal Canadiens. Winnipeg lost gritty C Mason Appleton to Seattle via the expansion draft but re-signed veteran C Paul Stastny to a 1 year deal. A full year from recently acquired Pierre Luc Dubois and a return of the suspended Mark Scheifele should make for a solid 1,2 punch up the middle. The trades for defensemen Brandon Dillon (from Washington) and Nate Schmidt (from Vancouver) improve the defense core. Winnipeg looks for a fresh start in the upcoming season.