Winners and Losers from the First Day of NHL Free Agency

Winners

  • Anaheim Ducks
    • Signings: G Ryan Miller, extended D Cam Fowler
    • Reasoning: The Ducks had a few key needs this offseason.  One was scoring, which they attempted to remedy by re-signing Patrick Eaves.  Another was the backup goaltending position, which they addressed by signing Ryan Miller to a two year, very manageable contract.  They also extended Cam Fowler to an eight year deal which has been criticized by some, but I love it.  He is only 25 years old and eight years isn’t bad at his age.  I don’t even have a problem with the salary they gave him.
  • Buffalo Sabres
    • Signings: F Benoit Pouliot, F Seth Griffith, D Matt Tennyson, G Chad Johnson
    • Reasoning: Signing Benoit Pouliot to a one year, $1.15 million contract was a very savvy signing by new GM Jason Botterill. Pouliot is a consistent, depth forward who can provide some spark on offense.  I also really like the signing of Chad Johnson, who had a very good season last year and will be half of a likely duo with Robin Lehner.
  • Chicago Blackhawks
    • Signings: F Patrick Sharp, F Tommy Wingels, F Lance Bouma, G Jean-Francois Berube
    • Reasoning: With salary cap teams like the Blackhawks, there has to be a different scale when assessing how well the team does at signing free agents.  Because Chicago can’t be in the market for players like Kevin Shattenkirk, then the assessment has to be based on how well they allocate their limited resources.  Bringing Patrick Sharp back was a great move, Tommy Wingels is a great option on the third or fourth line for Chicago, and JF Berube can be a quality third goaltender.
  • Nashville Predators
    • Signings: F Nick Bonino, F Scott Hartnell, G Anders Lindback, G Matt O’Connor, F Pierre-Cedric Labrie, traded for Alexei Emelin
    • Reasoning: The Predators addressed any needs they had through their free agent signings and trades.  Signing Nick Bonino was a great move because he is a perfect third line center that can play on the second line.  He is a great faceoff taker and is adept on the penalty kill.  I really like the contract they signed him to as well and think that he could be a key piece to helping them win a Stanley Cup.  Signing Scott Hartnell to a one year deal was also a great move as he has proven that he has the tools to be a very good goalscorer and could easily replace James Neal’s production.  It doesn’t hurt that they signed him for $1 million either.  I even like their trade for Alexei Emelin because Vegas is retaining almost $1.2 million of Emelin’s $4.1 million salary and cost Nashville just a 3rd Round Pick.  This deal either gives the Predators added depth to their elite defense or it gives them the flexibility to part with one of their big four in a trade for Matt Duchene.
  • New York Rangers
    • Signings: D Kevin Shattenkirk, G Ondrej Pavelec
    • Reasoning: Being able to make the Shattenkirk signing happen was great on the surface but being able to sign him for just 4 years and for the reasonable cap hit of $6.65 million.  I think that signing Shattenkirk can help give the Rangers an actual NHL defense. I even like the signing of Ondrej Pavelec, providing he is able to return to being an average NHL goaltender.  He could be quite a good backup goaltender in the same vein that Antti Raanta has been the past two seasons.
  • D Justin Schultz
    • Reasoning: Justin Schultz rode two good years with the Penguins and two Stanley Cups to a multi-year high paying contract.  Schultz is one of the key players on Pittsburgh’s blueline and had to be re-signed at all costs and he got paid a fair value for it.  He has completely rejuvenated his career and has emerged as one of the league’s better puck-moving defenseman.
  • F Nick Bonino
    • Reasoning: The highest salary Bonino has ever earned in his NHL career was just $1.9 million for three seasons.  He will make almost the total of his previous contract in just one year with his new deal. He is being paid a quality contract by the Predators and has earned every cent of it.
  • D Dan Girardi
    • Reasoning: I have no idea how Dan Girardi turned a buyout situation into a multi-year $3 million annual cap hit contract.  The other players who were bought out agreed deal one year deals in the $1 million range.  While I think the signing was really stupid by the Lightning, I do have to applaud Girardi for being able to turn a poor situation into a winning one for himself.

Losers

  • Colorado Avalanche
    • Reasoning: I have very little issue with the Avalanche signing Jonathan Bernier.  What I have an issue with is GM Joe Sakic’s continual struggle to make a key trade for his team.  He has Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene just waiting to be moved.  The problem is that there were only a few suitors who could create a package that would actually entice the Avalanche to move Duchene. The Islanders have already acquired Jordan Eberle and have already moved Travis Hamonic, limiting resources to make a trade. Montreal has moved Mikhail Sergachev in the Jonathan Drouin trade and Colorado wants quality defensemen in any trade return. Nashville and Carolina were two of the most likely candidates to make a trade and there is the chance that Nashville GM David Poile is getting frustrated with how much Sakic is dragging his feet.  The remaining team is Columbus, who has the pieces but I don’t think they have the cap space to make the trade unless they give up some salary in return.
  • Montreal Canadiens
    • Signings: D Karl Alzner, F Peter Holland, F Byron Froese, D Matt Taormina
    • Reasoning: I really don’t understand Montreal GM Marc Bergevin’s decision to never address their problem with scoring.  Yes, they traded for Jonathan Drouin, but that isn’t enough.  They need a good puck-moving defenseman but instead signed Karl Alzner, a notoriously defensive-defenseman.  He also has made a habit out of adding depth forwards in the past calendar year and those types of acquisitions won’t be a difference.
  • New York Islanders
    • Reasoning: The Islanders just didn’t do anything except trade for a third NHL goaltender, putting them right back in the same place they were before the Expansion Draft.  They need scoring help and didn’t address that need.
  • Pittsburgh Penguins
    • Signings: G Antti Niemi, D Matt Hunwick, re-signed D Justin Schultz
    • Reasoning: The Penguins have already gone through quite a turnover on their roster.  They have already lost Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino, Trevor Daley, and Ron Hainsey, who have all signed contracts elsewhere.  They were able to re-sign Justin Schultz, which was a key move, but they also overpaid for Matt Hunwick, who is a third pairing defenseman on most teams.  I’m not even certain I like their choice of a backup goaltender as Antti Niemi has been really bad each of the past two seasons.  There were better options out there.
  • F Alexander Radulov
    • Reasoning: Only because Radulov didn’t come to an agreement for a new contract yet.  Montreal has interest in him but they may quickly be running out of money to be able to re-sign him.  There also aren’t a lot of teams who have the cap space to sign him to the salary he is reportedly asking for.  I also seriously doubt that any team is going to be willing to sign him to a six or seven year deal when he is already 31 years old.  He may be running out of options quicker than any other lingering free agent.

*All stats and information came from hockey-reference.com, tsn.ca, sportsnet.ca, nhl.com, and capfriendly.com

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