Breaking down Free Agency’s First Day

So, what do we have? The worst kept secret in hockey is no longer a secret, or kept, or whatever. The Florida Panthers went on another shopping spree for mediocre players that will both get them to the cap floor and keep them in 10th place, while the Capitals went out and bought the Penguins…all the Penguins.

Now we get to go through the rash of “who won/lost?” articles, which is always fun. Nothing like judging performance before it happens. However, there were some head-scratching moments during the day, as well as some shrewdness by GM’s, some who are named Chuck Fletcher, some who weren’t. Let’s take this team-by-team and see how everyone did.

Anaheim Ducks

What happened?: Signed Clayton Stoner (4 years, $13M), Jason LaBarbera (1 year, $750,000) signed, lost Matthieu Perreault, Jonas Hiller and Stephane Robidas.

What does it mean?: Don’t get it. Stoner gets way more money than the Wild, or any sane GM, would or should give him to join an old and creaky defense corps. The Ducks went big this offseason by picking up Ryan Kesler, but they are going to win the cup with a defensive group that includes Cam Fowler, Sheldon Souray, Bryan Allen, Francois Beauchemin, Stoner, Mark Fistric and Ben Lovejoy? Don’t see it. Good for Clayton, however. He got paid and sounds like a guy who deserves it, at least from a personality standpoint. Losing Perreault is pretty much meaningless after trading for Ryan Kesler, and Hiller was a goner the minute John Gibson played in a playoff game.

Arizona Coyotes

What happened?: Signed Joe Vitale (3 yr, $3.5 million), lost Thomas Greiss.

What does it mean?: Very little. Yawn. Moving on.

Boston Bruins

What happened?: Signed no one. Lost Shawn Thornton, Chad Johnson, Andrej Meszaros and Jarome Iginla.

What does it mean?: The Bruins lost Iginla more to the salary cap than anything else, and the other three players are replaceable from a talent standpoint, though Thornton has been a heart-and-soul type for years. While Boston has no money to replace any of these players, they do have a handful of good prospects ready to step up if need be. And it sounds like it need be.

Buffalo Sabres

What happened?: Signed Brian Gionta (3 years, $12.75 million), Matt Moulson (5 years, $25 million), Cody McCormick (3 years, $4.5 million) and Andrej Meszaros (1 year, $4.125 million), traded for Josh Gorges (Montreal) lost Kevin Porter, Corey Conacher, waived Christian Ehrhoff.

What does it mean? The Sabres needed all of that just to get to the cap floor, adding three of their five most expensive players today in Gionta, Moulson and Meszaros. But don’t worry, Buffalo fans, you will still suck this year, so Connor McDavid is still very much in the picture for 2015.

The bigger thing, at least since this is still a Wild-centric blog is that it is clear Tim Murray won the Matt Moulson trade from the deadline. To recap: Buffalo trades Moulson and McCormick for Torrey Mitchell and two second round picks. Not only do the Wild not keep either player, but they return right back to Buffalo at the end of the season, and one of the second round draft picks is used to pick up Gorges today. So the final tally on the trade is Buffalo ends up with Moulson, Mitchell, McCormick, Gorges and an unknown second round pick in 2016. The Wild get nothing. I see what you did there, Tim Murray. Well played, sir.

Calgary Flames

What happened?: Signed Jonas Hiller (2 years, $9 million) Mason Raymond (3 years $9.5 million) and Deryk Engelland (3 years, $8.7 million), lost Michael Cammalleri and Joey McDonald

What does it mean?: The Flames are still going to be terrible, and losing their best pure scorer doesn’t help. They should be all in for the McDavid, Eichel, Hanifin sweepstakes in 2015. But at least they have a goalie to play behind their tragically bad defense corps, unlike last season. In all honesty, the best thing that comes out of this trade could be the sight of Hiller in a matte finish all red goalie mask next year. Stay tuned for that, but not any Flames’ games. Those are going to be gruesome.

Carolina Hurricanes

What happened?: Signed Drew MacIntyre (terms not disclosed), lost Manny Malhota and Justin Peters

What does it mean?: That Carolina was a stagnant franchise who will remain stagnant. This team is slowly sliding into a truly irrelevant group. Free agency of course doesn’t make you relevant, but when your team is backsliding and your prospect pool only contains two players (Elias Lindholm and Ryan Murphy) worth getting even marginally excited about, you have to do something.

Chicago Blackhawks

What happened?: Signed Brad Richards (1 year, $2 million)

Chicago stays ultra-relevant with one move, and they do it for a song. Sure, Richards is on the downslope, and that downslope happened on a big stage in New York, but he still had 50 points last year. If he can do that again, this will be the biggest free agency steal of the summer. He’s in a perfect spot. He doesn’t have to be 2004 Brad Richards, and Andrew Shaw doesn’t have to play second-line center. Well done by Chicago.

Colorado Avalanche

What happened?: Signed Jarome Iginla (3 years, $16 million), Jesse Winchester (2 years, $1.8 million), Bruno Gervais (1 year, undisclosed) and Zach Redmond (2 years, $1.5 million). Traded for Brad Stuart and Danny Briere. Lost Paul Statsny, Brad Malone and Matt Hunwick. Traded P.A. Parenteau.

Nothing the Avalanche did today will mitigate losing Statsny, who was a huge part of their team. Iginla will help from a scoring perspective, but he’ll be 40 when his contract runs out, so he can’t keep putting up 3o goals (or can he?) forever. Besides, the Avalanche will now have to find a solution on the second line center spot, and it may be Nathan MacKinnon. A second year player having to learn a new position? Should be fine.

Elsewhere, the Avalanche needed some puck-movers on defense, and got…34 year old Brad Stuart. Well done addressing that weak link, Colorado.

Columbus Blue Jackets

What happened?: Signed no one. Lost Derek MacKenzie, Blake Comeau and Cody Bass

What does it mean? Most of Columbus’ reshaping has come through trades thus far, but perhaps the most important storyline of the offseason for the Jackets is that they seem to have pissed off their most important player, Ryan Johansen.

Dallas Stars

What happened?: Signed Patrick Eaves (1 year, undisclosed), Ales Hemsky (3 years, $12 million) and Anders Lindback (1 year $925,000). Traded for Jason Spezza.

What does it mean?: Welcome to enigma-town. On a team that already has Kari Lehtonen and Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky should fit right in, or not, whatever. That’s what enigma’s do. But Dallas may have had a great day. Hemsky adds another talented player and with Seguin, Spezza and Benn pulling most of the load, he shouldn’t have to do too much. Plus, the Stars committed highway robbery to get Spezza without losing any assets they absolutely had to have (Alex Chiasson was the best of the bunch) and he’s only theirs for one year if he’s a pain in the ass. The 2015 class could include some good talent, so having money then wouldn’t be too terrible. Overall a pretty good day for a team trying to climb up the league’s deepest division.

Detroit Red Wings

What happened?: Signed Kevin Porter (1 year, undisclosed)

What does it mean?: Porter means nothing, but more notable is the fact that Detroit, once a place where everyone took pay cuts just to get in on some of that sweet, sweet Stanley Cup action, can’t entice anyone anymore, which means that Ryan Suter and Zach Parise may have started quite a trend. The Red Wings aren’t getting worse, but they’ll have to lean on the kids again to get better.

Edmonton Oilers

What happened?: Signed Keith Aulie (1 year, $800,000), Mark Fayne (4 years, $14.5 million), and Benoit Pouliot (5 years, $20 million)

What does it mean?: The Oilers caught a fair amount of flak for what they gave to Fayne and Pouliot, but at least they are finally adding veteran character players to augment their young offensive talent. Remember, they also added Teddy Purcell up front and Nikita Nikitin on the back end. Also, Aulie is reunited with his minor league coach in Dallas Eakins, so it’s a lightning in a bottle type signing. Sure, Edmonton didn’t do anything sexy, and they may have thrown away some money here, but they already have the flash, so they have been trying to spend some money on heart for a while. Lets see if this transplant takes.

Florida Panthers

What happened?: Signed Dave Bolland (5 years $27.5 million), Willie Mitchell (2 years, $8.5 million), Derek MacKenzie (3 years, $3.9 million), Jussi Jokinen (4 years, $16 million), Al Montoya (2 years, $1.1 million) and Shawn Thornton (2 years, $1.2 million). Lost Jesse Winchester, Scott Clemmensen and Tom Gilbert.

What does it mean?: A few years ago, the Panthers had to get to the salary cap floor, so they shelled out a bunch of money on guys like Tomas Kopecky, Scottie Upshall and Sean Bergenheim. They loved the mediocrity so much, they decided to do it again. Dave Bolland’s deal got into a one-on-one twitter showdown with Matt Niskanen as the worst of the day, and nothing else up there really jumps out at you. The only good move here could possibly be Willie Mitchell, who gets $8.5 million to be Aaron Ekblad’s personal professional tutor. Another team that is going all-in on the 2015 lottery bonanza.

Los Angeles Kings

What happened?: Signed Adam Cracknell (undisclosed) and David Van der Gulik (undisclosed). Lost Willie Mitchell.

What does it mean?: The Kings were either still drinking out of the Stanley Cup and forgot to do anything meaningful, or just felt they didn’t need to. Probably the latter, although the loss of Mitchell may hurt more than anyone thinks. They’ll still be right there at the end next April, May and possibly June though, so get used to it.

Minnesota Wild

What happened?: Signed Thomas Vanek (3 years, 19.5 million), Brett Sutter (undisclosed) and Stu Bickel (undisclosed). Lost Matt Moulson, Cody McCormick and Clayton Stoner.

What does it mean?: Coup-tastic. The Wild picked up the most dynamic talent available on the free agent market as they look to jump-start their anemic offense, and used the hometown connection to bring in a top-caliber player for the second time in three seasons. It makes up for the fact that the Wild were ultimately fleeced in the Moulson trade, and didn’t upgrade a defense, which the narrative crowd decided was important during the month of June.

Elsewhere, the Wild signed the 8th best player ever to wear “Sutter” on the back of an NHL jersey, making sure that they joined the list of teams for which a Sutter has played, and brought back former Gopher Stu Bickel, possibly because Nick Angell and Barry Tallakcson weren’t available, despite this twitter pic oops:

Pictured: Definitely not Thomas Vanek. Definitely Barry Tallackson.

Pictured: Definitely not Thomas Vanek. Definitely Barry Tallackson.

Montreal Canadiens

What happened?: Signed Tom Gilbert (2 years, $5.6 million), Manny Malhotra (1 year, $8.5 million) and Joey MacDonald (undisclosed). Traded for P.A. Parenteau. Lost Brian Gionta, Thomas Vanek, Michael Blunden and Devan Dubnyk. Traded Josh Gorges and Danny Briere.

What does it mean?: With all due respect to Gilbert and Malhotra, another team whose day was defined by what it lost. Sure, Gionta and Vanek both underperformed during the playoff run, but P.A. Parenteau is the only offensive weapon they added, and he’s complimentary at best. Not to mention they gave up Mr. Clutch, in Danny Briere, to get him.

Nashville Predators

What happened?: Signed no one. Lost Patrick Eaves.

What does it mean?: Nashville’s big move came on draft day when they picked up James Neal. If you think that’s enough to jump-start a moribund offense, you’re the only one. Spinning wheels seems to be the thing in Nashville, where they need some draft steals to pay off and jump them up a level.

New Jersey Devils

What happened?: Signed Mike Cammalleri (5 years, $25 million), Scott Clemmensen (undisclosed) and Martin Havlat (1 year, $1.5 million). Lost Mark Fayne.

What does it mean?: Cammalleri’s deal was met with quite a few instant reaction wtfs, but that’s the nature of grabbing even mediocre offensive talent these days (unless  you are Chuck Fletcher, I guess), and the Devils need some punch up front. Clemmensen’s signing finally means that Corey Schneider doesn’t  have to compete, and Martin Havlat gets a one-year, rehab my reputation contract that probably won’t work, but is low risk. This won’t change the Devils enough to be a contender, but they might have enough to get back in the playoffs in a still crappy Eastern Conference.

New York Islanders

What happened?: Signed T.J. Brennan (1 year $600,000), Cory Conacher (1 year, $600,000) and Chad Johnson (2 years, $2.6 millions). Lost Evgeni Nabakov

What does it mean?: Well, when it became public that the Islanders were the “other” finalist for Vanek and lost out, further enhancing the curious job-security of GM Garth Snow, we were all reminded that this team still sucks. At least they’re moving to Brooklyn soon.

New York Rangers

What happened?: Signed Dan Boyle (2 years, $9 million), Tanner Glass (3 years, 4.35 million), Matt Hunwick (1 year, $600,000) and Mike Kostka (1 year, $650,000). Lost Benoit Pouliot, Brad Richards, Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman.

What does it mean?: Dan Boyle was a fine pickup and more than mitigates the loss of Stralman, but losing a grinder like Pouliot, a great penalty-killer in Boyle and the man with the ultimate bad rap in Richards is not good news for the erstwhile Stanley Cup finalists.

Ottawa Senators

What happened?: Signed no one. Traded for Alex Chiasson. Lost Ales Hemsky. Traded Jason Spezza.

What does it mean?: Ottawa keeps going backwards. Sure, they were forced into the Spezza trade, but the return was underwhelming, and their offense now revolves around Bobby Ryan, who is a UFA next year. Get ready for a trade deadline bonanza for his rental services as the Senators gear up for the lottery.

Philadelphia Flyers

What happened?: Signed no one. Lost Bruno Gervais.

What does it mean?: Absolutely nothing. Flyers fans get another chance to show their trademark patience.

Pittsburgh Penguins

What happened?: Signed Thomas Greiss (1 year, $1 million), Christian Ehrhoff (1 year, $4 million) and Blake Comeau (1 year, $700,000). Lost Deryk Engelland, Tanner Glass, Jussi Jokinen, Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik.

What does it mean? Treated as an unmitigated disaster, their defense corps should actually survive the loss of Niskanen and Orpik, especially when you consider the price involved. Simon Despres, Brian Doumoulin, Scott Harrington and Derrick Pouliot should battle for the sixth defensive spot, and it will be interesting to see Ehrhoff play for a team with a chance once again. That being said, the Penguins seem to be moving sideways, and their window for more titles is certainly not getting any bigger.

San Jose Sharks

What happened?: Signed no one. Traded Brad Stuart. Lost Martin Havlat.

What does it mean?: The loss of Havlat was expected, and Doug Wilson has publicly stated that the team will get younger. However, with the possibility that some veterans could be traded, how many more old bodies move out of San Jose before we consider this an official blow up? Stay tuned.

St. Louis Blues

What happened?: Signed Paul Stastny (4 years, $28 million) and Jori Lehtera (KHL) (2 years, $5.5 million). Lost Ryan Miller and Adam Cracknell.

What does it mean?: Sure, they made a splash, but does Stastny seriously improve them? Or is he more of what they already have, meaning he’s a solid player, but not the game-breaker they seem to lack come the big time. Lehtera is an unknown, but he completes a long and winding road since the Blues drafted him out of Finland in 2008. He had 155 points in 178 games over the last four years in the KHL.

Tampa Bay Lightning

What happened?: Signed Anton Stralman (5 years, $22.5 million), Michael Blunden (1 year, $600,000), Brian Boyle (3 years, $6 million) and Evgeni Nabokov (1 year, $1.55 million). Lost Mike Kostka, Keith Aulie and Anders Lindback.

What does it mean?: The Lightning went after grit after getting walked in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by Montreal, adding a quality depth forward in Boyle and a hot item in Stralman. They certainly have enough firepower to compliment, especially if Jonathan Drouin makes the roster and also lives up to billing. This could go places, though Stralman has some serious bust potential. Lindback for Nabokov is a wash, since it isn’t 2006, so they had better pray that Ben Bishop doesn’t get hurt again.

Toronto Maple Leafs

What happened?: Signed Leo Komarov (KHL) (4 years, $11.8 million) and Stephane Robidas (3 years, $9 million). Lost T.J. Brennan, Dave Bolland and Mason Raymond.

What does it mean?: Komarov is back from a one year stint in the KHL, and you may remember him for trolling the Boston Bruins in their epic first round series in 2013. He should be fun. Robidas is the ultimate underrated defenseman. Neither player should stop the Leafs from continuing to be the Leafs. Bolland, however, could be addition through subtraction.

Vancouver Canucks

What happened?: Signed Ryan Miller (3 years $18 million).

What does it mean?: Miller’s signing ensures that the Canucks will have goalie controversy for another three years, despite Eddie Lack’s best effort to nip that in the bud. Probably an interesting meal even before Roberto Luongo showed up and things got awkward.

Washington Capitals

What happened?: Signed Matt Niskanen (7 years, $40.25 million) Brooks Orpik (5 years, $27.5 million) and Justin Peters (2 years, $1 million).

What does it mean?: New GM Brian MacLellan made a big splash, or would have, if he hadn’t been diving in a pool with no water. His first free agency period was met with scorn aplenty, and with good reason. Niskanen got funny money for one good year, and Brooks Orpik the same for the right to play all the defense that Alex Ovechkin won’t. On the plus side, at least they trolled the Penguins, but good.

Winnipeg Jets

What happened?: Signed Matthieu Perreault (3 years, $9 million). Lost Al Montoya and Zach Redmond.

What does it mean?: Perreault is an underrated player and will help the Jets win a few faceoffs, but the fact that his signing was the best the face-lift needy Jets could do is proof-positive that Winnipeg has a long way to go before they are relevant. This team is still buried in the loaded Central. At least they had a great draft.




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