The Real Winners and Losers from the First Day of NHL Free Agency

The Real Winners and Losers from the First Day of NHL Free Agency

0 of 6

    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Ladies and gentlemen, it’s on.

    The offseason free-for-all that is unrestricted free agency began Friday, with NHL teams eligible to sign players when doors to the open market were throw open at noon ET.

    All sorts of players were available to sign, and general managers were not hesitant to make calls to bring new talent into the fold.

    That said, while many contracts were offered and several recognizable players changed teams, several others remained in limbo between where they ended last season and where they’re expected to start the next.

    The B/R ice hockey team was busily taking it all in and came up with a list of winners and losers from Day 1 of the signing period. Read on to see how our thoughts stacked up with yours, and, as always, don’t hesitate to drop a comment or two to let us know how we did.                   

1 of 6

    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    If you’re the accountant or financial planner for an NHL free-agent goalie, congratulations.

    Life got a little more lucrative for you on Friday.

    The guys who guard the nets got rewarded in a big way on Day 1 of the league’s open-market frenzy, with five signing multi-year deals worth seven figures or more, while one other—so far—has signed on for a single year in a similar tax bracket.

    Leading the way is Jacob Markstrom, who got six years and $36 million from the Calgary Flames after spending the last three seasons building his brand as a full-time starter with the Vancouver Canucks.

    Markstrom opted for free agency after his three-year, $11 million deal with the Canucks expired and the sides were unable to agree on an extension. He won a career-high 28 games with Vancouver in 2018-19 and followed up with 23 wins, a 2.75 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage in 2019-20.

    He’ll arrive in the Flames’ locker room as a replacement for Cam Talbot, who left Calgary and signed a three-year, $11 million deal of his own with the Minnesota Wild.

    Meanwhile, filling the vacancy in Vancouver is former Stanley Cup winner Braden Holtby, who left the Washington Capitals and got two years and $8.6 million. Holtby is expected to share time with rising star Thatcher Demko in the Canucks’ net, while Washington took a one-year chance on former Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist after the final year of his deal was bought out by the New York Rangers.

    Lundqvist signed a one-year, $1.5 contract with the Capitals.

    Among the goalies staying put in their current cities are Anton Khudobin, who backstopped the Dallas Stars to a Stanley Cup Final and got three years and $10 million; and Malcolm Subban, who got two years and $1.7 million from the Chicago Blackhawks after they chose not to re-up veteran Corey Crawford.

2 of 6

    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    To the thrifty go the spoils.

    Or at least that’s the way it felt on Day 1, when none of the biggest names on the market were snatched up and general managers around the league instead shored up areas with lesser-known talent.

    And certainly, in this case, lesser-known translates to lesser paid.

    Case in point, while a prayed-for (at least by Oilers fans) return to Edmonton for Taylor Hall didn’t materialize, GM Ken Holland did pull the trigger on two deals for forwards making far less combined than what the former MVP and first overall selection is likely to command by himself.

    Forward Tyler Ennis signed a one-year, $1 million deal to stay with the Oilers after arriving there in a trade deadline swap from the Detroit Red Wings. He scored four points in nine regular-season games and played well with superstar Connor McDavid, adding a goal and an assist in three qualifying-round games before breaking a leg and missing the finale of a four-game elimination by the Chicago Blackhawks.

    Now in the fold along with Ennis is ex-Nashville Predators forward Kyle Turris, who’ll get $3.3 million over two years after he was bought out of the final four seasons on a six-year, $36 million he’d signed with the Predators in 2017.

    Turris scored 26, 24 and 27 goals with the Ottawa Senators in three seasons going to Nashville during the 2017-18 season. It never panned out, and Turris scored only 29 goals in 183 games.

    Chalk it up to a salary cap that stayed flat at $81.5 million and a future in which team revenues amid a pandemic are uncertain at best.

    But while big-ticket items like Hall and Alex Pietrangelo are still looking for landing spots, four-time 30-goal scorer Bobby Ryan signed a one-year deal with Detroit, six-year pro Tyler Pitlick got two years and $3.5 million from the Arizona Coyotes and career 251-goal scorer Wayne Simmonds is now a Toronto Maple Leaf on a one-year, $1.5 million contract.

3 of 6

    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Make no mistake, Julien BriseBois isn’t likely to trade his plight.

    Nevertheless, the reality for the general manager of a Stanley Cup champion—particularly with a flat salary cap—is that he’s going to lose some players before the banner-hanging ceremony arrives.

    And while Patrick Maroon (two years, $1.8 million) and Luke Schenn (one year, $800,000) are staying put with the Tampa Bay Lightning thanks to deals they signed Friday, those heading to the exit included defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who’s off to the Anaheim Ducks for $11.7 million over three years.

    Shattenkirk played 70 games for the Lightning in the regular season and another 25 in the playoffs after coming over from the New York Rangers when the final two years of a four-year, $26 million contract was bought out.

    His 39 career power-play goals will help a man-advantage attack in Anaheim that was 30th out of 31 teams in 2019-20.

    Meanwhile, making a far shorter trip from Tampa to Miami is 25-year-old center Carter Verhaeghe, who joined the Florida Panthers with a pact that’ll pay him $2 million over two years.

    He’ll likely play a third- or fourth-line role for the Panthers after scoring nine goals and four assists in 52 games with the Lightning in his first NHL season. A season earlier, he’d scored 34 goals in 76 games with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL.

4 of 6

    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Funny how Friday felt a lot like Tuesday.

    Just as they’d been on Day 1 of the NHL Draft when rumored trades never materialized, fans who thought the opening day of free agency would yield one giant move after another was left unsatisfied.

    In fact, none of the top five free agents from a recent Bleacher Report list who actually reached the market—goaltender Robin Lehner was re-signed before the signing period opened—came off the board.

    Ex-MVP and No. 1 overall draft pick Taylor Hall is still out there after splitting 2019-20 with the New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes, while Alex Pietrangelo, a stalwart defenseman on a 2018-19 Stanley Cup champion, is also looking for work after spending parts of 12 seasons with the St. Louis Blues.

    Hall has been linked with the Colorado Avalanche, among others, and Pietrangelo is exploring offers while leaving the door open to stay with the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2008.

    Also still available are Florida Panthers winger Mike Hoffman and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie, all of whom are likely to command big money.

    So buckle up fans and be patient, the ride’s not over yet.

5 of 6

    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Attention ticket speculators.

    If there’s one New York Rangers game you’re going to circle on next season’s schedule, make it the one where the Washington Capitals visit Madison Square Garden for the first time.

    Of course, no one knows when it’ll be and whether or not there’ll actually be fans in the building, but there’s sure to be intrigue nevertheless because of the presence of a certain royally-nicknamed goalie.

    It’ll be that night when Henrik Lundqvist, known simply as “The King” since arriving on the midtown Manhattan scene 15 winters ago, enters the building for the first time as a visiting player.

    A former Vezina Trophy winner and holder of every significant franchise goaltending record, Lundqvist’s run with the Rangers came to an end when the team bought out the final year of his seven-year, $59 million contract earlier this week.

    On Friday, he joined his second NHL team when he signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Capitals.

    “A new journey begins with one goal in mind,” Lundqvist said on Twitter. “I’m really excited and grateful for the opportunity to join the Capitals. See you soon, DC!” 

6 of 6

    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Just like a good championship team, free agency is being built from the goal crease out.

    While goaltenders getting big offers to change teams was the early story on Friday’s initial day of open-market machinations, the guys on the blue line started making headway as the day wore on.

    After nine-year veteran Justin Schultz got things going by taking a two-year $8 million deal to go from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Washington Capitals, things picked up after evening fell when TJ Brodie got four years and $20 million from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Brodie had spent parts of 10 seasons with the Calgary Flames while netting 48 goals and 266 points.

    But the biggest deal of the day didn’t actually come until after 8 p.m. ET, when longtime Boston Bruins blue liner Torey Krug broke ties with the only NHL team he’d ever played for and signed a seven-year, $45.5 contract with the St. Louis Blues.

    It was not only the highest-value deal of the day, but it also all but guaranteed that the biggest defensive name available, Alex Pietrangelo, wouldn’t be returning to the Blues after playing 758 games with them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *