The NHL free agency period kicked off on July 1st, and there was a lot of excitement for what was an intriguing couple of days. Here is a look at who won with most of the big names off the table, although there is still time for smaller signings.
The Ducks didn’t get good goaltending in the playoffs, so they went out and signed Ryan Miller for two years and $4 million. That is not a bad number for a 36-year-old who had a save percentage of .914 for a bad Vancouver team last season and has plenty of big-game experience. He is definitely upgrade over Jonathan Bernier and can help John Gibson along.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning signed Dan Girardi to two years and $6 million for more experience on the blue line, and Chris Kunitz to a one-year, $2 million deal. Kunitz is not the player he once was as he scored just nine goals in 71 regular-season games, but he played big in the playoffs and got his third Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh, so that can’t hurt at that cap number. The Lightning missed the playoffs this season and that can’t happen again; these veterans are a step towards making that happen.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs keep plugging away as they also made an experience move, signing Patrick Marleau to three years and $18 million. That might seem like a lot for a 37-year-old, but Marleau scored 27 goals in the regular season and was one of San Jose’s best players in their loss to Edmonton. He’ll not only provide numbers on the ice, but he can be a mentor to Toronto’s young stars, who are going to be under a lot of pressure to replicate last season’s success.
The Blackhawks might have pulled off the best sneaky move of the offseason so far, bringing back Sharp for a year and $800,000 with $200,000 in bonuses on the table. Sharp is 35 and battled injuries last year, scoring only eight goals, but maybe a return to a familiar place with familiar faces is just what he needs for a little revitalization. If the Blackhawks can get 15 goals out of Sharp this season and some experience for the playoffs, that is a total win.
For the Capitals, it wasn’t about who they got, but it was about who they kept. T.J. Oshie was signed for eight years and $46 million, which is lower than he thought he was going to get on the open market. Evgeny Kuznetsov was signed for eight years and $62.4 million, while Dmitri Orlov got six years and $30.6 million. Orlov and Kuznetsov are both 25, while Oshie is 30, so that could be the worst contract of the bunch. However, the Capitals obviously need to win now and after another postseason flameout, they need all hands on deck. The window is closing quickly for Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals.
The Caps did lose defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, which is going to hurt, but the good news is that he was a midseason rental that they were expecting to move on. They did better than expected in terms of holding onto their roster.
The Predators did well to nab Scott Hartnell, who should provide some pop for them on their second line. We know that he’s no longer a first-liner as he’s in the twilight of his career. He was bought out by the Blue Jackets but that’s not necessarily an indication of who he was last season. Yes, they had an expensive contract with him and wanted to move on from him. But that’s mostly because he didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with head coach John Tortorella. There was some kind of friction there. Even so, Hartnell led the Blue Jackets in goals and points per 60 minutes in five-on-five, which is quite respectable.
The best part for the Predators is that due to the buyout, Hartnell wasn’t looking for a huge payday. That allowed the Preds to swoop in and sign him for just $1 million for one year. That’s a fantastic get for a team that needed some scoring on their second unit.
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