NHL free agency started with a bang on Wednesday afternoon as goaltender Jack Campbell signed with the Edmonton Oilers less than 30 seconds after the market opened. Big names like Johnny Gaudreau, Vincent Trocheck and Ondrej Palat all have new cities to call home. There were winners, losers and those in between.
Free Agency’s Biggest Moves So Far
Johnny Gaudreau – Columbus Blue Jackets – 7 years/$68.6 million – Out of absolute nowhere, the Jackets swooped in and signed Johnny Hockey. It was reported that the winger would not return to Calgary and would test the open market. Gaudreau heading east seemed inevitable as he grew up in New Jersey and was a Flyers fan as a kid. Reports said that the Devils and Islanders were the final two teams in on Gaudreau until he was scooped up by Columbus. The 28-year-old winger supposedly left $10-15 million on the table by signing with the Jackets. The Flames had reportedly offered over $10 million per year while the Devils had offered “well over” $10 million per year.
Vincent Trocheck – New York Rangers – 7 years/$39.375 million – The Rangers got an absolute bargain signing Trocheck for under $6 million per year. He will more than likely center the second line for a Rangers team that arguably got worse this week as New York lost multiple key role players to free agency. Trocheck will fit right in with the grinder, hard-nosed identity of the Rangers as he can play on the penalty kill as well as produce at five-on-five.
Ondrej Palat – New Jersey Devils – 5 years/$6 million – Palat leaving Tampa Bay will hurt the Lightning more than anyone realizes. The forward is a proven playoff performer that the Devils will hope leads the team deep into the spring. While Palat is a massive addition and step in the right direction for New Jersey, he’s no Johnny Gaudreau.
Biggest Names Left on the Open Market
Nazim Kadri – Kadri turned into a key component of Colorado’s Stanley Cup run. Now the 31-year-old is going to get paid. I predicted that Kadri would land with the New York Islanders in my Wednesday morning article. I am sticking with my prediction of Kadri headed to Long Island. The Islanders are one of two teams to do absolutely nothing since Wednesday afternoon. While the Devils could make a push as well, the Islanders are one of only a few teams to have enough cap space left to sign the forward to the money he is looking for.
Patrice Bergeron – Bergeron remains unsigned, and it would not be out of the question if the 36-year-old retired. However, if the forward decided to return to the ice, it is hard to see him anywhere but Boston.
John Robertson – The fact that Robertson has not been signed is puzzling. The fact that the forward is only 22 years old makes his situation rare. Robertson has shown his ability to play like a top-six forward as he has averaged around a point per game over the past two season. Nashville is still looking for a top-six forward as are Seattle, the Islanders, New Jersey and even Seattle. The fact of the matter is that any team that winds up with Robertson is getting a young player that is very controllable and will produce.
Free Agency Winners
Ottawa Senators – The Senators are making moves! Ottawa not only drafted well last week but was active in free agency. The Sens began its slew of major moves by trading for former Chicago forward Alex Debrincat. Ottawa the signed veteran forward Claude Giroux to a three-year, $19.5 million deal. Just when the league thought Ottawa was done, the Sens extended Josh Norris to an eight-year, $63.6 million contract. While the Sens may not make the playoffs this season, it is a step in the right direction.
Carolina Hurricanes – The Hurricanes may have lost Vinny Trocheck but added so much more. The Canes acquires defenseman Brent Burns, Max Pacioretty and Dylan Coghlan in exchange for a few no-name prospects, a late-round pick and future considerations. That is what you call fleecing other teams. Carolina also signed Ondrej Kase to a one-year, $1.5 million deal. The Hurricanes now have another top-four defenseman and a top-six forward in Pacioretty.
Detroit Red Wings – General manager Steve Yzerman’s “Yzer-plan” is in full effect. Detroit started its moves by trading for and extending goaltender Villie Husso. Husso will battle with Alex Nedeljkovic for the number one goaltender position. The Wings made multiple big splashes signing top-six caliber forwards Andrew Copp (5 years/28.125 mil), Dominik Kubalik (2 years/$5 mil) and David Perron (2 years/$9.5 mil). Detroit also buffed up its blueline signing Olli Maatta (1 year/$$2.25 mil) and Ben Chiarot (4 years/$19). The Red Wings are in the same category as Ottawa coming into the 2022-23 season.
Seattle Kraken – Seattle is going to be very good in a few years. I will keep saying to over and over again. The Kraken began stocking up on young talent during the draft thanks to all its draft capital. The Kraken then went out and signed bridge players Justin Schultz and Martin Jones. Finally, Seattle made its big move inking Andre Burakovsky to a five-year, $27.5 million deal.