Ryan Dadoun

Expert Analysis

print article archives RSS

UFA Frenzy Winners, Losers

Monday, July 3, 2017


There’s still some noteworthy players left on the free agent market and we’re probably going to see more trades this summer, but the busiest part of the summer is behind us.  This consequently is a great time to take stock of what’s happened so far by going over some of the winners and losers in the period between the NHL Entry Draft through the first couple days of the UFA period.

 

Winner: The New York Rangers

 

The Rangers made the tough decision to move Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for defensive prospect Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick (Lias Andersson), which will likely strengthen the team in the long run, but isn’t exactly the sort of move you’d expect from a contender.  It seemed like the Rangers were shifting their focus away from winning now to a more middle-of-the-road situation where they clearly weren’t rebuilding, but weren’t going to field a team that was a serious Cup contender.

 

Then they managed to ink defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to a very reasonable four-year, $26.6 million contract.  Some might have soured on Shattenkirk due to his struggles with Washington during the playoffs, but this is still a blueliner that can serve in a top-four role and reliably record 40-plus points per season.  At the age of 28 he’s also in his prime, so both the term and the cap hit look favorable for the Rangers.  This might also be a stepping stone signing for more big moves next summer when Rick Nash’s $7.8 million cap hit is finally off the books.

 

Loser: Pittsburgh Penguins

 

Obviously they’re coming off back-to-back championships, but unfortunately they look like a worse team now than when the summer started.  That’s partially due to the reality of the salary cap and they deserve credit for inking Justin Schultz to a reasonable three-year, $16.5 million deal, but losing Marc-Andre Fleury, Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino, Trevor Daley, and Ron Hainsey still hurts.

 

I’m also not a fan of their decision to ink Antti Niemi to a one-year, $700,000 contract.  He’ll just be the backup goaltender, but they will still presumably want to give Matt Murray 20 or so games off even if he stays healthy, so Niemi will still be asked to do some work.  After the season Niemi had with Dallas (3.30 GAA, .892 save percentage), I would have rather seen them look elsewhere.

 

Winner: Calgary Flames

 

The Flames paid a high price for Travis Hamonic in the form of a first round pick and two second-round selections, but he’s a great defenseman that’s tied to a favorable $3,857,143 cap hit for each of the next three seasons.  Calgary then managed to hold onto Michael Stone by signing him to a three-year, $10.5 million contract, which gives the Flames five strong defensemen, including Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton.

 

The Flames also revamped their goaltending by acquiring Mike Smith and Eddie Lack.  Admittedly I like those moves a little less as Smith was all over the place in Arizona and Lack’s two seasons in Carolina were a disappointment, but combined they should be a serviceable goalie tandem.  Combine all of that with their up-and-coming offense and the Flames might go far in 2017-18.

 

Loser: Vancouver Canucks

 

Inking Anders Nilsson to a two-year, $4.5 million contract wasn’t a bad idea as he is a fairly promising goaltender that could end up competing with Jacob Markstrom for the starting job.  Taking Sam Gagner at three-years, $9.45 million and Michael Del Zotto at two-years, $6 million seems like odd moves though.

 

Gagner is coming off a 50-point season with the Blue Jackets despite averaging just 13:43 minutes per game, but he’s been inconsistent in his career, so locking him up for three years is a gamble.  Del Zotto is a stab in the dark too, though he’s an even worse bet after two middling seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers.

 

Ultimately none of these signings make Vancouver a good team.  They’re stopgap measures as they continue with their rebuilding process and in that regard it’s hard to be too critical of them, but the latter two signings still seem weak on their own merits.

 

Winner: Montreal Canadiens

 

At the time of writing Andrei Markov’s status is still up in the air while Alexander Radulov’s gone.  Meanwhile the Canadiens inked Karl Alzner to a five-year, $23.125 million contract, which is a solid move, but it’s nothing special.  On top of that, while I like the Jonathan Drouin trade and signing (six-year, $33 million), it happened before the stretch of time this article is evaluating, so while it’s still worthy of mention I’d hesitate to make it too much of a factor when evaluating Montreal here.

 

With all that in mind I would have simply kept the Canadiens out of this roundup if not for the fact that the Canadiens signed Carey Price to an eight-year, $84 million extension.  That’s a hugely important move for Montreal.  This team is built around Price and the threat of losing him when his existing contract is set to expire in the summer of 2018 was a looming threat.  Re-signing Price provides the team with a foundation that gives them a fighting chance to build a Stanley Cup contender.  The Canadiens still have a lot of work ahead of them and they only have a specific window of opportunity now given that Price’s contract will start to look bad once he enters his mid-to-late 30s (he’ll turn 29 in August), but at least they’ve secured that window of opportunity in the first place.

 

Loser: Chicago Blackhawks

 

It’s understandable that Chicago shed players over the summer given its rough cap situation, but the Blackhawks are still looking vulnerable after the moves they’ve made.

 

Losing Scott Darling, Artemi Panarin, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and Marcus Kruger (the last one in a trade for nothing more than future considerations) hurts quite a bit and to make things worse Marian Hossa won’t be available in 2017-18 due to a skin condition.  To be fair to the Blackhawks, they did make some additions too.  Brandon Saad isn’t at the same level of offensive threat as Panarin, but he should fit in well with Jonathan Toews in his return to Chicago.  Anton Forsberg also might end up being a fairly good backup goaltender now that Darling has moved on.

 

That doesn’t fill the void though and the only other addition of significant note made by Chicago is Patrick Sharp, whose return is nostalgic, but at the age of 35 (he’ll turn 36 in December) he’s no longer the offensive threat he once was.  I’m not faulting them for signing him given that his one-year, $800,000 contract is low-risk, I’m just saying that the signing likely won’t help them much.

 

Winner: Toronto Maple Leafs

 

After making the playoffs on the back on their young core last season, Toronto has added some veterans to the mix.  36-year-old defenseman Ron Hainsey, fresh off being part of the Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins, inked a two-year, $6 million deal, 36-year-old forward Dominic Moore with his 99 games worth of NHL playoff experience agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract, and then 37-year-old (38 in September) forward Patrick Marleau with his 177 playoff contests signed a three-year, $18.75 million deal.

 

I got to admit, I really hate the Marleau signing in a vacuum.  While it’s true he had 27 goals last season, that $6.25 million cap hit looks really bad given his age and especially for a contract that will run for the next three seasons.  Even if he ends up being worth that much in 2017-18 there’s almost no chance of his contract looking favorably in 2019-20.

 

We’re not in a vacuum though and Toronto has a short window to take advantage of the fact that so many of their young players are still fairly inexpensive.  Marleau’s wealth of experience could prove to be very helpful for this club and he might be what pushes them over the edge in the playoffs.  For those reasons he’s worth taking this chance on even if Toronto had to overpay to get him.

 

Jury’s Still Out: Colorado Avalanche

 

If I had to evaluate Colorado’s summer thus far, I’d probably put the Avalanche in the loser column.  They’re a rebuilding team that decided to expose the young-and-promising Calvin Pickard over the 29-year-old Semyon Varlamov and so they lost their potential goaltender of the future.  Beyond that the Avalanche have been pretty quiet this summer for a team coming off a 22-56-4 campaign.

 

There’s still time for Colorado to do something though.  If the Avalanche are, for example, able to trade Matt Duchene for a good price, then that could be a big part of the shakeup that this franchise seems to need.  That’s why I’m a little hesitant to say they’re losers yet.  We still have to see what they do on the trade market.  At this moment though, the Avalanche aren’t looking great…

 

Winner: Dallas Stars

 

After missing the playoffs last season, Dallas has made some major changes this summer.  The Stars have brought in Ben Bishop to help fix their troubled goaltending situation, acquired Marc Methot to bolster their similarly problematic defense, and signed forwards Martin Hanzal (three-year, $14.25 million) and Alexander Radulov (five-years, $31.25 million) to round out their already strong offense.

 

The addition of Radulov is particularly exciting as the Stars could have two great lines next season with combinations of him, Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, and Tyler Seguin leading the charge.  With all these changes made, the Stars have made a statement that they’re in win-now mode.  Next season will be important for them, but with their key players also all signed up for at least the 2018-19 campaign as well, it won’t be their only shot.



Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.
Email :Ryan Dadoun



Highest Searched Players over the last 7 days



Video Center

  •  
    Boyer: Hot Hitters

    Boyer: Hot Hitters
  •  
    Jesse: MLB Power Rankings

    Jesse: MLB Power Rankings
  •  
    Short: Saves & Steals

    Short: Saves & Steals
  •  
    Jesse: MLB Power Rankings

    Jesse: MLB Power Rankings
  •  
    Boyer: Hot Hitters

    Boyer: Hot Hitters
  •  
    Jesse: MLB Power Rankings

    Jesse: MLB Power Rankings
  •  
    Boyer: Hot Hitters

    Boyer: Hot Hitters
  •  
    Jesse: MLB Power Rankings

    Jesse: MLB Power Rankings