Well, the Free agency craze has shifted power all over the league. This years definitely raising the bar since we’ve had one huge name and a few pretty good names be moved either by trade or free agent signing. Here we are gonna look at a few teams that have made a big splash thus far this summer.
First, the elephant in the room. John Tavares leaving the Isles for the Maple Leafs. Tavares signed a 7 yr. $77 million dollar contract to join his favorite boyhood team the Maple Leafs. This leaves a big hole in the center position for the Isles. Although drafting Oliver Wahlstrom, the Long Island faithful have a few years to wait to see him play but he will be the next big face for the Isles. Though the Isles have been trying to boost the roster, resigning Thomas Hickey to a four yr. deal. The 29 year old D-man posted a career high in points with 5 goals and 20 assists,(25 points) in 69 games, and a team best +20 rating. Also being signed is Tom Kuhnhackl on a 1 year deal, no details were released. Kuhnhackl has won 2 cups back to back with Pittsburgh and was apart of the team when the Capitals ousted the Pens in OT. Not a sure fire thing either, Kuhnhackl has only 39 points (11 goals and 28 assists) in 3 seasons (168 games) and only 7 points in 47 playoffs games with Pittsburgh. The Isles have also signed Valtteri Filppula from Philly and Leo Komarov from the Leafs. Filppula will help down the middle with a faceoff winning percentage of 51.1%, though he is 34 and only had 33 points with Philly last year. Komarov I feel here was maybe over paid just by getting a 4 year deal from the Isles. Komarov, 31, amassed 19 points last year with the Leafs, but was an assistant captain and is ranked 14th in hits with 219, and the last 4 seasons has racked up 984 hits which is ranked 4th in that span. Hopefully there is enough tread on those tires….
Secondly on my list here would have to be Carolina. Now the Hurricanes are now in the post Cam Ward days, (which went on for way to long) they too were active during the draft. A trade with the Calgary Flames enabled the Canes to acquire Dougie Hamilton (D) and Micheal Ferland, and the rights to Harvard D-man Adam Fox, (pssst, STUD) for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm. With Bill Peters who was Carolina’s coach last year and is now the coach in Calgary has ties to drafting Lindholm and Hanifin. Carolina signed Petr Mrazek to a 1 year deal to round out their goaltending with Scott Darling as well. The Hurricanes are posting one of the bigger teams averaging about 200 lbs, they still have a very talented team. If the goalie situation can perform better than average this team could be a sleeper next season.
Lets look at the other team from the last trade the Calgary Flames. Besides getting 2 young studs in Lindholm and Hanifin, the Real Deal James Neal signed a 5 year contract worth $28.75 million dollars, and annual hit of $5.75 million a year. Neal had 25 goals and 19 assists for 44 points and helped Vegas to the Finals about a month ago. Joining Frolik, Gaudreau, Monahan, and Brouwer Neal with ad with his lethal scoring although he may not score more than 35 in a year he can still change games. If Mike Smith can play in net like his All-Star years in Arizona the Flames could make a splash early in the year. Calgary has a roster that will have to play together and rely on each other, no one person on this team is going to make the season but certainly could break it. Surprise team for next year for me, I see a wild card spot for now…
There are 2 more teams I like so far that have made moves with one another and made some other signings to boost their roster. First the St. Louis Blues, this team has really changed its roster the most in my opinion. The Blues made a splash by trading for Ryan O’Reilly from the Buffalo Sabres for forwards Valdimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund and Tage Thompson and a 1st round pick in 2019 and a 2nd round pick in 2021. O’Reilly will more and likely join Tarasenko on the top line in St. Louis and be a part of the 1st power play unit. Tyler Bozak was the next newest Blue signing a 3 year $15 million dollar deal. Bozak dressed in 81 games and posted 43 points with 11 goals and 32 assists for the Leafs last season. A former Blue has come back to St. Louis, David Perron has returned to skate for the Blues again after playing last year with Vegas. Perron netted 16 goals and set career highs in assists 50 and points with 60. He signed a 4 year $16 million dollar deal to come back to the Blues. St. Louis is been best to him, he has played 6 seasons with the Blues, who drafted him 26th overall in 2007. The Blues will be a contender for the playoffs in the that tough Central division, whether they can make a deep run will depend on what happens early on in the season.
With the Buffalo Sabres, they seem to be taking a different approach by signing bottom six roster guys. I don’t know how much more time could be wasted in Buffalo but it seems that’s whats going on now. With the additions from the Blues trade, the Sabres signed Carter Hutton, goalie, from the Blues where he backed up Jake Allen. Hutton got his opportunity to play last year posting an NHL best in GAA 2.09 and a .931 save percentage. He will more and likely take that number 1 spot in net since Robin Lehner is no longer with the team. The Sabres made a move with the Penguins by trading a conditional 4th round pick for forward Connor Sheary and D-man Matt Hunwick. Sheary who has 2 cups with the Pens and Hunwick with 1, these 2 will add depth to the roster for Buffalo. Sheary could fill a bottom 6 role easily and at times can fill in on the top 2 lines. Sheary’s speed will be a huge benefit for the Sabres, whether on the power play or penalty kill, he is a fiery play Eichel and Dahlin being the 2 young studs for the Sabres, I do believe it will take a couple of season for the Sabres to be a contender on a nightly basis. Phil Housely has his work cut out for him nest season, there has to be some progress throughout the season for him to make this team a winner!