Following the excitement of the first expansion draft in almost two decades, the NHL off-season has been a dud.
In terms of both term and value, the biggest free agent deal so far has been Alexander Radulov's 5 year robbery for $31.5 million. Kevin Shattenkirk predictably signed for a lot of money ($26.6 million), though surprisingly for only four years. Karl Alzner tied Radulov's term in a deal worth $23.125 million. Beyond those deals, nothing stands out beyond salty veterans getting overpaid by teams desperate to win, but are no closer to doing so than they were on June 30th. Sprinkle in a few trades, and the riveting drama of Kovalchuk's latest BronBron impression, and we are in for a boring July.
GM Jim Rutherford spent much time complaining about physicality, and surprisingly addressed the problem in a big way by trading for Ryan Reaves. The price may have been a tad high, but Reaves is the best fourth liner in the game today, and the Penguins are better for it. Justin Schultz signed a rich contract, but the Penguins avoided term, Antti Niemi signed for a very reasonable contract to be a serviceable backup, and ineffective Trevor Daley was replaced by Matt Hunwick. The Penguins still have some cap space remaining, so they may acquire another center, but for the time being, they just keep winning.
Predictably, the Predators are retooling for another run at the Cup. They overpaid for Nick Bonino, but he is an upgrade over Colin Wilson, who was traded for a future draft pick. After losing James Neal to Las Vegas, the Predators brought back Scott Hartnell, who posted similar numbers despite playing a defensive role. Adding Alexei Emelin to the already stacked defense will help relieve some of the penalty killing pressure on the top four, allowing them to focus on moving play in the right direction.
New Jersey Devils
After trading for Mirco Mueller, a defenseman with plenty of upside, the Devils have had a quietly productive off-season, highlighted, of course, by drafting first overall. They parted with Mike Cammalleri and Devante Smith-Pelly, which freed up additional cap space, overpaid for Brian Boyle, and won the lopsided divisional trade with Washington for Marcus Johansson. With a few roster spots left to fill out, New Jersey has put together a superb off-season.
Another team that wins by not losing, Dallas overpaid, or overcommitted for Alexander Radulov, though he is a welcome addition to a team with plenty of offensive firepower. Adding Martin Hanzal, though also at a higher cost than necessary, is helpful because he provides flexibility to the top six. The trade for Marc Methot was smart; Dallas looks like the big winner today, though he will not look nearly as good without Erik Karlsson by his side. Antti Niemi could not get it together in goal for Dallas, but replacing him with Mike McKenna is a weak move for a playoff-bound team. Letting Ales Hemsky and Jiri Hudler walk was helpful too.
Patrick Eaves signed a fair extension to continue his offensive prowess next to Ryan Getzlaf for the next three seasons. Ryan Miller was brought in to replace Jonathan Bernier as backup goaltender, Cam Fowler, who was almost run out of town two years ago, will be a Duck for life. Most importantly, the Ducks kept their core together, losing Shea Theodore instead of one of their more prized defensemen in the expansion draft. They lost some grit with the departures of Nate Thompson and Ryan Garbutt, but grinders are easy to replace. It is hard to say the Ducks are better than they were on June 30th, but they were two games from the Stanley Cup, so they win by not losing.
More to come...