NHL Free Agent Frenzy Recap

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The start of free agency lived up to the billing of a frenzy, as there were 163 signings worth $785,100,000 in total contract dollars, according to CapFriendly. It was not as busy on Day 2 with 41 signings, but most teams have handed out plenty of deals in preparation for the 2021-22 season.

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We will go over some of the more noteworthy moves here:

New Jersey Devils

The Devils made the biggest splash on the first day of free agency with the signing Dougie Hamilton to a seven-year, $63 million contract. Hamilton was the top free agent available and stands a good chance of living up to his lucrative contract. He has been a consistent play driver, while succeeding at both ends of the ice, and his ability to produce from the back end fills a big need for New Jersey. The 28-year-old blueliner finished fourth in Norris Trophy voting in 2020-21 after he accounted for 10 goals and 42 points in 55 games. Hamilton could play alongside fellow newcomer Ryan Graves, who was acquired from Colorado, on a talented top pairing. New Jersey also signed Jonathan Bernier to a two-year, $8.25 million deal on Wednesday. He will bring some much-needed stability to the team’s backup goalie situation behind Mackenzie Blackwood.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The signing of Brayden Point to an eight-year contract on the first day that he was eligible for an extension was a great move by the Lightning. Getting him for an average annual value of $9.5 million is also reasonable when you look at his body of work and the success he has enjoyed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Trading Tyler Johnson to Chicago helped free up some cap space. Tampa Bay lost the services of Yanni Gourde (taken in expansion draft by Seattle), Blake Coleman (signed with Calgary) and Barclay Goodrow (traded to and signed by the New York Rangers). They formed what was a great third line, but having Anthony Cirelli, Ross Colton and Mathieu Joseph on hand could soften the blow. The Lightning also brought in Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (two-year, $2 million), who can help on the penalty kill, and upgraded the backup goalie position with the signing of Brian Elliott (one-year, $900,000), while maneuvering around the salary cap.

Colorado Avalanche

Keeping Gabriel Landeskog at nearly the eleventh hour on an eight-year contract that carries an average annual value of $7 million averted a potential disaster for the Avalanche. It was a fairly good price tag for the team captain. Colorado wasn’t so lucky with No. 1 goalie Philipp Gruabuer, who signed a six-year pact with the Seattle Kraken. Colorado had to give up a first-round pick in 2022, a conditional third rounder in 2024 and defenseman Conor Timmins to Arizona in exchange for Darcy Kuemper to fill the void between the pipes. Losing Landeskog would have been another tough blow to a team that sent Ryan Graves to New Jersey because they didn’t want to lose him for nothing in the expansion draft. The Kraken ended up selecting Joonas Donskoi instead. Brandon Saad left for St. Louis via free agency, which was another blow to the forward depth of the Avalanche. It has been a costly mixed bag of an offseason so far for the team after a promising start with the signing of Cale Makar to a six-year, $54 million deal. He has been a star in his first two seasons and should be able to live up to that agreement for its entirety.

Boston Bruins

Getting Taylor Hall back on a four-year pact that carries an average annual value of $6 million was a good move by Boston. He fit in nicely last season after he was acquired from Buffalo and supplied some much-needed secondary scoring. The additions of Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek and Erik Haula provide the Bruins with more options in the team’s middle-six forward group. A potential re-signing of David Krejci remains a question mark and so does the status of Tuukka Rask, who is set to have hip surgery and is currently an unrestricted free agent. The Bruins brought in Linus Ullmark for some insurance in the crease on a four-year, $20 million contract and he will form a solid duo with Jeremy Swayman after Boston sent Dan Vladar to Calgary. The defense corps remains an issue and lacks depth despite retaining Mike Reilly (three-year, $9 million) and the signing of Derek Forbort (three-year, $9 million).

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Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights shipped Marc-Andre Fleury to Chicago earlier this week to free up $7 million in cap space. However, they are right back up against it after re-signing Alec Martinez (three-year, $15.75 million) and Mattias Janmark (one-year, $2 million), while bringing in Laurent Brossoit (two-year, $2.325 million) to serve as Robin Lehner’s understudy. Vegas was thought to be a player in the Jack Eichel sweepstakes and could still be if they move out a player or two. The acquisition of Evgenii Dadonov, and his $5 million cap hit for the next two seasons, from Ottawa was a bit of head scratcher. But he may be there as trade insurance.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes traded away young netminder Alex Nedeljkovic to Detroit prior to the start of free agency, while allowing Petr Mrazek (Toronto), James Reimer (San Jose) and Jonathan Bernier (New Jersey), who was acquired in the deal with the Red Wings, to leave for other teams. Carolina signed Frederik Andersen, who has struggled in each of the last two seasons, to a two-year, $9 million contract and Antti Raanta, who has been unable to stay healthy, to a two-year, $2 million deal. The Hurricanes essentially have a new goalie combination that is plagued with red flags. Playing for a very goaltender-friendly team will certainly help if they can avoid injuries that hindered them both last season, but there is plenty of risk involved in the acquisitions. Speaking of risks, the Hurricanes also added Ian Cole (one year, $2.9 million), Tony DeAngelo (one-year, $1 million) and BrenDan Smith (one-year, $800,000) in an attempt to mix it up on defense. Ethan Bear was also acquired from Edmonton in exchange for Warren Foegele. Obviously, not all of them will play regularly and most of them are low-cost depth pieces, but it plays into what has been a strange offseason so far for Carolina due to some questionable decisions.

Seattle Kraken

The Kraken were positioned to be big spenders in free agency following an expansion draft that was met with some criticism. The team outbid Colorado for the services of Philipp Grubauer. The 29-year-old netminder inked a six-year, $35.4 million contract to be the team’s go-to option in the crease. Grubauer and Chris Driedger provide Seattle with an impressive one-two punch between the pipes. Former Blues forward Jaden Schwartz joined the Kraken on a five-year deal that comes with a $5.5 million cap hit, while Alexander Wennberg received a three-year contract worth $13.5 million. Schwartz’s contract is a fair deal, but his declining offensive numbers should be a bit of a concern, while Wennberg’s agreement has the potential to look like a misstep.

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers reeled in Zach Hyman shortly after he was granted permission to speak to other teams by Toronto ahead of the start of free agency. He ended signing a seven-year, $38.5 million contract with Edmonton. Hyman has the upside to be worthy of his contract early on, but that may change as it progresses and if his relentless style of play results in the buildup of injuries that have started to hamper him over the years. Still, he should be a very good fit alongside Connor McDavid and/or Leon Draisaitl. The acquisition of Foegele from Carolina provides further much-needed depth on the wing. Unfortunately, the Oilers’ defense corps still has plenty of question marks after bringing back Tyson Barrie (three-year, $13.5 million) and signing Cody Ceci (four-year, $13 million), while bidding farewell to Bear and Caleb Jones (Chicago) in trades.

Other notables:

Buffalo adding 40-year-old puck stopper Craig Anderson and career backup Aaron Dell raised some eyebrows after Ullmark left. Fellow netminders Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Dustin Tokarski are also still under contact for next season.

Toronto’s addition of Petr Mrazek (three-year, $11.4 million) to share the crease with Jack Campbell has some potential. Michael Bunting (two-year, $1.9 million) could also be worth monitoring if he can land a top-six forward spot on the Maple Leafs.

Calgary signed Blake Coleman to a lengthy six-year contract worth $29.4 million. It is a deal that may not age well but he has the potential to be worth the price tag right away, especially if he logs top-six forward minutes.

Chicago made Seth Jones’ eight-year, $76 million extension official on the first day of free agency. The team gave up a great deal to acquire him and they are banking on him coming through despite some worrying signs of late that have had him trending in the wrong direction.

Ryan Suter got a four-year, $14.6 million contract with the Dallas Stars after being bought out by Minnesota. It is a sold deal for the veteran blueliner, who should continue to see top-pairing minutes on his new team.

Detroit’s deal with Pius Suter, which carries a $3.25 million cap hit, seems pricey, but he has the potential to be a good fit there and could be a top-six forward following a strong showing with Chicago last campaign.

Montreal’s addition of Mike Hoffman on a three-year, $13.5 million contract could provide plenty of value. Hoffman brings a great deal to the table offensively.

San Jose brought in James Reimer (two-year, $4.5 million) for what could be a timeshare situation with Adin Hill, who was acquired from Arizona. The Sharks still need to sign Hill, as he is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

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