First, a disclaimer: This isn’t all about the first 48 hours of free agency.
If we’re going to raise hell about context when it comes to something like the General Manager of the Year Award, then it’s only fair that we extend the analysis of the NHL’s 30 teams and their offseasons back a week to the trades, buyouts and other transactions around the NHL Draft.
So keep that in mind when reading the 2014 NHL Free Agent Report Card, as we factor in some of the key transactions (Kesler, etc.) for these teams.
Who won? Who lost? Who signed John Scott?
Here … we … go.
The addition of Ryan Kesler gives Anaheim that second elite center they need to compete in the loaded Western Conference. Obviously they had some good fortune in that Kesler limited his trade market to Anaheim and … well, Anaheim. The Ducks fared a little worse in free agency, handing Clayton Stoner a 4-year, $13-million contract to a defenseman who saw his ice time cut by nearly 5 minutes on average last season. They also snagged Jason LaBarbara as a veteran depth goalie. GRADE: B+
They decided to buy out Mike Ribeiro due to “behavioral problems,” turning that signing from last summer into a disastrous one. Sam Gagner is rescued from buyout as a replacement; is this is spot to shine? They couldn’t convince Radim Vrbata to take term over money. They signed Joe Vitale and Andrew Campbell, and it’ll be fun to see how Sean Burke transforms the career of Devin Dubnyk. GRADE: C-
The Bruins did a heaping plate of nothing in adding players, but smartly chose to let Jurassic Shawn Thornton leave for Florida and to not give Jarome Iginla the term he was seeking, given the other contracts due in the next two years. Will they trade a defenseman for another scoring winger? GRADE: B
We turn the mic to GM Tim Murray for his analysis of free agency:
The Sabres signed Brian Gionta (3 years, $12.75M); Matt Moulson (5/$25M); Andrej Meszaros (1/$4.125M); and former Sabre Cody McCormick (3/$4.5M). They re-signed Marcus Foligno for 2 years and $3.75 million, and flipped a second-round pick for Montreal Canadiens salary dump Josh Gorges.
The Moulson signing was a good one that’ll help when the Sabres turn the corner. Gorges and Gionta are good mentors. They’re over the salary floor. But nothing they’ve done here should subvert the Dishonor For Connor and/or Sack For Jack draft lottery campaigns and for that they get a GRADE: A-
Jonas Hiller at 2 years and $9 million is an upgrade, but at this point he’s a quality tandem guy rather than a legit No. 1. Mason Raymond is a nice signing at 3 years and $9.5 million, uniting him with Brian Burke. Deryk Engelland is … a terrible signing. Everyone who saw the $2.9 million next to his name assumed that was the full ticket for three years; nope, that’s his average salary, meaning he’s making more against the cap in three years than Tom Gilbert is in two years for Montreal. But the Flames clearly needed more truculence and pugnacity … oh, wait, they already traded for Brandon Bollig? Hey, it got them to the cap floor. They also let Mike Cammalleri walk. GRADE: C-
Ron Francis’s first offseason as GM was spent raking Leafs: Jay McClement (1/$1M), Tim Gleason (1/$1.2M) and Drew MacIntyre (1/$600K) head to Raleigh. He re-signed Ron Hainsey and Nathan Gerbe. They lost Manny Malhotra to Montreal and Justin Peters to Washington. Still waiting on that big, roster changing move, if it in fact ever arrives. GRADE: C-
The Blackhawks have a cap problem. They also had a center depth problem. So getting Brad Richards in at $2 million for one season was pretty much perfect: At best, he’s Patrick Kane’s center; at worst, he’s a solid vet with a low salary down the lineup, who well eventually be a healthy scratch by the Cup Final. They also inked Peter Regin for peanuts. GRADE: A-
Letting Paul Stastny walk was a necessity, given his contract demands; and like he said, it’s not as if the Avs don’t have other options at center. The Jarome Iginla signing gives Colorado someone that’ll go to the net hard and get his mitts dirty; the only issue is his skating ability, considering how the Avs fly. The make-or-break might be Brad Stuart, who’s a terrible possession defenseman but one that’s only signed for next season, in case this was a blunder. Jesse Winchester was added for depth and/or healthy scratches. GRADE: B
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Jackets' only addition was the June 23 trade for Scott Hartnell, which was terrific on a number of fronts. But they clearly like the hand they’re playing. Lost Blake Comeau to the Penguins. GRADE: B+
Traded three good young prospects and a pick for what could be one year of Jason Spezza, but that’s burying the lede: The Stars now have Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Cody Eakin and Vern Fiddler up the gut in a conference where center play can determine who advances. Snagging Ales Hemsky for three years at $4 million is brilliant, considering his chemistry with Spezza in Ottawa. Anders Lindback at 1 year and $925K is a solid signing as well. The only thing keeping this from being an “A+” is the potential for Spezza to leave. GRADE: A
Detroit Red Wings
As we chronicled here, the Wings had one target – a right-handed, puck-moving defenseman – and whiffed on all the top options on the market, despite offering more to Dan Boyle than the Rangers did. But hey, Kyle Quincey’s getting $4.25 million against the cap. GRADE: D-
GM Craig MacTavish added some vertebrae to the team’s backbone. Teddy Purcell, acquired for San Gagner, lost his way a little under Jon Cooper but can be a nice complimentary player to the Oilers’ stars. Nikita Nikitin (2 years, $9 million) and Mark Fayne (4 years, $14.5 million) are making “paying more since we’re Edmonton” money but bolster the defense; Fayne, in particular, still has some offensive upside, although one wonders how much he was supported by Andy Greene. Benoit Pouliot gets 5 years and $20 million; the fancy stats community celebrates; Jeremy Roenick spit out his Coors Light. GRADE: B-
The Panthers continued their traditions established under GM Dale Tallon: Overpaying for veteran depth players and signing ex-Blackhawks. Dave Bolland’s 5 years at $5.5 million fulfills both standards, and its completely preposterous. Shawn Thornton gets two years and $2.4 million to punch things. Jussi Jokinen gets four years and $4 million per season, and will be a nice piece if he remains motivated. Willie Mitchell, a solid citizen, gets 2 years and $8.5 million. Derek MacKenzie got perhaps the only sane contract at 3 years and $1.3 million annually. Outside of Bolland, these are stop-gap deals intended to bring mentors into a young locker room. From a hockey perspective, they don’t do much to elevate the team in front of Roberto Luongo. But they all get the Panthers to the floor, which is the point. GRADE: C-
Los Angeles Kings
Re-signed Marian Gaborik (7 years, $34,3M) and Matt Greene (4/$10M). Did nothing else. Winners! GRADE: A+
Thomas Vanek finally found his way to Minnesota on a 3-year, $19.5 million deal. If he’s the dynamic linemate he was on Long Island, it could be a boon. If he’s the invisible man he was in Montreal, fitting ill in the lineup, it will be a bust. One thing’s for sure: There’s going to be criticism for Vanek taking ice time from the Wild’s good young prospects. But the term is great. They also made minor signings in Stu Bickel and Joel Rechlicz. GRADE: B+
Flipping Danny Briere for PA Parenteau was obviously a net positive. The flipping of Josh Gorges for Tom Gilbert (2 years, $5.6M) saves the Habs term and money and is at worst a lateral move on the ice. They brought back Mike Weaver and re-upped Andrei Markov, and cut a little fat by letting Brian Gionta follow Gorges to Buffalo. Manny Malhotra’s a great signing at 1 year and $850K. Strong start to the postseason for GM Marc Bergevin; now, about Subban … GRADE: B+
Sigh … Spezza rejected a trade, the other centers opted elsewhere so the Predators settled for Olli Jokinen for one year and $2.5 million. That’s the bad news. The good news is that he’ll have James Neal to feed the puck to after the Preds pried him from the Penguins. The Neal trade keeps this thing from being a total disaster. GRADE: C+
New Jersey Devils
The Devils’ desire to become home for every Czech player over 30 continued, as Martin Havlat was signed for a huge value contract of 1 year and $1.5 million. But the boldest move was for Mike Cammalleri at 5 years and $25 million. Will he help the offense? Yes. Is it too much money and term? Of course. Will Lou Lamoriello find a way to magically make that contract disappear if things don’t work out? Fuhgeddaboudit …GRADE: B-
New York Islanders
GM Garth Snow landed the very, very, very poor man’s Selanne and Kariya. Mikhail Grabovski (4 years, $20M) and Nikolai Kulemin (4 years, $16.75M) are huge depth moves for the Islanders’ offense. Cory Conacher adds more scoring depth. Alas, the team’s need continues to be keeping pucks out of their own net. (Jaroslav Halak will help). Plus the circle was completed on the Vanek/Moulson mess, as one went to Minnesota, one went from Minnesota to Buffalo and the Islanders still don’t have their ticket for the McDavid Lottery. GRADE: B-
New York Rangers
Dan Boyle gives the Rangers more offense than Anton Stralman at $9 million and 2 years, but has a little more tread off the tires. Dominic Moore was re-signed as a valuable depth player. Tanner Glass was signed for 3 years and $4.35 million, for some reason. They also said goodbye to Brad Richards, for you addition by subtraction fans. GRADE: B-
Getting forwards Alex Chiasson, Alex Guptill and Nicholas Paul and 2nd round pick in 2015 for Jason Spezza was a solid return, given the no-trade clause he was wielding. Extra credit for avoiding another Dany Heatley nightmare. GRADE: C+
Traded Scott Hartnell’s charisma and top-line play for R.J. Umberger’s versatility and better contract. Brought back Ray Emery for one year as a backup. Signed Blair Jones, Nick Schultz and Huggy Bear himself, Zack Stortini. Other than that, a quieter-than-usual offseason for the Flyers … for now. GRADE: C-
In which GM Jim Rutherford begins correcting the mistakes of the past. He bolstered the Penguins’ bottom six with Nick Spaling (acquired in the Neal trade), Blake Comeau (1 year, $700K), re-signing Marcel Goc (1 year, $1.2M) and, in one of his best moves, Steve Downie at 1 year and $1 million. He jettisoned Brooks Oprik and Matt Niskanen, and replaced the latter with Christian Ehrhoff for 1 year and $4 million – one of the best signings of July 1. The big questions: How will the Neal trade shake out, and who joins the Pens’ top six along with Hornqvist? GRADE: B+
San Jose Sharks
John Scott. One year. $750K. Oh, and Ice Girls. GRADE: F
St. Louis Blues
The $28 million for Paul Stastny is a lot, but the four years are perfect. He provides them with a true center and someone that can give the Blues the depth up the middle they lacked. Plus there’s that adorable homecoming aspect to his signing there. Carl Gunnarson could be a great partner for Kevin Shattenkirk. But when all is said and done, are we going to remember this as the summer the Blues signed Jori Lehtera? GRADE: A+
Tampa Bay Lightning
Anton Stralman ($22.5 million, 5 years) and Jason Garrison (acquired via trade) are two major upgrades to the Lightning blue line. Evgeni Nabokov is a solid backup/insurance policy for Ben Bishop. And 3 years and $6 million for Brian Boyle? Congrats, Mr. Yzerman. GRADE: A-
Toronto Maple Leafs
No home runs, which naturally will get this panned in the Toronto echo chamber, but luring Leo Komarov (4 years, $11.8 million) and Petri Kontola to the NHL and the Stephane Robidas signing (3 years, $9 million) are all positive moves. Roman Polak for Carl Gunnarson … a little more questionable. Best of all: No Dave Bolland overpayment! They’re learning! GRADE: B
The Ryan Miller signing is good for keeping up appearances, at 3 years and $18 million, but his numbers are similar to those of Eddie Lack. Has the experience edge, though. And Jim Benning didn't draft Lack. The Vrbata signing for two years is a great one, whether or not he plays with the Sedins. Clearing Jason Garrison’s salary was a positive. And say what you will about Sbisa and Bonino, but the Canucks’ hands were tied on Kesler. GRADE: B+
The huge roll of the dice from new GM Brian MacLellan. Matt Niskanen (7 years, $40.25M) and Brooks Orpik (5 years, $27.5M) are overcompensated, but both are upgrades over what was already there and are reunited with an assistant coach that knows them best in Todd Reirden. Is Orpik done? Can Niskanen come close to his offensive numbers last season? The Capitals added Chris Connor, Mike Moore and goalie Justin Peters (2 years, $1.9M) as well. It’s a GRADE: C, taking into account how much the Capitals have to overpay for free agents. For some reason.
Mathieu Perreault is good value at 3 years and $9 million (Winnipeg multiplier understood), but he’s a water bug when the rest of the West has whale sharks. But once again, the Jets are seemingly not invited to the free agent party. To the homegrown players! GRADE: D+