Following a busy, but not outlandish Free Agent Frenzy on July 1, the NHL offseason has brought a trickle of player movement. We’ll catch up on the latest player movement, but also examine what’s happening in the marketplace.
This offseason has been unlike any other in the NHL salary cap era, with teams exercising unprecedented restraint. Andrej Sekera, who inked a six-year, $33-million agreement with Edmonton, was the only player to sign a deal worth more than $30-million in total. It’s a far cry from the Minnesota Wild dropping $98-million each on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Now, 12 days later, the signings have slowed and there are adjustments to make, particularly when it comes to expectations for a big payday as a free agent. What has happened to the outrageous free agent contract for the likes of David Clarkson, Ville Leino or Scott Gomez? By the way, they aren't the only ones, I could go on.
There are some good players that haven’t signed yet; not superstars, but players that can surely help NHL teams. Thirtysomething forwards Brad Boyes, Erik Cole, Martin Erat, Scottie Upshall, Curtis Glencross, Derek Roy and Sean Bergenheim are out there. So too are twentysomethings Jiri Tlusty, Eric Fehr and Mike Santorelli. For risk-takers out there, Alexander Semin and Jarret Stoll have proven to be useful players though, for decidedly different reasons, both come with less-than-sterling reputations these days.
On the blueline, Christian Ehrhoff, Johnny Oduya, Cody Franson, Lubomir Visnovsky and Jan Hejda have been toiling in top-four roles for years and are still there for the taking. Of course, most NHL teams are too deep on defence as is (a little summer sarcasm).
Yet, even with players of this calibre still unsigned, there has been some talk of veteran free agents being forced to take training camp tryouts. Surely that will be the case for some players, but this waiting game also makes it possible that some pretty useful players will be available on team-friendly deals.
Recapping the latest deals:
Catching up on other transactions...
The Maple Leafs Get: RW Taylor Beck
Beck is a 24-year-old winger who was grinding on Nashville’s fourth line last season, starting a disproportionate percentage of his shifts in the defensive zone, yet managing to contribute a little offensively. That’s not altogether surprising, as he tallied 90 points in 115 AHL games over his last two seasons in the minors, and had a pair of 90-plus-point seasons in the OHL while playing for Guelph with current Maple Leafs centre Peter Holland. A rebuilding Toronto team could offer opportunity for Beck to develop his game and perhaps become something more than a fourth liner.
The Predators Get: LW Jamie Devane
Devane, 24, is a tough guy who has 253 penalty minutes and 15 points in 118 career AHL games. He’s not likely to reach the NHL in any meaningful capacity, but gives the Predators some minor-league muscle while clearing out a contract.
Verdict: The Predators didn’t want to take a chance that they would lose Beck’s arbitration hearing, which will surely bring him a raise on last season’s $550,000 salary, but that they are so vulnerable to the kind of payout that might come to a forward who scored 16 points last season is precisely the kind of opportunity that Toronto, rebuilding a roster and loaded with financial might, can seize upon. It’s a small move, but a good one for the Maple Leafs.
The Ducks Get: RW Chris Stewart
27-year-old Stewart is two seasons removed from leading the St. Louis Blues in scoring during the 2013 lockout campaign but, like everyone, he struggled in Buffalo and wasn’t great with Minnesota, managing 13 points (3 G, 10 A) in 28 games after he was acquired from the Sabres.
Verdict: A big winger that can score – he has two 28-goal seasons to his credit – and fight, Stewart seems a decent fit with the Ducks, particularly on a cut-rate, one-year, $1.7-million deal.
The Coyotes Get: LW John Scott
Scott is a 32-year-old link to a previous era. The 6-foot-8 winger has been a fearsome heavyweight, capable of caving in the faces of some of the toughest fighters in the sport. Despite setting career highs with three goals and four points last season, he can’t contribute much of anything otherwise, and with fewer heavyweights with which to tangle, there is a declining need for Scott’s services.
Verdict: Signed to a one-year, $575,000 contract, it’s hard to condemn the Coyotes signing Scott, because it’s a contract for a part-time player on a team that will be near the bottom of the league, but it’s not the most inspired decision.
The Bruins Get: D Matt Irwin
Irwin, 27, has been a decent depth defenceman in San Jose, with a big shot from the point that could be more of an asset if he was consistently in the lineup.
Verdict: Signed to a one-year, $800,000 deal, Irwin is a low-risk investment for the Bruins. If he plays well and is a regular in the top six, the Bruins will likely look to keep him around, but if he’s nothing more than a seventh defenceman, Irwin still comes at a reasonable price.
|Anders Nilsson||Ak-Bars Kazan||G||38||.936||1.71|
The Oilers Get: G Anders Nilsson
Nilsson, 25, was a Blackhawks prospect who played in the KHL last season, posting a .936 save percentage for Ak-Bars Kazan. Signed to a one-year, $1-million contract, he’s likely to push Ben Scrivens for a spot in Edmonton.
The Blackhawks Get: C Liam Coughlin
Coughlin is a 20-year-old Massachusetts-born forward who had been playing in the BCHL. A fifth-round pick of the Oilers in 2014, he’s headed for the University of Vermont and the Blackhawks can wait and see how he develops in college.
Verdict: After having last season completely undone by goaltending, the Oilers’ additions of Talbot and Nilsson address the issue. It might leave them with a crowded crease, so long as Ben Scrivens is still around, but too much depth in goal hasn’t been a big problem in Edmonton. Since Coughlin is further away from helping an NHL club, if he ever reaches that point, give the Oilers the edge.
Enhanced stats via www.war-on-ice.com.
(SAT% - shot attempt percentage; SAT%Rel - shot attempt percentage, relative to team when off the ice; SPSV% - combined on-ice shooting and save percentage; OZS% - percentage of faceoffs to start shift in the offensive zone vs. defensive zone)
Scott Cullen can be reached at email@example.com