The deals came fast and furious on July 1 but there was something different about this year compared to years past, and it’s No. 1 on our list of winners.
Well, the 2017 free agency season – darn, we can’t even call it silly season this year – is just hours old and already we’re declaring the winners and losers. Get over it. That’s what we do. And you know you like it.
With that in mind, here are this year’s most prominent winners and losers of free agency so far.
WINNER – SANITY
Perhaps it was the fact they faced a decidedly mediocre free agent class or that so many teams are so tight against the cap, but the most prominent storyline of July 1 was that so few GMs lost their minds on Day 1 of the proceedings. After the first five hours, TSN had calculated that there had been 83 signings worth $248 million, which is way down in terms of dollar value from previous years. After so many years of seeing supply and demand economics run amok, it was interesting to see so many teams display so much restraint in money and, more importantly, term.
LOSER – PLAYER AGENTS
These guys get a cut of every deal they negotiate, so you’d have to think there are player agents out there wondering what has gotten into their negotiating partners. Remember back in 2011 when Brad Richards held court at his agent’s offices and got pitches from a conga line of GMs? Well, much of that has been blunted by the fact teams can meet with players in the days leading up to free agency, but it’s hard to believe we’ll be seeing a frenzy like that for a while. Actually, the five-day window seems to be a big win for the NHL since teams know going into July 1 exactly what their chances are of landing a player. That has likely led to more realistic offers.
WINNER – NEW YORK RANGERS
For years, the Rangers were the poster boys for much of the insanity that prevailed on July 1, handing out enormous contracts to players who already seemed intent on playing there. That could have happened again this year, but it did not. As a result, the Rangers got the crown jewel of this year’s free agent class without overpaying, either in money or term. Kevin Shattenkirk for four years at $6.65 million is an outstanding get for the Rangers and doesn’t compromise their ability to build their team going forward.
LOSER – KEVIN SHATTENKIRK
You’d have to think that right about now, Shattenkirk is sitting at his place in the Hamptons and asking himself, “Seriously? This was the year they had to come to their senses?” This was Shattenkirk’s opportunity to hit a massive home run and chart out the next seven seasons of his career with one team and lots of money. Part of that is on him for playing so poorly when he was showcasing himself after the trade to the Washington Capitals last season.
WINNER – CALGARY FLAMES
The Flames did almost nothing on Day 1, largely because they got so much of their work out of the way leading up to July 1. The Flames needed to shore up their goaltending, so GM Brad Treliving went out and got Mike Smith and Eddie Lack, getting some cap relief on the latter. He traded for Travis Hamonic and, in what could end up being one of the best moves of the free agent process, re-signed defenseman Michael Stone to a three-year deal at $3.5 million a year. As a result, the Flames can compete with the Nashville Predators for the best defense corps in the league. They also landed coveted college free agent Spencer Foo, which could turn out to be the equivalent of landing a first-round pick without giving up a single asset.
LOSER – VANCOUVER CANUCKS
It seemed as though the Canucks thought they might be able to snow everyone by making a flurry of moves. Just because you’re looking busy doesn’t mean you’re accomplishing much. The Canucks, it seems, don’t really have a clear direction on where they want to go and they appear to be still clinging to the fact they can rebuild on the fly while they still have the Sedin twins in their lineup. The Canucks were identified as a loser on July 1 this year and retain that dubious distinction.
WINNER – DALLAS STARS
Nobody can every accuse Stars GM Jim Nill of being gun shy. He responded to what was a terrible season for the Stars by being proactive on the goaltending frony by signing Ben Bishop. He went out and got what the Stars needed most, a defensive defenseman in Marc Methot. And the signing of Martin Hanzal gives the Stars a big, productive body down the middle. The caveat here is that Hanzal is going to have to be a lot better for Dallas than he was down the stretch and in the playoffs for Minnesota for this work.
LOSER – PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
It’s pretty difficult to label a team that is holding its second straight Stanley Cup summer tour and remains a top contender in the league in this category, but consider that since the expansion draft, the Penguins have lost Marc-Andre Fleury, Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, Trevor Daley and Ron Hainsey. At one time or another, each one of them played a significant role in the Penguins’ playoff run. Perhaps just as importantly, though, the Penguins were forced to lose a group of high-character players in a game where team chemistry means so much.
WINNER – PLAYERS WITH A YEAR LEFT ON THEIR DEALS
It appears the 13-year contract extension worth $106 million for Connor McDavid is all but done. And if you’re looking to cross potential UFAs off your list for next season, get your marker out and stroke through the names of Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Martin Jones and Cam Fowler. The signings of all three of them were announced just hours after the doors opened July 1. Not only are they all set for the rest of their careers, the teams get some very important pieces of business accomplished. Still waiting on John Tavares and Carey Price, two potential soap operas.
LOSER – AGING VETERANS
Jaromir Jagr still has some game – although I wonder about his ability to be productive and keep up to the pace of the playoffs – but he is without a team and a contract, which seems a little weird. It seemed he would be on a series of one-year deals with the Florida Panthers until both sides decided it was time to stop. Well, one side made that decision and it was the Florida Panthers, who have taken an awful lot of offense out of their lineup of late. Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla, two other players whose Hall of Fame plaques await them, also face an uncertain future.