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The Five Biggest Moves of the NHL Off-Season

With training camp happening soon, let's look back at the five biggest moves of the 2022 NHL off-season and take a moment to appreciate just how hot the hot stove truly got.
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The summer is almost over, and what a wild ride it was. 

Let's look back at the five biggest moves of the 2022 NHL off-season and take a moment to appreciate just how hot the hot stove truly got. 

Johnny Gaudreau Signs in Columbus 

So much has gone down since the Johnny Gaudreau signing that it's easy to forget it happened this offseason. But you bet your bottom dollar it did, effectively kicking off a massive chain of events that would unfold over the coming months and change the face of at least three different franchises. 

It's impossible to overstate just how unexpected this was. 

Gaudreau was arguably the best free agent to hit the open market in a decade -- a legitimate star in the middle of his prime who also happened to be coming off a Hart-calibre season. Teams were lining up around the block to sign him, and anyone connected to the situation had indicated for months that Gaudreau, who grew up in the New Jersey area, wanted to play close to home. 

Then, in the span of roughly seven hours, all of that was thrown out the window. Gaudreau waited until the very end of free agent frenzy to drop a bomb, opting to leave roughly $16 million on the table offered to him by Calgary and commit the remainder of his prime years to a franchise that has never made it past the second round. 

Perhaps the most attractive belle of the ball surveyed the market, conferred with his representation, and took his talents to Columbus, Ohio. 

Incredible. What a boon for the Blue Jackets. 

Matthew Tkachuk is Traded to Florida, Huberdeau Goes the Other Way

Remember that ripple effect I was talking about? Well, this was the next domino to fall. 

Almost immediately after Gaudreau left for (I guess?) greener pastures, Calgary's other franchise face made it known he wanted out too, as Matthew Tkachuk proceeded to inform Flames management that he would not sign a long-term extension and would prefer a trade. 

Thus kicked off roughly a week of madness. Tkachuk, like Gaudreau, is the caliber of player who rarely becomes available and especially coming fresh off a career year. Sure, he needed a new contract. But for a 24-year-old who just racked up 104 points? Teams will make it work. 

Everyone knew Tkachuk was going to be traded. No one had any idea what that trade would look like. 

Then, at approximately 11:45 PM on a Friday night in late-July, the nuke was detonated. 

Tkachuk was heading to the Florida Panthers, where he would sign a massive eight-year extension worth $9.5 million. That's the tamest part, though. Because headed back Calgary's way was a package that no one thought was on the table: Jonathan Huberdeau, Mackenzie Weegar, a first-round pick, and a prospect. 

In one night, the Flames changed the entire complexion of their franchise, softening the blow of losing two organizational pillars by replacing them with another 100-point superstar, a top-pair defenseman, and a collection of assets to act as a safety net in case one or both left in free agency the next year. 

Trades like this just don't happen in the modern NHL. They should be impossible. The salary cap ensures it. But somehow, the Flames and Panthers pulled it off, altering the core of their teams for the foreseeable future. 

We already know that Huberdeau won't skip town, as he proceeded to sign his own eight-year extension just a few weeks later and commit to Calgary before even playing a game for them. 

What a whirlwind. And we're not even done. 

Nazem Kadri Signs in Calgary 

With Huberdeau locked in, the Flames had successfully re-ignited their standing as a destination franchise for high-end talent. Sure, two elite players they had drafted and developed entirely in-house had each just thumbed their noses at them. Still, the guy who just last year set the single-season record for assists by a left winger signed on the dotted line after one reported meeting with management. 

That can do wonders for organizational morale. 

Well, the Flames took that internal boost and applied it to their roster once more, swooping in out of nowhere to sign Nazem Kadri, the second biggest free agent of the offseason who would now be arriving to replace the first. 

How about that? 

Flashback a few short weeks, and Flames fans were as despondent as a fanbase could possibly be. By late August, they were toasting to the half-decade to come of their new Huberdeau and Kadri pairing -- two players who wilfully committed their most productive remaining years to their franchise and city. 

Frankly, I didn't know Brad Treliving had it in him. But through good and bad, the longtime Flames GM played a massive part in the three most jaw-dropping developments of the offseason. 

Take a bow. 

The Hurricanes Get Max Pacioretty for Free

I know Max Pacioretty is set to miss half the season after undergoing surgery. But this is still a massively talented player -- a respected veteran leader who is beloved wherever he goes and is guaranteed to score at a 30-goal pace. He shouldn't be a salary dump. 

Don't tell the Golden Knights, though, who few closer to the salary cap sun than Icarus ever dreamed of and were forced to sell him and prospect Dylan Coghlan to the Carolina Hurricanes for nothing. 

Literally nothing. Future considerations, if you want to be a stickler about it -- which will inevitably be confirmed, in the future, to be nothing. 

Good for Carolina for taking advantage of another team's mistakes. And bad on Vegas for doing nothing but exacerbating their declining reputation as an organization that values its players. 

Ottawa Makes Big Boy Moves

The Senators had declared their rebuild over last summer and then proceeded to remain one of the worst teams in the league. No one believed their optimism back then, and even fewer bought into their plans heading into the 2022 NHL Draft back in June. 

Those people would soon be proven wrong. 

The Senators kicked off their facelift by snagging one of the biggest trade chips on the market, prying Alex DeBrincat out of the mess in Chicago for a paltry sum. They then successfully dumped 75 percent of Matt Murray's deal on a divisional rival, replaced him with Cam Talbot, and put the cherry on top by signing Claude Giroux. 

Not to mention, Pierre Dorion followed all that up by locking in two key pieces of the team's future, handing both Josh Norris and Mathieu Joseph long-term extensions of their own to keep them in Ottawa for what should be their most productive years. 

The blueline is still bad. But Dorion isn't a miracle worker. And by remaking his team's forward corps into a legitimately daunting one for opponents, the Senators will at least be competitive in the juggernaut Atlantic Division for the first time in years. 

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