NHL Free Agency And Some Random Hockey Thoughts

Marc Elliott

HIBBING… Readers; I am holding off one more week to debate the Canadian Junior versus the NCAA route to the NHL. The NHL Free Agent signing period has commenced and there has been some surprising player movement, but not much. Here are a few highlights; F-Evgeny Kuznetsov got an 8 year deal with the Washington Capitals to stay and the Caps traded F-Marcus Johansson to the NJ Devils for draft picks and was moved presumably to make space for Kuznetsov’s deal. Makes sense to me. Longtime San Jose Shark forward and UFA Patrick Marleau signs a 3 year pact with the Toronto Maple Leafs. I think this is good although I’m not sure about 3 years. Depends on how it is built I guess. 

Marleau is still a productive player and remember that the Sharks have been doing this dance on sending Marleau, Joe Thornton or both packing for several years now. Marleau has been willing to be moved to a short list of clubs within the past few months. That deal never got done but has been accomplished now. If you read Patrick’s resume you will note that he is a decorated player, everything has come his way but a Stanley Cup. Does he get one in Toronto? His timing might be right. Thornton signed a one year deal to stay in San Jose. CAREY PRICE has signed to renew with the Montreal Canadiens on an 8 year/$84mil deal. I am a huge Habs fan, and Price is arguably the best net minder in the world today, but that hasn’t done anything for the club. Either due to injury or the team around him not able to match his level of play, he has never been beyond the 2nd round of the SC tournament. Does this contract help the Habs get to the promised land or hurt them?

Chris Kunitz wasn’t offered a new deal by the Pittsburgh Penguins and signed a one year deal with Tampa Bay, Nick Bonino left the SC Champs for Nashville on a 4 year deal. Justin Schultz signed a 3 year deal to stay with the Pens. UFA D-Kevin Shattenkirk took a discount to sign with the NY Rangers on a 4 year deal. And I have to say that I am not sure what the fascination is with this player. He was a highly sought after free agent, and he IS good on the PP, but I look at him as no more then a 3 or a 4 on a teams rotation. So, the Rangers can have him, I don’t think he changes their fortunes that much. The Vancouver Canucks didn’t re-up with G Ryan Miller so he took a 2 year deal with the Anaheim Ducks. Michael Cammelleri left the NJ Devils and signed with the LA Kings for a year. The Wild did not offer UFA Martin Hanzal a new deal and he went to the Dallas Stars on a 3 year contract. 

So what were GM Chuck Fletcher and the Wild up to on this day? My summary is not much. The team was already in salary cap purgatory and basically were not in the free agent market, didn’t make any real big splash on the trade front (more in a second) and for the most part re-stocked the shelf for the AHL Iowa Wild. They needed to create and protect some cap space for Mikael Granlund and Nino Neiderreiter who are RFA’s needing a deal, so that was about it. But here is the summary of the clubs recent dealings;  the club lost F-Erik Haula to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft. The team also lost a forward with a lot of potential in Alex Tuch. The Wild sent him along with Haula as “protection” for the VGK not taking other players the team did not want to lose. The team traded D-Scandella and F-Pominville to the Buffalo Sabres for F-Foligno and F-Ennis. The Pro analysis is that the Sabres won this deal. My take is that you can’t analyze trades this soon. The Wild won in that they have shed the Poms contract, and they may get some positive offensive output from Ennis. My immediate feeling is that the loss of Scando will end up being the overriding factor in this trade and for that reason I don’t like it.

Then; the club re-signed D-Mike Reilly to a 2 year deal, they didn’t state if it was a one way or two way deal. Picked up former Gopher Kyle Rau (1 yr) after FLA opted not to resign him. Signed veteran D-Kyle Quincey to a 1 yr deal. Did not resign D-Christian Folin or G-Darcy Kuemper and both signed deals with LA Kings. Picked up F-Landon Ferraro (2 yr) and D-Ryan Murphy. (1 yr) The team traded  F-Jordan Schroeder to CBJ for F-Dante Salituro. The team gave D-Gustav Olafson a 2 yr extend. These are pretty much the highlights or whatever you wish to call them. Once again, the team isn’t closer to a Cup, they have a roster up against the cap again, and will not be drafting in a position that will alter the fortunes of the club upward. Yikes. 

RANDOM THOUGHTS; Based on who the Penguins let go and kept, it will be interesting to see what kind of a roster GM Jim Rutherford can cobble together in an attempt at a three-peat. THE CAPITALS are dealing with the strains of the salary cap after NOT winning the SC. Will they be an upper level team again next year or start drifting toward the middle of the pack? NASHVILLE had a whole flock of guys turn free agent on July 1 and lost James Neal to the VGK. What will they look like next season? CHICAGO HAS done some dealing the past couple of weeks, but is it time for them to  pay the piper for their 3 Cup runs? They have 7 players consuming 80% of their cap space! These players are part of their core and they are getting older, not younger. Is the Hawks party over? 

SPEAKING OF THE HAWKS, the team has announced that Marian Hossa will not play  in the upcoming season due to a skin rash problem. Hossa played 73 games last year, we never once heard about this type of situation regarding him, so what is going on here Baba-Louie? Hossa’s contract has just entered a timeframe where his salary drops to $1mil per and will be like that for the duration. He is 38, and has he just determined that he wasn’t going to play for a measly million per year? We will see! PEACE