Alexander Semin is still on the market, the dust has mostly settled for NHL
free agency. At this point, we can get a clear view of which teams improved
themselves and which teams headed in the other direction.
Here is a look at the winners and losers of NHL free
Without question, the Minnesota Wild were the biggest
winners in free agency. There were two elite free agents in this year’s crop
and the Wild – shockingly – came away with both of them.
Some people figured they had an outside shot at Zach
Parise given that he’s from Minnesota but, with bigger markets like New York,
Detroit and Pittsburgh in play, few people actually took them seriously. As for
Ryan Suter, that one came out of the blue as nobody even knew they were
targeting him for the most part.
The Wild were one of the best teams in hockey through 30
games last season (20-7-3) but then they completely collapsed and were arguably
the worst team in the NHL the rest of the way. The hope here is that they
regain their swagger from the early part and with Parise and Suter, find a way
back into the playoffs.
At any rate, this was a huge coup for the Wild.
The Canucks are a Stanley Cup contender but they’ve seen
their blue line deteriorate in the last couple of free agencies with Christian
Ehrhoff signing in Buffalo last season and Sami Salo departing for Tampa Bay
this offseason. But the Canucks rebounded in a huge way by signing Jason
Garrison to a very reasonable contract that pays him $4.6 million per year.
He’s got a cannon of a shot from the blue line, so he’ll
be an asset on the power play, and he’s 10 years younger than the injury-prone
Salo. This was a huge upgrade at an affordable price; Cup contenders like the
Canucks are supposed to be too cash-strapped to pull this kind of thing off.
This was a big win.
Not many people want to say it but the Avs had a positive
offseason. They signed P.A. Parenteau to a four-year, $16 million contract,
which is good value for a young player who has posted back-to-back 50+ point
seasons. He’ll fit in well right next to Matt Duchene and maybe, more
importantly, the $4 million per year is a steal of a price.
Meanwhile, they also added some toughness with John
Mitchell and Greg Zanon, who is an underrated defensemen who is perennially
among the league-leaders for blocked shots. The Avs were a tad soft last year
and these two will add some grit.
It’s hard to argue that there is a bigger loser in the
NHL’s offseason than Nashville. After years of being frugal, the Predators went
all-in at the trade deadline last season and then flopped in the playoffs. Then
free agency hit and they watched one of their stud defensemen, Ryan Suter, walk
away without any compensation. Then they also saw pest Jordin Tootoo sign with
Detroit, Alexander Radulov sign in Russia and then traded backup goaltender
Anders Lindback to Tampa Bay.
Now the focus shifts to captain Shea Weber, who is
entering the final year of his contract and could also walk via free agency
next July. The team also lost Dan Hamhuis the same way last offseason and now
Predators fans are nervous and pessimistic, after being so jovial and
optimistic just months ago.
Loser: Detroit Red
The Detroit Red Wings are hardly ever losers in the NHL
but this offseason has been a downer. They entered with a ton of cap space and
plenty of optimism that they’d get either Parise or Suter, or both. Instead,
they wound up with nothing.
While Parise would have been nice, losing out on Suter
hurts because of Niklas Lidstrom’s retirement. They also sign Jiri Hudler sign
with Calgary and Brad Stuart head to San Jose.
If anyone can plug and play, it’s Detroit, but this has
been a disappointing offseason for them.
Loser: Phoenix Coyotes
The Phoenix Coyotes posted their best season as a
franchise last year, making it all the way to the Western Conference final. For
the first time ever, hockey was relevant. And in the offseason, Coyotes fans
were completely drained of any optimism they previously had.
For starters, lead offensive weapon Ray Whitney signed in
Dallas. Sure, the Stars overpaid him and Whitney is 40-years-old but the
Coyotes needed to keep him and add offense; not subtract. It also looks like
the Coyotes will be losing heart and soul captain Shane Doan, who is growing
impatient and likely to sign elsewhere.
In case you’re
keeping track at home, the Coyotes, who ranked 18th
in goals per
game, had just three players above 50 points last season and now might be
without two of them at the start of next season.