July 1st has come and gone, and so have a number of free agents as the movement has now quieted down. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the winners and losers of free agency, along with how it will factor in the 2011-12 NHL futures.
Head coach Barry Trotz milked the most that he could out
of his mediocre roster, and that led to the Nashville Predators winning their
first ever playoff series in the 2011 playoffs. But instead of building on that
success and supporting the current cast with even more talent, the Preds did
the opposite and downsized.
Joel Ward, who was a key cog in the playoffs, left on the
first day of free agency. As did veterans Steve Sullivan and Marcel Goc. The
Preds also (allegedly) forgot to tender tender qualifying offers to six
restricted free agents – Sergei Kostitsyn, Cal O'Reilly, Nick Spaling, Matt
Halischuk, Chris Mueller, Andreas Thuresson and Linus Klasen – which could turn
them into unrestricted free agents.
For a franchise that reached new highs in 2011, they have
quickly found new lows, which will ensure a step back in 2012.
Ilya Bryzgalov had been the backbone of the Coyotes over
the last two seasons and he turned out to be too rich for their blood. They
traded him away to the Philadelphia Flyers, who signed him to a long term
Bryzgalov started 136 games for the Coyotes over the last
two seasons while winning 78 of them. His cumulative GAA with the Coyotes was a
The Coyotes decided to replace him with Mike Smith, which
is a big step down in quality. Considering Bryzgalov was the team MVP last year
and was the key to virtually all of their success, they likely won’t even be
close to the playoffs now that they’ve weakened the strongest part of their
The Dallas Stars were in the news quite a bit on July 1st,
but that was merely because their star center and best player Brad Richards was
debating where he would sign his next contract.
Ownership problems have clearly hampered this team but
their decision to hold on to Richards and the trade deadline burned them badly.
They faded down the stretch of the season, missed the playoffs and then watched
their prize walk away in free agency without receiving anything in return.
The Stars didn’t open up the checkbook to sign a slew of
C-level talent, which includes the likes of Sheldon Souray, Vernon Fiddler,
Michael Ryder, Radek Dvoark, Brad Lukowich and Adam Pardy.
They look like a team that’s about to get very cozy in
the basement of the Western Conference.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have been searching for a
top-line center for nearly as long as the franchise has been in existence, and
they finally found their man. As the Philadelphia Flyers were backed into a
corner because of salary cap restrictions, the Blue Jackets were more than
happy to take Jeff Carter off of their hands. They will receive an elite player
while giving up little off of their current roster.
The Blue Jackets also signed a quality offensive
defenseman in James Wisnieski, although at six years and $33 million, they did
Nonetheless, the Blue Jackets now find themselves with a
foundation: Rick Nash, Carter, Wisniewski and Steve Mason in net. They can
finally build a team around that core and quite possibly make the playoffs next
Los Angeles Kings:
According to Bodog, the Kings have the best 2nd shot at reaching the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals out of all of the NHL's Western Conferences teams, behind the Sharks.
The Los Angeles Kings also served as trade partners with
the Flyers and they too ended up with the best player in their blockbuster
deal: Mike Richards.
The Kings picked up the Flyers captain, who is going to
be a key anchor on their frontlines. As we have come to find out about the
Kings, the only thing keeping them from being a Stanley Cup contender is scoring,
and Richards should give that area of their team a boost.
They also signed Simon Gagne for seven million over two
years, which should provide another top-six forward into the mix.
The Kings also got a freebie when Ryan Smyth requested a
trade to Edmonton and the Oilers actually made a move to acquire him. The Kings
won’t miss his $6.25 million cap hit next season.
San Jose Sharks:
San Jose shocked the NHL betting lines by making it so deep into the NHL Playoffs this year, only to fall to the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Finals. Contrary to popular belief, the Sharks in fact improved
themselves this offseason and lead Bodogs Future NHL Odds for the West at 12/1 to win the Stanley Cup.
To the surprise of many, Dany Heatley was shipped off to
the Minnesota Wild for Martin Havlat, but the Sharks end up gaining on two
fronts. For starts, Heatley is no longer the 50-goal scorer he once was and he
has made an even smaller impact come playoff time (15 goals in 66 career
postseason games). He also costs an annual fee of $2.5 million more than Martin
Havlat was stuck in Minnesota without any playmakers, and
while he’s no longer the All-Star caliber scorer he once was either, he’s
likely to see an improvement playing with more skill and less pressure in San
Jose. Also, Havlat has 28 points in 26 career playoff games.
The Sharks also had to trade away Devin Setoguchi this
offseason, but they picked up a top-of-the-line defenseman in Brent Burns. As
we all know, premier defenseman like this don’t grow on trees but the Sharks
have more than enough scoring to get by.
in a good penalty killer and a decent center in Michal Handzus, as well as a
good physical defenseman in Jim Vandermeer and the Sharks have had a very