The National Hockey League Draft which unofficially doubles as the NHL's second trade deadline, and the first wave of free agency are now officially in the books. So far we have witnessed a lot of players that changed addresses due to the amount of trades and free agent signings that have taken place since the end of the season.
Whether it be finance, a team looking to rebuild, or something as petty as a falling out between a player and a coach, there are many reasons why a player gets traded. As is often the case with most trades, there is usually a clear winner and a loser. From the Tyler Seguin trade, to the Alexei Yashin trade, while those transactions looked great on paper, they ended up being completely one-sided. The flip side of that however, are trades like Iginla for Nieuwendyk, the Nordiques/Flyers' Lindros trade, and more recently with the St. Louis/Callahan trade, those are examples that worked out well for everybody involved.
Although it revolves around player movement as well (unless a player re-signs with their current club) free agency operates much in the same way. A change of scenery, a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup, unhappiness, the ability to play closer to family, or simply feeling that another team values you more, are some of the main reasons why a player will choose to sign somewhere else .With that said, it's time to look at Top 15 good and bad off-season moves via trade and free agency.
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16 Bruins Trading Milan Lucic
While having to create salary cap space, and faced with the fact that he was set to become an unrestricted free gent next summer, on the day of the NHL draft, the Boston Bruins traded arguably the face of the franchise in Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings for goaltender Martin Jones, prospect Colin Miller, and a 2015 1st round pick that the Bruins used to draft Saint John's defenceman Jakub Zboril. The trade worked out great for the Kings as they picked up a forward who can play anywhere in their top-6 group, and whose rugged and physical attributes matches up perfectly Darryl Sutter's preferred style of play.
For the Bruins, while they did clear off $6 million off the books they are losing a player who scored 18 goals from a lineup that only registered 209 goals last season which put tied for 22nd in the league. Boston found themselves in a similar situation last year when they couldn't resign free agent Jarome Iginla who put up 30 goals in his lone season in Beantown. How Boston plans to not only avoid that happening again with Lucic's production, but to also score more goals as a team is anyone guess.
15 Canucks trading Eddie Lack
It seems like it's been a carousel of goaltending in Vancouver ever since Cory Schneider was traded two summers ago. Roberto Luongo was traded last year presumably to make room for Eddie Lack, but the Canucks wound up signing veteran Ryan Miller in the offseason. Miller took over as the starter in Vancouver but when he went down with injury, Lack proved to be a workhorse for over two months. For a goalie with star potential, the Canucks dumped Lack for a third rounder and a seventh rounder next year. When you compare that to what the Rangers got for Cam Talbot, this just can't be seen as a good move.
14 Flames signing Michael Frolik
The Flames fresh off of making the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season, dipped into the free agent pool to strengthen their team. They agreed to terms with the former Winnipeg Jet on a reported 5-year deal that will pay the 27-year-old $4.3 million a year. While the former Stanley Cup champion will add even more post-season experience to the Calgary lineup, I'm just not sure paying a 3rd liner like Frolik that much money per year is such a smart move especially more important pieces like goaltender Kari Ramo, defenceman Kris Russell, and captain Mark Giordano are eligible for unrestricted free agency this time next year.
13 Oilers overpaying Andrej Sekera
You can't fault the Oilers for trying to improve a terrible blueline, but this signing has bad contract written all over it. Andrej Sekera will soon be over 30 and his best offensive season was 44 points in 2013-14. The Kings acquired Sekera this past season at the trade deadline, hoping he'd fill the void left by Slava Voynov. While Sekera didn't flop in L.A., he didn't exactly make a difference on a second pairing as the Kings wound up missing the playoffs. Odds are, he's going to be asked to do a lot more in Edmonton than he should be. The good news for Edmonton is they had ample cap space to make this move. But they may regret the signing in the latter years of the deal.
11 Avalanche overpaying Carl Soderberg
This is one move the Boston Bruins got right if Carl Soderberg was asking them for the five-year, $23,75 million deal he signed with the Colorado Avalanche. The Bruins traded Soderberg's rights to Colorado, as he was an impending UFA. At 29 years old, it's ridiculous of Colorado to think that Soderberg will be any better than his 48 points in his best year. Soderberg's defensive game was also aided by playing alongside Loui Eriksson, a luxury he won't have on a Colorado team that's still learning how to defend properly.
10 Maple Leafs getting little value in Kessel trade
The most talked about trade of the summer had to make an appearance on the list. Phil Kessel and Maple Leaf fans finally getting a reprive as Toronto sent the sniper along with Tim Erixon, and Tyler Biggs, and a 2016 2nd round pick to the Penguins for Nick Spaling, Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, and 1st and 3rd round drafts picks next year's draft. The Leafs will retain $1.2 million of Kessel's $8 million a year salary for the next seven seasons.
This move has the potential to blow up in both teams' faces. For Toronto it revolves around two factors. The first is whether the losing that is bound to continue this coming season will finally be the straw that break the backs of the Leafs fans and their remaining players. Secondly, what happens if none of the players and/or the draft pick the buds received in return don't pan out?
9 Columbus overpaying Brandon Saad
Fresh off of winning their 3rd Stanley Cup in 6 years, the Blackhawks once again had to shed some salary. Faced with the prospect of having to re-sign Sadd who was an impending RFA, and coming off another impressive playoff performance where he registered 8 goals and 11 points, the team from the Windy City traded him along with Alex Broadhurst and Michael Paliotta to Columbus for Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, Corey Tropp, Jeremy Morin, highly touted prospect Marko Dano, and a 2016 4th round draft pick. Despite all the names involved, this is essentially a Saad for Anisimov swap.
While Saad gives the Jackets a winger they can plug on their first line with Ryan Johansen, there is some risk as well. Saad despite his obvious skill, while in Chi-Town, has also had the opportunity to play with All-Star players like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Patrick Sharp. While Columbus has its own All Stars and good players like Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner, Jack Johnson, and the aforementioned Johansen, none of those players are good as the ones Saad leaves behind in Chicago. The Jackets gave up a lot of players to get Saad, and a lot of cash to keep him long term. They are gonna need the investment to work out big time.
8 Detroit Red Wings signing Brad Richards
This signing happened on the opening day of free agency, and appeared to fly under the radar a little bit. Rest assured Red Wing fans, the addition of the vet has the potential to be a positive one for Detroit.
With that being said, the contract the Red Wings gave Richards (1-year for $3 million) who will turn 36 during next year's postseason that amount of money has risk written all over it. Like any other player his age, injuries and fatigue play a huge factor not just in the playoffs, but in an 82 game regular season. The addition to the Wings also means that playing time for young centers like Riley Sheahan, Landon Ferraro, and Luke Glendening might also be affected.
7 Anaheim Ducks trading for Kevin Bieksa
While the Ducks acquiring Ryan Kesler from Vancouver was a great coup last year, Vancouver appears to turned the tables by unloading a declining Kevin Bieksa to a Ducks team that was looking to bolster their blueline.
Not only did the Ducks give up a 2nd rounder for a 34-year-old defenceman, but they gave him a two-year extension worth $8 million. Sure, Bieksa brings the Ducks an edge, but the young speedy Flames exposed Bieksa's weaknesses in the playoffs and his declining skill. It's very likely another speedy team will do the same to Anaheim next season.
6 San Jose Sharks acquiring Martin Jones
Fresh off of missing the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, and ripe with a long list of playoff disappointments the San Jose Sharks and general manager Doug Wilson decided that changes were in order. Wilson brought in a trio of players to the squad via free agency and trade. He acquired Joel Ward, Martin Jones, and Paul Martin. All three players bring a winning pedigree to their new team.
It's the acquisition of Jones however that has the most risk, and puts the Sharks on the list. While he has posted an impressive 16 wins and a 1.99 goals against average, those numbers have come in only 34 games of action during his two NHL seasons. San Jose gave up a 2016 1st round pick for the goalie. That's a hefty price to pay for a player with such a small sample size of work to go on. More importantly, the Sharks have been down this road before with the Antti Niemi. While he provided them with solid goal-tending, he helped put them over the top. If the Jones move doesn't pay off as well, not only will will San Jose be out a valuable pick, but it just may cost Wilson his job.
5 Chicago trading Sharp to Dallas
As you can tell, Chicago has had a busy off-season. Just a couple of weeks after the aforementioned Saad/Anisimov transaction, the reigning Stanley Cup champs traded Patrick Sharp and prospect Stephen Johns to the Dallas Stars for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt. While both clubs come away with value, it appears that the Stars came away as the big winners in this one.
For the Blackhawks, while they shed Sharp's near $6 million a year salary, how will the Hawks replace the scoring and play-making of the dynamic Sharp? The fact that that they traded three-time Stanley Cup champion to a team in within the same Conference might come back to bite the champs.
4 Boston Bruins reaching for Beleskey
This signing has the potential to go either way. Beleskey's stock soared after scoring a career-high 22 goals this past regular season. He followed that up with a fantastic playoff run this spring as a member of the Anaheim Ducks that saw him score a career high 8 goals. That total was good for second on the team in post-season scoring.
With that being said, giving a player a 5-year deal worth $3.8 million a season after a breakout in a UFA year is a huge risk. The Bruins could be stuck paying a lot of money to a player who went on nothing more than a fluky hot streak at exactly the right time.
3 Detroit Red Wings signing Mike Green
Although its hard to doubt Red Wings GM Ken Holland given his success rate over the years, this in my opinion is the most questionable signing of free agency. After bursting onto the scene in 2007, Green quickly elevated his game and was named an All-Star in 2009 and 2010. Injuries and ineffectiveness especially in his own end of the ice has seen Green's stock fall from where it once was. This past season was the fifth in a row that the 29-year old failed to crack the 50 point mark.
Despite all that, the Wings still gave the Calgary, Alberta native a 3-year $18 million deal. While Green is known for his big shot from the point, he appears at this stage of the game to be an offensive D-man whose biggest attribute is starting to decline. Paying a player $6 million a year is a big investment. Giving a 10-year veteran that type of money when it appears his best days are behind him just isn't good business.
2 Boston trading Dougie Hamilton
Speaking of ex-Bruins, the towering 6-foot-5 Defencemen was dealt to the Calgary Flames the day before the draft as well. Rumors swirled around that the Bruins couldn't reach a financial agreement with Hamilton who was about to become a restricted free agent. In fear of having another club sign him to an offer sheet this offseason, the Bruins decided to trade the 22 year-old. While Boston netted a 1st, and two 2nd round picks in June's draft, most hockey insiders still fell it wasn't enough of a return to justify trading arguably their best D-man.
A few days after the trade to Calgary, Hamilton agreed to a new 6-year deal with the Flames that will pay him $5.75 million a year. More importantly for Hamilton is he will now step out of the size-able shadow of former Bruin teammate Zdeno Chara, and join a Calgary blueline that already includes some effective players like Mark Giordano, Dennis Wideman, T.J. Brodie, and Kris Russell. Why Boston would trade a 22-year-old who is still growing and keep a declining 37-year-old Zdeno Chara is anyone's guess.
1 Buffalo's contract to Ryan O'Reilly
While the Buffalo Sabres improved their team tremendously this offseason, they already have to be having doubts about handing Ryan O'Reilly a seven year contract extension worth $52.5 million. When your presumed no.1 center for next season gets arrested for drunk driving and allegedly striking a Tim Horton's and leaving the vehicle following the crash, you have to believe GM Tim Murray is now a little concerned.
While O'Reilly is a very good player, he was on Colorado's second line and point totals like his (17 goals, 55 points) aren't what you'd associate with a no.1 center earning over $7 million a year. He's still young at 24 and can improve on those totals, potentially playing on a line with Evander Kane and Jack Eichel this season, but this screams of a deal where a GM got a little too desperate.
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