As day one of NHL free agency is in the rearview, most of the biggest names on the board have come off and there are some obvious winners and losers. The Leafs, likely rank as the clear victors of the day while teams like the Islanders were devasted. To a lesser extent, Vegas and St. Louis did well while teams like Vancouver and others may have slightly overpaid for talent.
Over the course of the day, close to half a billion dollars was spent on players, most of whom were heading to new homes. Would every team's gamble pay off? Some deals look, on the surface, like they might while others appeared to be overpayments. Only time will tell.
Here are the winners and losers from Day One of NHL Free Agency.
Winner: Toronto Maple Leafs
Presser is over. Media scrums to follow. pic.twitter.com/UBr3hNXHc1— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) July 1, 2018
The day started with the anticipation of where John Tavares might choose to go, and if you asked most people to honestly predict where he might land, the Islanders or Sharks were likely the two organizations with the most favorable odds. Neither got him.
When Toronto was announced as the team who landed Tavares and then the announcement followed that he took less money to make it happen, the Leafs were the immediate winners of the day. The team will have problems to solve like how they'll improve their blue line or fit all these contracts into the salary cap over the next few seasons but for now, they are the team that landed Tavares.
Loser: New York Islanders
Of course, with any decision like Tavares going to Toronto, there is a team that is losing one of the better centers in the NHL and that team was the Islanders and they lost him for nothing. The Islanders gambled that bringing in a new GM and new coach would sway Tavares and it almost did. In the end, the organization kept the player through the trade deadline, got no assets in return and gambled they could hang onto him.
The Islanders will have a tough decision to make now. Should they sign players and try to replace what Tavares brought to the team? Or, should they surround their younger core with even younger assets and rebuild? The fact they signed Leo Komarov while the Tavares press conference was happening is a sign towards the fact the team will try to remain competitive.
Winner: Vegas Golden Knights
The next best center on the free agent board was arguably Paul Stastny, and while it was expected the Winnipeg Jets might find a way to keep him, the Vegas Golden Knights swooped in out of nowhere to land him. The team signed the 32-year-old to a reasonable three-year contract worth $6.5 million per season. It might be a slight overpay, but not an egregious one considering Stastny was likely to get really good money and term from someone.
Vegas also signed players like Zach Fucale, Nick Holden, Brandon Pirri, Daniel Carr, Alex Gallant, and others. They were busy and proved they have no intention of dropping off from their Stanley Cup Finals appearance despite losing David Perron and James Neal.
Loser: Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks have agreed to terms with forward Antoine Roussel to a 4-year, $13 milllion contract with an AAV of $3.25 million.— Complete Hockey News (@CompleteHkyNews) July 1, 2018
The Canucks also agree to terms with forward Jay Beagle to a 4-year, $12 milllion contact with and AAV of $3 million. pic.twitter.com/1fIQpY6dzc
Perhaps the Canucks were never going to be big players in the free agent market on July 1, 2018, but the moves they did make will be considered overpayments. Grabbing Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel in free agency, they signed both players to four-year deals worth $3MM each. Both are fourth-line players (maybe third at best) on a roster that wasn't good enough to make the playoff last season.
GM Jim Benning said the deals were the price of doing business on this day, but other teams proved they were able to get comparable players for less expensive prices. Neither player will add much except depth and some leadership. Not a bad thing, but Vancouver needed more.
Winner: St. Louis Blues
Calling the Blues winners here requires putting things into perspective. First, they lost Paul Stastny last season and struck out on Tavares and Kovalchuk which most believe is the direction they were hoping to go. In that light, adding David Perron and Tyler Bozak don't quite fill the void.
That said, both players were big-ticket free agents who signed for relatively fair deals with the Blues on Sunday. Perron's four years at $4MM might be one year too many but far less than the five or six people might have envisioned. If Bozak gets back to form with more playing time than he had in Toronto, he could be seen as a great value.