On the opening day of NHL free agency, 131 players signed contracts worth a combined total of more than $650 million, according to capfriendly.com. While Milan Lucic, Kyle Okposo, David Backes and Andrew Ladd dominated headlines, signing big-money deals as the best players available, most teams were also filling gaps in organizational depth with signings you may not have even heard about.
Less than 24 hours before the free agency period begins, several NHL teams got to work on some housekeeping Thursday. Six teams placed players on unconditional waivers for the purpose of a buyout. The NHL’s buyout window closes at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday.
The Blue Jackets got back to work on Thursday, buying out the final year of right winger Jared Boll’s contract. Boll, 30, scored one goal in 30 games in 2015-16.
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) June 30, 2016
During a 2011 NHL playoff game between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins, iconic ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ play-by-play man Bob Cole exclaimed ‘Everything is happening!” during a frantic series of play.
It has become a go-to saying for hockey fans, especially on Twitter, during periods of excitement or big news. It can definitely be applied to what happened on Wednesday afternoon.
While many fans, pundits, and media sat and waited for big news to start happening on Friday during the official start of free agency, several teams swooped in and made a series of blockbuster moves. Each move on its own could have carried a news cycle for a day, but three came in such rapid succession that it nearly “broke the internet”, as they say.
Here’s a timeline of what went down on Wednesday:
The record will show that P.K. Subban was officially traded by the Montreal Canadiens on June 29, 2016. But in reality, the seeds of it were sown on Feb. 1, 2013 when a GM who used to be a fringe player and a stubborn coach tried to beat the individualism out of their best skater. That’s the day that GM Marc Bergevin and coach Michel Therrien killed the ‘Low 5’ celebration that Subban used to do with goalie Carey Price.
They got past that, but like the couple that we all knew would divorce one day, the split became inevitable. And the Canadiens can spin this any way they’d like, but their decision to move Subban for Shea Weber has the potential for being an absolutely terrible hockey trade, one that could set the franchise back enormously. And it was done because one player brought too much attention to himself and some of the people around him couldn’t stand that.
All the P.K. Subban trade chatter turned out to have some merit after all.
On Wednesday, the Montreal Canadiens sent the all-star defenseman to the Nashville Predators for fellow all-star Shea Weber in a blockbuster, straight up, deal.
Subban, 27, had been, along with goalie Carey Price, the face of the franchise for the past five years. He was a two-time all-star, and won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman in 2012-13. Last season, he scored six goals and 51 points in 68 games before missing the final 14 games of the season with a neck injury.
Restricted free agent Filip Forsberg’s six-year, $36-million contract extension with the Nashville Predators, announced Monday, was a slam-dunk deal.
In 2015-16 left winger Forsberg, 21, became the franchise’s first player in six years to crack 30 goals, equalling Jason Arnott’s team record of 33. Forsberg has averaged 29.5 goals and 63.5 points over his first two full NHL seasons, playing all 164 games. He’s safe, he’s young, and he’s already the best young scorer in Preds history. Six years at $6 million per? Fair deal for both sides. General manager David Poile has about $7.1 million in remaining cap space to play with for 2016-17. Some will go to re-signing RFA Calle Jarnkrok but, assuming Poile lets unrestricted free agents Paul Gaustad and Carter Hutton walk, he may have enough cash left for a medium-impact free agent signing.
Nashville can feel good about Forsberg’s deal. It’s an open-and-shut case. Forsberg got about exactly what we figured he’d get. What’s more interesting is pondering how it’ll affect negotiations involving a player with a comparable resume: Tampa Bay Lightning right winger Nikita Kucherov.
According to multiple reports, right winger Alexander Radulov has priced himself out of an NHL contract. The KHL star always had the fall-back option of staying in Russia, but now that seems to have hit a speed bump, too.
Jimmy Vesey is the most sought after free agent coming out of the NCAA, but he won’t hit the open market until Aug. 15. And with the Nashville Predators, the team which drafted Vesey, knowing full well the 23-year-old won’t be signing with them, they’ve flipped the NCAA standout’s exclusive negotiating rights for a third-round pick.
In a deal that came out of left field, the Buffalo Sabres shipped a 2016 third-round pick, 76th overall, to the Predators in exchange the rights to talk contract with Vesey. While Buffalo could have waited until Vesey became an unrestricted free agent, getting his rights now gives Sabres GM Tim Murray time to try to convince Vesey that Buffalo is the right fit, and Murray sees reasons why Vesey would want to suit up for the Sabres.
“Why not us? Why not give it a shot? We have a spot in our top six for him,” Murray told TSN’s Bob McKenzie. “We had four 3rd-round picks. If I could’ve traded Jamie McGinn for Vesey’s rights at deadline, I’d have done it. We’ll give (signing Vesey) our best shot.” Read more