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.
While other NHL GMs overspent to plug holes in their lineup, Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman locked up his top two stars on bargain deals.
How did he do it?
By being patient.
In fact patience just might be Yzerman’s calling card as one of the NHL’s best executives.
That was evident in his handling of 2013 first round draft pick Jonathan Drouin, who walked out on the organization and demanded a trade in early January. There are plenty of other GMs who would have immediately booted Drouin’s butt to the curb and traded him for whatever he could get in an effort to let his team get on with the season. But not Yzerman.
Contractual obligations force your trusty correspondent to declare the definitive list of winners and losers from the first day of free agency at a time before the ink is dry on all of the contracts. Who knows who won the day? After all, Thomas Vanek hasn’t even been a healthy scratch as a Detroit Red Wing yet.
With that in mind, we present our Winners and Losers from Canada Day, better known as the Start of Silly Season. If you subscribe to the theory that is held by a number of GMs that more mistakes are made on July 1 than any other day of the year, then perhaps the biggest winners are the teams that did nothing. Maybe it was the Colorado Avalanche, who picked up two players who were not extended qualifying offers and another who was bought out for a total cap hit of $5.3 million.
But that’s no fun. You, dear readers, demand Winners and Losers. Please keep in mind that everyone overpays. So here goes:
As one of the best blueliners in the game today, Victor Hedman could have commanded a princely sum when he came up for unrestricted free agency next summer. Instead, the towering defenseman has signed an eight-year extension worth $7.8 million per season. That’s a bargain for Tampa Bay and the Lightning know it.
Steven Stamkos has always been a pretty laid-back guy. I’ve been interviewing him for almost a decade now and his sunny outlook has been very consistent (though one time I accidentally called him during a high school English class – I still feel bad about that). But in speaking to reporters on a conference call Thursday, there was something weightier to Stamkos’ words. In re-signing with Tampa Bay, he may have broken hearts in Southern Ontario and Western New York, but he also proved just how worthy he is of that captain’s ‘C’ with the Lightning.
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:
We can only assume that Steven Stamkos’ agents aren’t terribly excited at the moment. His accountants? Well, since there’s no state tax in Florida and Stamkos will earn an average salary of $8.5 million each of the next eight years, well, that should make them fairly happy. We know fans in Toronto are a little down, as they probably are in Detroit, Montreal and Buffalo, too.
But Steven Stamkos is happy and that is the most important part of the equation. And it’s why, despite a year-long soap opera that accounted for a petrified forest worth of newsprint and countless gigabits in cyberspace, he decided to stay with the only NHL team he has ever known. As first reported by Bob McKenzie at TSN and confirmed by thn.com, Stamkos has agreed to an eight-year deal with the Lightning totaling $68 million. The deal involves a full no-movement clause, which means Stamkos isn’t going anywhere unless he approves of the deal.