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Winners and Losers from Day 1 of the free agent frenzy

Ken Campbell
By:

Troy Brouwer Photo by David E. Klutho /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

News

Winners and Losers from Day 1 of the free agent frenzy

Ken Campbell
By:

Declaring winners and losers on the first day of free agency is a mug's game, but it's one we all love to play. Check to see who were the the teams that made out the best and worst on day one of free agent season.

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:

WINNER
Tampa Bay Lightning: Do his fellow GMs just award Steve Yzerman the Executive of the Year Award for 2016-17 right now and be done with it? Yzerman didn’t sign a single player from another team, but his ability to get his own players under contract guarantees this team will be a contender for years to come. By signing franchise defenseman Victor Hedman to an eight-year extension and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to a three-year that kick in after next season, Yzerman managed to tie up two key players. It still leaves room to sign Nikita Kucherov, but the difficult work will come next summer.

LOSER
Montreal Canadiens: After missing out on Milan Lucic, the Canadiens took a one-year flyer on Alexander Radulov. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin maintains that Radulov’s behavior four years ago when he blew curfew during the playoffs was a matter of a lack of maturity and not character, but it was still a curious move given that P.K. Subban was traded largely because of perceived character issues. The Canadiens have tried and failed – miserably – in getting a scoring right winger with the likes of Alexander Semin, Thomas Vanek and Dany Briere. We’ll see how this one turns out.

WINNER
Carolina Hurricanes: Don’t laugh. The Hurricanes move to get Lee Stempniak on a two-year deal for just $2.5 million a year may very well turn out to be the steal of free agency. Just ask the New Jersey Devils, who signed Stempniak for one year at $850,000 and he responded with a 51-point season. Stempniak, who will play for his 10th NHL team next season, is a value signing for the Hurricanes.

LOSER
Eric Staal: No player lost out in free agency more than Staal, who took a 58 percent pay cut on a three-year deal to sign with the Minnesota Wild. Staal picked a very inopportune time to have a miserable season. If Staal can play anywhere close to his form, the Wild have him for two more years at a very cap-friendly number. If it turns out he is truly in decline, then the Las Vegas Black Knights might have just found their first captain.

WINNER
Calgary Flames: In the space of one week, GM Brad Treliving filled the goaltending black hole that was in the organization. But his biggest splash on July 1 came when he signed Troy Brouwer to a four-year, $18.5 million deal. That’s an outstanding signing by the Flames both in money and term. The only caveat here is that for this deal to really work for the Flames, they have to be a playoff team. Brouwer has made his reputation with his play in the post-season and won’t be nearly as valuable to them if they don’t make it there.

LOSER
St. Louis Blues: The Blues have had their roster purged in the last week, losing goalie Brian Elliott last week, then much of their heart and soul in captain David Backes and Brouwer. They did make up for it somewhat by getting the speedy and skilled David Perron back, but they certainly don’t come out ahead in this exchange. Losing three valuable veterans who all made a significant contribution to their success last season can’t help but diminish the Blues.

WINNER
Buffalo: After losing out on Stamkos, the Sabres went out and got the second-most coveted free agent on the market when they landed Kyle Okposo for seven years and $42 million. The acquisition of Okposo certainly accelerates the building program with the Sabres and can fit as a winger with any one of their top three centers – Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly or Sam Reinhart. Okposo has never been given credit for the fine work he does without John Tavares, but this past season showed he could excel without him.

LOSER
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks changed coaches, going back to Randy Carlyle, but you would have thought they might be a little more active in acquiring players who could help them. The Ducks have not gotten the job done in the playoffs and are gaining a reputation as post-season underachievers. There were a number of players out there who could have helped them and they have $15.6 million in cap room with Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rackell and a backup goalie to add.

WINNER
San Jose: One of the major reasons the Sharks were so badly outplayed in the Stanley Cup final was that they lacked the speed to be able to keep up to the Pittsburgh Penguins. So they addressed that in a big way by signing Mikkel Boedker to a deal that is so cap and term friendly that it boggles the mind. Four years at $16 million for a 26-year-old speedster who can play just about any role? Where do we sign up for that?

LOSER
Minnesota Wild: What happened to the team that was supposed to become a serious Stanley Cup contender when it signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter as unrestricted free agents four years ago? The Wild signed Eric Staal on Day 1, which seemed awfully quick for a guy who didn’t appear to have a lot of options. Staal’s game has slowed in recent years and it looks as though the Wild’s has, too. With an emphasis on speed, that could spell disaster for them.

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Winners and Losers from Day 1 of the free agent frenzy