League wide free agency thoughts
Here are some thoughts about some of the deals that have gone down both signings and trades:
Great job by the Toronto Maple Leafs to land a great player without having to dish out assets. It will certainly impact their cap management moving forward. The good news is that they now have a general manager who understands that it is important to pay the difference makers and go to the bargain bin for the depth.
As for the Islanders it is a tough blow and it was self-inflicted. They had a decade to show John Tavares something, anything, and they didn’t. He doesn’t owe that franchise anything. They wasted his prime. He didn’t get the choice on where he was drafted.
You see the trade is really Lou Lamioriello and Leo Komarov for John Tavares. Lou is a fish out of water. The game has long since passed him by. He is a relic and an old hockey man. The Islanders are in a bad spot.
Ryan O’Reilly is a great player. The Blues did a nice job of acquiring him without giving up assets that really meant anything to them. Buffalo was in a bad spot with this because it is clear they weren’t making a hockey trade as much as getting a player out of their locker room. The rumblings I heard were that he was sick of "babysitting" Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. Rather than having locker room strife the Sabres made the decision to move on and get what they could.
Buffalo gets two NHL players in Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka. Neither are great and Berglund’s contract is a bit much, but for a team that is in dire need of NHL caliber depth this gives them that. This deal for Buffalo swings on Tage Thompson as a prospect and what they can do with the late first and second round pick from St. Louis. Adding St. Louis’ first round pick now gives them three in round one in 2019. There are certainly options for the Sabres to get an impact player when you have that many first round picks.
I think St. Louis did great and I think the Sabres didn’t quite get fair value because you rarely win a trade where you give away the best player. Buffalo can do well, but there are unknowns right now and until potential turns kinetic you can’t really say what Buffalo got out of this. Casey Mittelstadt got a real vote of confidence because he’s now their number two center.
One of the better contracts given out on July 1st. The term was limited to three years and the 6.5M AAV. Paul Stastny is one of the better second line centers in the league and gives Vegas a great boost in their center depth. The Golden Knights still have a ton of cap space for a potential Erik Karlsson trade. Vegas may have lost David Perron and James Neal to free agency, but centers are harder to come by and they’ll figure out the winger depth later.
Leo Komarov/Valtteri Filppula
As mentioned above Lou Lamoriello shouldn’t be running a team. Toronto is so much better off without him at the helm. Both of these players are way past their prime just like their general manager. The only bright side to these signings is if they are a calculated move in a full tank. I don’t take Lou as a manager that would ever get past the ethics of tanking. He will try his hardest to keep the Islanders in purgatory. Never good enough to ever contend and never bad enough to maximize their draft pick probability.
James van Riemsdyk
He’s been one of the better goal scoring wingers in hockey during his time in Toronto. He is not a good defensive player and the Flyers won’t be looking for that. He should remain a useful player the next five years because his success isn’t predicated on skating ability. The Flyers are in a tough spot because there are a number of teams they will have to leap frog ahead of to be contenders in the Eastern Conference. This move will help push them towards success, but they’ll need to keep improving.
Neal was looking for a deal around 7M per year and he did not get there. Instead of taking a 5x5 contract to keep playing for Vegas he ended up heading north to Calgary for five years and 5.75M per year. Neal has one of the better shots in the league and has never had foot speed so his ability to keep scoring goals shouldn’t be a problem until the very later stages of the contract. Neal is now on his fifth NHL team despite being a perennial 20 goal scorer.
They are still a mess. They are still in love with paying fourth line caliber players way above their value and compound that mistake by giving term to these players. There is no light at the end of the tunnel for Vancouver and probably won’t be until they replace their general manager.
The Blues made a few other moves other than the big Ryan O’Reilly trade. They signed Tyler Bozak to a hefty three year deal that will pay him 5M per year. They also gave David Perron an opportunity to play for the team for a third time. He will make 4M for four years. They also acquired Chad Johnson which is a nice depth move for the goaltending position.
He was always going to get paid, but you really have to wonder about the age of this team.
They need to be good now and I’m not sure they are good enough to navigate through some of the other better teams in their conference. Again, it’s not like they weren’t going to sign Doughty. It’s the totality of the situation that is bleak more so than this particular contract.
Ian Cole got his payday. He will make 4.25M each of the next three seasons. That is a premium for an above average bottom pairing defender, but it is still better value than what the Penguins will get from Jack Johnson.
There were plenty of other moves around the league. I’m sure there are breakdowns about them somewhere.
Thanks for reading!