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Winners and Losers of NHL Free Agent Frenzy

Three days into the unofficial start of the NHL summer, following the opening of the free agent market on July 1, Last Word On Sports takes a look at the winners and losers of the NHL Free Agent Frenzy. With over half a billion dollars committed to contracts on the 1st of July alone, it was the most money ever thrown around on the opening day of the market.


Dallas Stars: The Stars key acquisition came via trade hours before the market even opened. They traded for Jason Spezza and prospect Ludwig Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Alex Chiasson, two prospects and a 2nd round pick in 2015. The Stars also signed another former Senator, Ales Hemsky, along with goalie Anders Lindback to back-up Kari Lehtonen. The addition of Spezza and Hemsky add to the already young firepower the Stars possess with Tyler Seguin, Valeri Nichushkin, Antoine Roussel and captain Jamie Benn. With veteran head coach Lindy Ruff behind the bench on a team consisting of both experienced and up-and-coming players, watch out for the Dallas Stars next year to shine bright in the league.

Buffalo Sabres: The bottom dwellers of the league in 2013-2014 seemed to be going in an even worse direction when they lost the draft lottery to the Florida Panthers, a team who finished with 14 more points than them. But after selecting Sam Reinhart with the 2nd overall pick, the Sabres organization as a whole seems to be getting back on the right track. After acquiring work-horse defenceman Josh Gorges from Montreal for a 2nd round pick, GM Tim Murray signed a leader in Brian Gionta, a natural goal scorer in Matt Moulson, and added another veteran on the blue line, Andrej Meszaros. Rebuilding is going well in Buffalo and now they have good leaders to guide the younger group of players.

Montreal Canadiens: Marc Bergevin continues to show why he was nominated for the GM of the Year, and why he brought the Canadiens out of the Eastern Conference basement when he took over control in 2012. Many may frown upon the aforementioned trade of unsung hero Gorges, as well as letting captain Gionta and sniper Thomas Vanek walk, but it seems that all is under control in Montreal. He stole a trade from Colorado, acquiring P.A. Parenteau and a 5th round pick for Daniel Briere, and then signed substance players in Manny Maholtra and Tom Gilbert, who both signed to “have a chance to win.” He then also inked highly sought-after Czech forward Jiri Sekac, who was being pursued by 15 other teams. In need of cap space for star P.K. Subban and valuable Lars Eller, the Habs are committing the same amount of money to Maholtra, Gilbert and Sekac as they were to Josh Gorges. Also, young blue-liners Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi and Greg Pateryn will now have more ice-time for their development, while keeping an aging presence in defenseman Mike Weaver with a brand new contract.

Honourable Mentions: 

Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders.



Toronto Maple Leafs: Oh, Toronto. The team that consistently signs the big free agent that fails to deliver (see: Blake, Jason. Clarkson, Dave. Komisarek, Mike), failed completely on any big signings this year after losing key pieces of their roster. GM Dave Nonis also pursued Gorges in a trade for a roster player, possibly Cody Franson according to numerous reports, but Gorges refused to wave his no-trade clause, even after President Brendan Shanahan basically begged him to go to Toronto and the trade ultimately fell through. They lost Nikolai Kulemin to the Islanders, Dave Bolland to the Panthers and Tim Gleason back to the Hurricanes. Yes, the Leafs did sign Stephan Robidas for 3 years but, the 37 year-old broke his leg twice this season. After failing to make the playoffs for the 8th time in the past 9 seasons, the team somehow thinks they can make it with an even weaker roster than last season.

Pittsburgh Penguins: After the changing of the guard with a new general manager and coach in Pittsburgh following the firing of Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma, the Penguins continued moving backwards in their pursuit of a second Stanley Cup in the Sidney Crosby era. At the draft, GM Jim Rutherford traded James Neal to Nashville for Nick Spaling and Patrick Hornqvist, hurting the team’s scoring ability. Then they lost three defenceman in Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to division rival Washington along with Deryk Engelland to Calgary. The signing of Christian Ehrhoff is significant, but he can not simply replace defensive stalwart Oprik and offensive machinfe Niskanen on the blue-line in Steel City. The Penguins have lost the feared power that they once had back in 2008 and 2009.

Colorado Avalanche: What is Colorado doing? What are you doing Greg Sherman? The Avalanche had one the most explosive offenses last year with rookie head coach Patrick Roy behind the bench. They looked like a Cup contender, before being ousted by the Wild in an exciting 1st round series this past spring. But now they dropped in ability to score. Before losing Paul Stastny to St. Louis, they traded for soon-to-be 37 year-old Briere, then they signed another 37 year-old in Jarome Iginla. Just to put the age difference from them to future Colorado star Nathan MacKinnon in perspective, both of them were drafted before the 18 year-old had even hit his 1st brithday. Both of them competed against their coach in the early stages of their careers. Captain Gabriel Landeskog was only 10 years old when new team mate Iginla won his first of two Olympic gold medals, in 2002. This adding of veterans is a huge step backwards for a young team with leadership in players like Landeskog, Max Talbot and Alex Tanguay.

Not-So-Honourable Mentions:

Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins. 


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