Two sentences on every noteworthy signing from NHL free agency

The HC Signing Season panel discuss the news that Jack Campbell will join the Edmonton Oilers on a five-year contract and how the Oilers have quickly acquired their targets in free agency.

Day one of NHL free agency was a wild ride, headlined by Johnny Gaudreau choosing an offer from Columbus, which I’m not even sure Columbus thought was possible as of July 12. WILD.

Not everything was that extreme, but most of it is it at least worth a couple sentences to discuss. So, let’s do exactly that.

A quick thought on every deal of relative note from free agency day one, starting with the last deal of the day and working back to the first.

Kristians Rubins, D, Ottawa
Contract: One year, $750,000 AAV

The Sens need help on their back-end, and the big Latvian has some upside as a depth AHL/NHL guy. If he’s playing consistent minutes for your group you’ve got issues, but he’s a serviceable fill-in guy when there’s a need.

Nikita Zadorov, D, Calgary
Contract: Two years, $3.75 million AAV

Zadorov is a giant, prime-aged defender who had a pretty good season under Darryl Sutter, and those guys don’t come cheap. This isn’t exactly a bargain, but the Flames had a successful d-corps last year, so I can see why they’d be interested in keeping most of it together.

Nico Sturm, C, San Jose
Contract: Three years, $2 million AAV

“A rising tide raises all boats” seems like a relevant quote here, as Sturm being a useful depth contributor to the most recent Stanley Cup champion sees him get paid. I like it for SJ too, as the cost isn’t that unreasonable, and you’re sure you’re shoring up your depth on a deal that gets what’s likely the 27-year-old’s best years.

Ryan Strome, C, Anaheim
Contract: Five years, $5 million AAV

The Ducks have ample cap space, so it makes sense they’d start to add some players who can be effective for them for a longer term. Strome is a 6-foot-1 centre who scored over 20 goals last season, and while maybe not a huge needle mover, he should be able to contribute reliably for at least the first few years of that deal.

Reilly Smith, RW, Vegas
Contract: Three years, $5 million AAV

As Vegas moved on from Max Pacioretty, it was important that they didn’t lose all the pieces that have made them so effective for years now. At 31 it’s unlikely that they’ll get more from Smith than he’s given in the past, but three years is an understandable contract to keep a guy they needed to keep on board.

Haydn Fleury, D, Tampa Bay
Contract: Two years, $762,500 AAV

Fleury’s career looked awfully promising in the early going, but never quite took off as expected. This is a good bet for both sides, as the player will be put in great structure to find his game, and the Bolts could wring extra value from a player who hasn’t yet hit his ceiling.

Ondrej Kase, RW, Carolina
Contract: One year, $1.5 million AAV

Two things are true about Kase: one is that he’s an excellent player, and the other is that he’s injury prone. It’s a fair bet for the Canes, who might be able to grab value on his upside (or put him on LTIR), but it’s hard to be confident Kase will be available when they need him most.

Matt Benning, D, San Jose
Contract: Four years, $1.25 million AAV

D-men aren’t free, and Benning is a legitimate NHL D-man at this point. For him it makes sense to lock up the term (in case anyone changes their mind on the first point), while SJ has a cheap roster spot locked in that they don’t have to be too worried about.

Marcus Johansson, LW, Washington
Contract: One year, $1.1 million AAV

Great teams always have a guy or two down the lineup playing a depth role who can surprise you by contributing to a nice goal, and that’s Johansson to a tee. At that price he’s a bargain given his experience and ability.

Scott Sabourin, RW, Ottawa
Contract: One year, $750,000 AAV

The Sens have added a ton of skill, but neither DeBrincat nor Giroux are exactly sandpaper additions. Keeping Sabourin around cheap makes sense.

Martin Jones, G, Seattle
Contract: One year, $2 million AAV

Here are Jones’ save percentage numbers the past four seasons, in which he’s played a minimum of 34 games and up to 62: .896, .896, .896, .900. Call me crazy, but he might be an .896 goalie or thereabouts, and you can find those for less than $2 million.

Oscar Dansk, G, Calgary
Contract: One year, $750,000 AAV

Dansk was a .910 in the KHL last year, and has a handful of NHL games under his belt. At league minimum, he could be a value player for the Flames.

Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Columbus
Contract: Seven years, $9.75 million AAV

Everyone being jammed up against the salary cap meant offers weren’t as plentiful for Gaudreau as he may have hoped, which left Columbus as the largest one from a team that was in the East (something he wanted to be closer to family, which he can at least visit more given the division the Jackets play in). It seems like a lot of things on its face – the spurning of Calgary, not getting super close to his family, not going to an immediate Cup favourite or a huge city or somewhere for the most money – but in the end it’s simply the best deal in the right division and the team has a lot of years to get it right around him.

Colin Miller, D, Dallas
Contract: Two years, $1.85 million AAV

Miller is a good depth D-man with some grit, which seems to be something the Stars have prioritized this off-season. He’s a good example of the middle class getting squeezed by the cap, as that’s good value for Dallas.

Josh Archibald, RW, Pittsburgh
Contract: One year, $900,000 AAV

Archibald wore out his welcome in Edmonton (which may or may not have had to do with vaccination status), which partially led to not being able to get more on the open market. An effective fourth liner for under a million bucks.

Trevor Lewis, C, Calgary
Contract: One year, $800,000 AAV

The Flames are going all the way back in with their team from last year, save for the loss of Gaudreau. Lewis can be a fine role player in that group, for a coach who knows and trusts his game.

Justin Braun, D, Philadelphia
Contract: One year, $1.75 million AAV

The Flyers look like they’re in trouble heading in to next season, but they still need NHL players to compete and help their young guys along. I wonder if Braun won’t be dealt to a contender at the deadline.

Erik Gustafsson, D, Washington
Contract: One year, $800,000 AAV

Near-league minimum D-men rarely buy you any kind of assurance that you’re going to get a useful player, but Gustafsson has proven to be that in the past. At just 30, he’s a worthwhile gamble down the lineup.

Brendan Smith, D, New Jersey
Contract: Two years, $1.1 million AAV

Last free agent day it seemed like every available decent D-man got $3 million per season for three years. Brendan Smith at $1.1. million for two years isn’t going to hurt the Devils (though I’m not sure it helps them a ton either).

Eric Comrie, G, Buffalo
Contract: Two years, $1.8 million AAV

There’s a case to be made that the lack of UFA goalies helped Comrie as much as anyone. He had a good run last year and parlayed that into legit NHL dollars, and he should get good opportunity in Buffalo.

Vladislav Namestnikov, C, Tampa Bay
Contract: One year, $2.5 million AAV

I like Namestnikov and TB getting back together for a season. Tampa lost a player they would’ve wanted to keep in Ondrej Palat, but at least they added a depth player who can chip in in a variety of ways, and who the coach obviously knows and likes.

Shane Wright, C, Seattle
Contract: Three years, $950,000 AAV (ELC)

Sometimes in pro sports you gotta get lucky. I think Seattle fell into a pile of four-leaf clovers at this year’s draft, I’m a Wright fan.

Nick Bjugstad, RW, Arizona
Contract: One year, $900,000 AAV

Arizona feels like the place people go for an opportunity in hopes of getting dealt to a contender at the deadline? It’s like a PTO, but for other teams?

Calvin Pickard, G, Edmonton
Contract: Two years, $762,500 AAV

If “goalies are voodoo,” and we’ve basically stopped trying to figure out who’s any good, at least you’re taking a swing for dirt cheap. If it works you get value in the second year, if not he can help out your farm team.

Troy Stecher, D, Arizona
Contract: One year, $1.25 million AAV

Stetcher had shown real upside a couple years back, so for that money he’s a nice add. I just cannot get excited about anything the Coyotes do right now, unfortunately.

Noel Acciari, LW, St. Louis
Contract: One year, $1.25 million AAV

Love this add for the Blues, Acciari is a guy who can be very effective down the lineup, and that’s a value contract. Great use of cap space here.

Charlie Lindgren, G, Washington
Contract: Three years, $1.1 million AAV

This is like the Eric Comrie situation to me. A lack of options led to a couple back-ups having elevated value, meaning you get a lot of years for Lindgren, but he is a reliable NHL goalie at this point, so it makes some sense.

David Perron, RW, Detroit
Contract: Two years, $4.75 million AAV

I love when rebuilding teams start trying to win hockey games, a thing that David Perron is particularly adept at helping teams do. Even if he’s gone before they truly turn the corner, he’s the type of all-in player you’d like to see your young talent learn from.

Jan Rutta, D, Pittsburgh
Contract: Three years, $2.75 million AAV

A good add for the Penguins, and speaks to just how good Tampa’s blueline has been for years that he hadn’t had a larger role. Pittsburgh is obviously in win-now mode, and Rutta has that big-game experience.

Colin White, C, Florida
Contract: One year, $1.2 million AAV

I like the idea of betting on guys who’ve shown great flashes early in their career. White obviously failed to live up to expectations, but at 25 and this cheap, he’s a no-brainer for the Panthers.

Louis Domingue, G, NY Rangers
Contract: Two years, $775,000 AAV

He didn’t hurt his cause by stepping in for the Penguins in the playoffs and doing a serviceable job. At that low-low cost, at least you get some great baking even if the goaltending doesn’t “pan” out?

Dominik Kubalik, LW, Detroit
Contract: Two years, $2.5 million AAV

Another good pick-up for Detroit, who seems to have recognized that with the middle-class squeeze going on around the league you can improve through UFA for no asset cost but cap space. Kubalik gives them more depth, which they sorely lacked.

Marc Staal, D, Florida
Contract: One year, $750,000 AAV

This is a nice story if Eric Staal – there on a PTO – can also make the team. But either way, league minimum for Marc Staal is a great gamble.

David Rittich, G, Winnipeg
Contract: One year, $900,000 AAV

Can he still play at an NHL level? Nobody’s sure, but for $900,000 it’s another one of those goalie deals where you’re paying minimum for a “maybe?” guy and just paying the extra juice here because he has league-wide experience.

Juraj Slafkovsky, W, Montreal
Contract: Three years, $950,000 AAV (ELC)

Hey, exciting times for the Canadiens. Pay the number one overall pick and off you go, it’ll be fun to watch the big kid develop.

Andre Burakovsky, LW, Seattle
Contract: Five years, $5.5 million AAV

This is a lot of money for a player who’s always been in a sort of depth forward, supporting scoring role, but hey: he has scored and supported two teams on to win Stanley Cups in that spot, so I get the man commanding some money. At only 27 I don’t mind the deal for Seattle, which desperately needs all the NHL talent it can get after a rocky opening campaign.

Nicolas Deslauriers, LW, Philadelphia
Contract: Four years, $1.75 million AAV

John Tortorella and four years for Nic Deslauriers, the Flyers have certainly staked out their plan going forward. I like Deslauriers, honestly, I just cannot understand why you ever go four years on any fourth liner in today’s NHL?

Oskar Lindblom, LW, San Jose
Contract: Two years, $2.5 million AAV

This is the type of bet the Sharks should be making. Lindblom is just 25 and obviously been through a lot (an understatement for someone who had cancer), so there’s the chance that a fresh start and good health results in some great play.

Ben Chiarot, D, Detroit
Contract: Four years, $4.75 million AAV

The analytics do not love Ben Chiarot, and going four years on a physical D-man getting into his 30s isn’t always prudent. But for the Wings, a team trying to get consistently competitive, I appreciate going a bit above market to get good players, so the ones you need to take a step can be in more games that matter.

Artturi Lehkonen, LW, Colorado
Contract: Five years, $4.5 million AAV

Bad news for NHL teams, good players cost money. Lehkonen has proven his value on consecutive Cup runs, and was a big part of how the Avs were able to shut down Tampa.

Erik Gudbranson, D, Columbus
Contract: Four years, $4 million AAV

This is an awful contract. He provides size and physical play, but there’s a reason CBJ will be his seventh team going back to the 2018-19 season, and it’s not because the rest of the league also views the player as a core piece.

Andreas Athanasiou, LW, Chicago
Contract: One year, $3 million AAV

Athanasiou seems like he’s going to be playing not for the Hawks to have success, but to earn his next deal. If he’s good enough, maybe Chicago pays to keep him, but this feels temporary from the jump.

Colin Blackwell, C, Chicago
Contract: Two years, $1.2 million AAV

Blackwell did well to ensure some nice paychecks, and is a really effective player who should help Chicago. He probably doesn’t move the needle in any significant way, so they can still keep Connor Bedard in their sights, but he’s a certified quality depth NHLer.

Jaroslav Halak, G, NY Rangers
Contract: One year, $1.55 million AAV

At this price Halak feels like the perfect Igor Shesterkin insurance. He’s been quality as a veteran guy handling the lighter workload the past few years.

Mason Marchment, LW, Dallas
Contract: Four years, $4.5 million AAV

Really cool to see Marchment’s rise from ECHL guy to NHL player worth $18 million. The problems for Dallas are that the sample size of his success wasn’t huge (50 games with great players on the Presidents’ Trophy champs), and that he’s injury prone, which makes getting value for that money tough to see.

Darren Helm, C, Colorado
Contract: One year, $1.25 million AAV

If the Avs are going to run it back, keeping veteran experience like Helm around cheap seems like a smart call. You know what you’re going to get from Helm, and that reliability is huge.

Brendan Lemieux, LW, Los Angeles
Contract: One year, $1.35 million AAV

At just a year, they should get a player who’s all the way bought in and working to prove his value. Lemieux can provide an edge the Kings need, and there’s very little risk here.

Darcy Kuemper, G, Washington
Contract: Five years, $5.25 million AAV

Something that gets lost in the great hunt for contract value is that getting good players – and namely, goalies – is tough to do. Adding recent Cup-winner Kuemper, a guy who’s had great numbers for years now, is a win for the Capitals (who benefitted from a market that left the goalie few options).

Max Domi, LW, Chicago
Contract: One year, $3 million AAV

This is a “prove it” deal for a guy who hasn’t been able to find the right fit despite his abilities. At one year – and during a rebuilding year no less – it’s no risk for Chicago, who can make their real decision after they see how he fits in.

Erik Cernak, D, Tampa Bay
Contract: Eight years, $5.2 million AAV

This seems like huge money, doesn’t it? But when you look at what good D-men get, Cernak has experience in huge minutes against the best competition and has proved himself a warrior, so at just age 25 this may end up being a value contract for the Lightning.

Brett Kulak, D, Edmonton
Contract: Four years, $2.75 million AAV

This is a great contract for the Oilers, one which they should love in all four years of the deal. Kulak is solid and reliable and at this cost, a great commitment.

Anthony Cirelli, C, Tampa Bay
Contract: Eight years, $6.25 million AAV

The Lightning are getting a centre who will be a perennial Selke Trophy candidate with piles of big game experience for ages 24-32 of his career for $6.25 million per. As the cap starts to creep up this is going to become a steal of a deal.

Mikhail Sergachev, D, Tampa Bay
Contract: Eight years, $8.5 million AAV

The bill has come due for the Lightning, who until now had some great players like Sergachev playing on the cheap. But this speaks to just how good and important he has become to Tampa’s D, on a deal that seems like fair value when you look at contract comparables.

Adam Gaudette, RW, Toronto
Contract: One year, $750,000 AAV

Gaudette had real upside, but lost his way for a bit. The Leafs mentioned he had lost a bunch of weight at one point and the player wasn’t sure why, but they’ve got to the root of it, and a fresh start might be just what he needs at age 25 to re-establish himself in the NHL.

Frank Vatrano, RW, Anaheim
Contract: Three years, $3.65 million AAV

Vatrano has one unique skill: he shoots the puck a lot, hard, and very often in the net. Even if the rest of his game can be a question mark, it’s tough to find players who can do that for cheap.

Ilya Mikheyev, RW, Vancouver
Contract: Four years, $4.75 million AAV

If he plays 82 games Ilya Mikheyev might score eight goals or 34 next season, it’s impossible to predict (which makes the cost a little scary). But the good news for the Canucks is he’s useful even when he isn’t scoring, and he plays with a pace and competitiveness the club can use.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW, Toronto
Contract: One year, $1 million AAV

The Leafs’ low-lineup bets in the past haven’t come with Stanley Cup rings or prime-aged years to give, but Aube-Kubel has both. For a million bucks, a depth winger who forechecks like crazy and brings energy is a nice add.

Ilya Lyubushkin, D, Buffalo
Contract: Two years, $2.75 million AAV

This is exactly the player the Buffalo Sabres needed at this point of their rebuild, even if he’s a bit more expensive than you’d like. He hits like a truck and seems to delight in doing so, which gives the Sabres another big player who’s going to make them not a ton of fun to play against over the next few years.

Andrew Copp, RW, Detroit
Contract: Five years, $5.625 million AAV

Copp is a versatile forward who can contribute offensively and play up and down your lineup. As the Red Wings transition to “trying to win,” he’s a great fit for a guy to help them as their ability to hang with the better teams increases.

Nick Leddy, D, St. Louis
Contract: Four years, $4 million AAV

This feels like a lot of money and term for a guy who’s … pretty good, at this point? But if you’ve gottta take this contract and it’s Gudbranson or Leddy, you’d rather have St. Louis’ much more fleet of foot option.

Curtis Lazar, C, Vancouver
Contract: Three years, $1 million AAV

The trade of job security for the hope of value is smart on both sides. Not a ton of risk here.

Robert Thomas, C, St. Louis
Contract: Eight years, $8.125 million AAV

Over a point per game last season at age 23 screams “pay this man before he costs more,” so I get why St. Louis locked him up. There’s some risk here for the Blues, based on the short track record, but the cap should start jumping back up in 2-3 years, meaning the back half of the deal – when he’s still not an old player – should look fine.

Kevin Rooney, C, Calgary
Contract: Two years, $1.3 million AAV

A pretty safe player who’s not overly dynamic, but should fit in with Darryl Sutter well. They’re certainly tailoring the roster to the coach.

Vincent Trocheck, C, NY Rangers
Contract: Seven years, $5.625 million AAV

This is wild, I don’t see why they had to go seven years to get Trocheck. He had 51 points in 81 games last year at age 29, and it’s tough to see him at the core of some great Rangers team in four or five years (so no, I don’t like this signing).

Ian Cole, D, Tampa Bay
Contract: One year, $3 million AAV

Bolts lost Rutta, and hoped to replace him on a deal with less dollars and term. Maybe a bit much money but for one season, it’s fine.

Ilya Samsonov, G, Toronto
Contract: One year, $1.8 million AAV

With the departure of Jack Campbell, gambling on a young goalie or two on the cheap was inevitable, and Samsonov might have been the best, obvious candidate out there. Given the other goalie deals, the dollars are cheap enough, meaning there’s little risk here.

Claude Giroux, RW, Ottawa
Contract: Three years, $6.5 million AAV

I think by law you have to like it when players prioritize home and their family like this. The Sens fans have deserved good news, and with the team making a commitment to getting better, it has already become a more desirable location to play, making something like this possible (the dollars are reasonable enough too, I should add).

Jack Campbell, G, Edmonton
Contract: Five years, $5 million AAV

This is something like mid-tier starting goaltender money, and I think the track record is long enough to believe it’s a reasonable UFA deal. I don’t think he’ll be the best goalie in the league, but if he’s the guy many think he is – someone you can at least trust to be a solid starter – then that’s worth a commitment like the one the Oilers made.

Victor Olofsson, RW, Buffalo
Contract: Two years, $4.75 million AAV

Scoring is at a premium, and this guy can do it, so the dollars are fine. What I wouldn’t like, if I were a Sabres fan, is that it walks him right to UFA, meaning decisions will have to be made on him over the next 18 months about whether he’s a part of the solution or not.

Josh Manson, D, Colorado
Contract: Four years, $4.5 million AAV

Manson isn’t a guy beloved by the numbers, but much like Ilya Lyubushkin, is a guy the eye test really loves. He’s physical and unfun to play against and gives the Avs a needed element on the back-end, even if his cost and term feel on the high-end here.

Evander Kane, LW, Edmonton
Contract: Four years, $5.125 million AAV

I just don’t think the market was there for Kane like he and his agent hoped, given the lack of teams willing to give term to a guy who’s had such a tumultuous past off the ice. He’s an $8- or $9-million hockey player when it comes to the playing of the hockey, the question here is only whether the Oilers gave him too much term, in that he won’t be as focused on proving he can be a good teammate with minimal issues off the ice.

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