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A look into the biggest deals from Day 1 of NHL Free Agency

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Photo credit:Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
8 days ago
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To say it was a busy opening day of free agency would be an understatement. Per CapFriendly, the league saw 190 contracts signed, worth 398 years, and $1,216,580,000 billion spent by league owners. Of Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli’s top 75 free agent board, 59 of those players signed, leaving very little parody for the coming weeks until training camp starts in September.
 
However, some notable restricted free agents are still yet to sign: Carolina Hurricanes forwards Martin Necas, Seth Jarvis, and Jack Drury; a trio of Detroit Red Wings Lucas Raymond, Moritz Seider, and Joe Veleno; and Columbus Blue Jackets Kirill Marchenko Cole Sillinger and Kent Johnson. A pair of Seattle Kraken forwards, Matty Beniers and Eeli Tolvanen, and New York Rangers defencemen Ryan Lindgren and Braden Schneider. And high-end talent such as Quinton Byfield, Thomas Harley, Cole Perfetti, and Dawson Mercer.
Could we see a team offer sheet these young stars?
The top remaining free agents available are forwards Joe Pavelski, Vladimir Tarasenko, Daniel Sprong, James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Johnson, Jack Roslovic, Cam Atkinson, and Max Pacioretty, defencemen Justin Schultz, Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan Suter, Adam Boqvist, Calen Addison, Tyson Barrie, Nate Schmidt, P-O Joseph and Tony DeAngelo and goaltenders Anti Raanta, Martin Jones, Akira Schmid, Kevin Lankinen and Ivan Prosvetov.
Let’s take a look around the league and see what happened in Free Agency.

Nashville Predators

It seems like the Predators learned something from their opening round against the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup playoffs; that they couldn’t score. Well, they fixed that issue. Nashville signed forwards Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Marchessault.
Despite his age of 34, Stamkos’s production hasn’t slowed down. He’s coming off a 40-goal, 81-point season last year and has scored 116 goals and 271 points in 241 games over his previous three seasons.
However, he signed a four-year contract at $8 million per season. While still very productive, the production might be a bit overstated by the help of special teams. Last season, 19 goals and 39 points came on the powerplay, resulting in just 53% of his points coming at 5-on-5. Now, what looks to be lesser linemates – as it’s hard to find a better duo than Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov – with the fact he’s changing teams for the first time in his 16-year career, the contract doesn’t project to age well.
Marchessault signed for five years at $5.5 million annually, which was one of the best contracts signed on July 1st. The 33-year-old scored a career-high 42 goals, and his 69 points were good for the second of his career. After a very busy trade deadline last season, the Vegas Golden Knights added too much money to be able to retain one of the original misfits. The club added Noah Hanifin and Tomas Hertl, to who they’re now paying $14.1 million.
The 2023 Conn Smythe winner had some choice words after his former club did not re-sign him: “I don’t think they tried their best to keep me.” And it’s hard not to side with the player on this one. Marchessault’s tenure with the Golden Knights speaks for itself. Heading into free agency, Vegas had $4.46 million in projected cap space, and Marchessault signed for only $1 million more. One would imagine it wouldn’t have necessarily been difficult to move that minuscule money out the door to retain the franchise-leading scorer.
The Predators weren’t done there. Nashville bolstered its blue line by signing defenceman Brady Skjei to a seven-year contract at $7 million annually. The former Carolina Hurricane had a career year last season, scoring 13 goals and 47 points and finishing with a plus-16 rating.
I’ll be honest: when I first saw this deal, I thought it was going to be one of the worst contracts signed on the day – before the Seattle Kraken joined the party, but we’ll get to that later. Not because Skjei is a bad player or anything; he’s a great top-four defenceman. However, $7 million over seven years is a lot for a 30-year-old who’s never averaged more than 21 minutes per night. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’ll be a great compliment alongside Roman Josi; it might just be a tough contract to move if he declines halfway through it.
Here are the updated lines for the Nashville Predators after their moves.

Seattle Kraken

Oh boy. The Kraken had a tough day. While they did get better immediately, Seattle definitely paid a premium on its free agents. Seattle signed forward Chandler Stephenson and Brandon Montour to seven-year deals.
Stephenson accrues $6.25 million per year, a massive raise over the past $2.75 million contract he signed with the Golden Knights in 2020. The 30-year-old forward has scored 50+ points in three straight seasons, scoring 53 goals and 180 points in 235 games. Stephenson gained instant chemistry with Mark Stone, but was he too reliant on him? The hockey world saw him struggle to produce on the multiple occasions when Stone was out due to injury.
Albeit, doesn’t Stephenson seem like the perfect Kraken? A prototypical middle six forward going to a team full of middle six forwards? Stephenson becomes the highest-paid forward on the Kraken payroll, and that should say enough about that contract for the Kraken that pays him until he’s 37.
Montour earns $7.14 million per season, and this is another deal that doesn’t project to age well. The 30-year-old defenceman popped off in the 2022-2023 season, finishing with 16 goals and 73 points in 80 games, cementing himself as the Florida Panthers top offensive defenceman. However, an injury sustained in the Stanley Cup final last season held Montour out until November 17th of this season, resulting in him playing just 66 games with 33 points.
Was that season just a one-hit-wonder? Throughout the rest of nine seasons, Montour’s career high was 37 points. Can he repeat the success from two seasons ago now that he projects to be paired with another offensive defenceman, Vince Dunn? The Kraken might have been a loser on free-agent day.
Those are the three teams I wanted to highlight as some of the biggest winners and losers, but here are some more thoughts on how the day went:
New Jersey Devils defence
Do the Devils now have the deepest defence corps now? After signing Brett Pesce (6 x $5.5M) and Brenden Dillon (3 x $4M) to add to Dougie Hamilton, Joonas Siegenthaler, Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec, they very possibly could be.
Carolina Hurricanes set to regress?
The Hurricanes got absolutely picked apart on July 1st. Not only did they lose out on their trade deadline acquisition and quite possibly the biggest forward on the market, Jake Guentzel, but they also lost two of their top four defencemen. Luckily, they retained Jordan Martinook, but that’s about it.
They lost Pesce and Skjei, only to replace them with Sean Walker and Shayne Gostisbehere on the defensive side. Stefan Noesen left for New Jersey, and they replaced him with Will Carrier. Not only that, but they still have to sign restricted free agent Seth Jarvis and try to convince Martin Necas to rescind his trade request. Carolina’s window may be closing and closing fast.
The Edmonton Oilers just got scarier offensively
The Oilers made some great, cheap signings to round out some forward depth to what was already one of the league’s highest-flying offences. Edmonton added Jeff Skinner (1 x $3M), Viktor Arvidsson (2 x $4M) and retained Adam Henrique (2 x $3M), Connor Brown (1 x $1M) and Mattias Janmark (3 x $1.45M). The only subtraction from the Oilers was a Jack Campbell buyout Warren Foegele and Vincent Desharnais, who became expendable once Philip Broberg stepped onto the seam during the playoffs.
Buyers remores for the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs?
The Bruins and Maple Leafs might have saved the Canucks from some terrible contracts.
The Bruins signed two former Canucks, Elias Lindholm and Nikita Zadorov, to some big deals. Lindholm, 30, got a seven-year, $7.75M deal, while Zadorov signed a six-year, $5M contract. After Lindholm’s struggles this season, that’s a hefty price to pay for his services. Sure, he’s a great defensive forward, and maybe the team is targeting a resurgence, but for a defensive first-forward, that might not age well into his 35+ years on. Zadorov, 29, was a beloved member of the Canucks playoff run. But he’s only been a bottom-pairing defenceman throughout his career and has yet to eclipse 22 points in a season. The physical side of his game stands out, but that tends to trend down with age. We’ll see how that contract looks in his age, 34 and 35 years.
The Maple Leafs signed potential Canucks defensive target Chris Tanev. Like Zadorov, he’s a beloved member of the Canucks franchise, but to sign a 34-year-old to a six-year contract worth $4.5M is a landmine I’m glad to see the club miss out on. Tanev still has a ton of game left and will no doubt be a great compliment to Morgan Rielly on the Leafs’ top pairing, but his specialty is blocking shots. How much longer can that body hold? Into year 40? Unlikely.
The Chicago Blackhawks surround Connor Bedard with talent, finally
While the Blackhawks didn’t necessarily land one of the top UFAs on the market, they did a solid job to help their phenom, Bedard, some help. The club signed forwards Tuevo Teravainen (3 x $5.4M), Tyler Bertuzzi (4 x $5.5M), Patrick Maroon (1 x $1.3M), Craig Smith (1 x$1M), brought in veteran defencemen Alec Martinez (1 x $4M) and T.J. Brodie (2 x $3.75M) and goaltender Laurent Brossoit (2 x $3.3M).
Now, these contracts come at a higher cost than they were to go to a contender, but that’s expected to entice players to come to a rebuilding franchise. The Blackhawks had $23.5M to spend heading into free agency, and it’s a positive sign to see them put an emphasis on helping their franchise cornerstone, Bedard.
What the h-e-double hockey sticks is going on with the Yzer-plan?
I’m just so confused.
The Detroit Red Wings looked primed to make a splash this free agency when they cleared cap space by sending Jake Walman and a second-round pick to the San Jose Sharks. However, that splash was signing the 35-year-old Patrick Kane to a one-year $4M deal. Detroit also added depth pieces in Christian Fischer (1 x $1.125M), Tyler Motte (1 x $800K), and Erik Gustafsson (2 x $2M), but none of those guys really move the needle. The Red Wings also made some questionable decisions in goal as they signed Cam Talbot (2 x $2.5M) and Jack Campbell (1 x $775K) to a goaltending room that already had Ville Husso and Alex Lyon.
With just over $20 million remaining, they still need to extend restricted free agents Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider. After that, it looks like they’ll be running back a very similar squad that has failed to make the playoffs in the last eight seasons.
 

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