As it is now the third week of July trades and free agent signings are slowly coming to an end. Free agency started almost 2 weeks ago, it is now the end of big money signings and teams are now becoming frugal with where they are going to eat up their remaining cap space. Any incoming deals now will be inexpensive and cost effective.
All teams are aiming to be better while some a looking to open up cap space. Two weeks out from free agency is a good time to assess where teams stand in the off season.
WINNER- The Dallas Stars
Last season was unlucky for Dallas. They were unlucky with injuries and had a goaltending combo that became one of the worst in the league. This past week they locked up long time Tampa Bay goalie, Ben Bishop. But is Bishop the answer to their problems? When going by save percentage the answer is yes. He’s been a lot better than Antti Niemi over the past few seasons – but it’s always important to remember that Dallas is where goalie careers go to die. There are no guarantees with goalies, but with new coach, Ken Hitchcock the defense should get tighter. The signing of Marc Methot should help as well.
WINNER – General Managers
Perhaps it was the fact they faced a lackluster free agent class or that so many teams have no wiggle room against the cap, but the most shocking story to come out of July 1 was that so few GMs lost their minds. After the first 5 hours of day 1, TSN had reported that there had been 83 signings worth $248 million, which is significantly less in terms of dollar value from past offseasons. It was interesting to see so many teams back off and hold out on not only the money but term.
WINNER – The New York Rangers
In the past, the Rangers were constantly handing out big money contracts to players who already expressed their intent on coming to the big apple. That could have happened again this year, but it did not. As a result, the Rangers got the one everyone was after without breaking the bank. Kevin Shattenkirk for four years at $6.65 million is an outstanding deal for the Rangers and it doesn’t compromise their ability to build their team going forward. Losing Antti Raanta to ARI was a blow but with Kevin Klein recently announcing his retirement it frees up about 3 million in cap space and allows the Rangers to spend that money elsewhere to lock up a first line center and continue to improve the defense.
LOSERS- Pittsburgh Penguins
As is tradition, the Cup champs get worse. That’s just the way things are in a hard-cap league. The players Pittsburgh lost were expected, it’s the players they added that are a bit shocking. The big shock was adding Ryan Reaves and losing a first round pick to make it happen. Then there’s the loss and replacement of Marc-Andre Fleury. Like said before, Antti Niemi has been one of the worst goalies in the league for the last two seasons. Give Niemi 20 starts next season and he will probably cost Pittsburgh a couple points in the standings. Their moves were questionable, but the ironic and great thing about Pitt is that none of this really matters. When at their best, no other team is even close to Pittsburgh’s level.
LOSERS- Aging Leauge Veterans
Jaromir Jagr still has a couple goals left in him – although I wonder about his age affecting his ability to keep up with the younger guys around the league. He is without a team and a contract, which to me, seems a little weird. It seemed logical he would have kept signing one-year deals with Florida or any team for that matter until both sides decided it was time to stop. Well, one side made that decision and it was the Florida Panthers. I hope a team decides to pick him up, even if for just one season.
Everywhere I look,I read:all FA getting calls from10-12teams. Me0 calls.On the contrary,I'm trying to call them,and no ones picking up.????
— Jaromir Jagr (@68Jagr) June 29, 2017
LOSER – The Metro Division
In 2016-17, the Metropolitan Division was in its prime. The Washington Capitals got their second straight Presidents’ Trophy, and the Metro had three teams sitting in the top four spots in the NHL standings. The Capitals were able to keep T.J. Oshie and re-sign Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov, but they lost Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson, Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk. The back to back Stanley Cup-winning Penguins had to say goodbye to Nick Bonino and Chris Kunitz as well as Ron Hainsey, Trevor Daley and Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes. Expect to see changes around the league next season now that Metro talent has spread out to other teams.