Free-agency analysis: Breaking down Wednesday's signings and trades
Quick-hit analysis of important NHL signings and trades completed July 28.
Signing: Ducks sign forward Ryan Getzlaf to one-year deal
Analysis: After flirting with the idea of playing for another NHL club, the longtime Ducks captain decided to stay put. Getzlaf's new contract carries a $4.5-million cap hit, topping up the eight-year extension he inked back in 2013. At 36, he's not the player he used to be, yet at that price tag, and with a group of youngsters to mentor in Anaheim, the deal makes sense for both player and team. It's low-risk and high-reward, and there's a decent chance the Saskatchewan native gets flipped for future assets at the 2021-22 trade deadline. Everybody wins. To date, Getzlaf has accumulated 279 goals and 703 assists for 982 points in a franchise-record 1,011 games.
Signing: Canucks sign goalie Jaroslav Halak to one-year deal
Analysis: Not a bad piece of business from Canucks general manager Jim Benning. He was looking for a stable No. 2 behind starter Thatcher Demko and he found one in Halak, who of late has carved out a niche for himself despite being on the back nine of his career. Now, last year didn't go wonderfully for Halak behind Tuukka Rask in Boston, and it clearly hurt his stock on a crowded goalie market, bringing his cap hit down to $1.5 million. Still, his extensive track record speaks for itself. Meanwhile, Braden Holtby, whom the Canucks bought out on Wednesday, signed a one-year deal with the Stars.
Signing: Sharks sign forward Nick Bonino to two-year deal
Analysis: A quick look at San Jose's depth chart makes it easy to connect the dots here: The club needs centers beyond Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, and Bonino should slot in at 3C. The 33-year-old is a two-way pivot, a rare commodity in this particular UFA class. He's going to earn $2.05 million a year - a fair rate for a guy who's won two Cups but is ultimately a support player, even on a lowly team like the Sharks.
Signing: Devils sign defenseman Dougie Hamilton to seven-year deal
Analysis: This is a grand slam for New Jersey GM Tom Fitzgerald. Hamilton, whose massive deal carries a $9-million cap hit, is an elite, top-tier defenseman who should be in the Norris Trophy conversation for the foreseeable future. Throw him into the mix with centers Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, premier forward prospect Alexander Holtz, 24-year-old starting goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, and up-and-coming defensemen Ty Smith and Luke Hughes, and you've got the makings of a tantalizing core. Hamilton, 28, tilts the ice during even-strength action, and he can quarterback the top unit of a power play. He had the pick of the litter as the 2021 UFA class' headliner, and he chose the upstart Devils. It's his fourth NHL team after stops in Boston, Calgary, and Carolina.
Signing: Red Wings sign forward Pius Suter to two-year deal
Analysis: Landing in Detroit raises questions about how Suter will look without Patrick Kane. With the Blackhawks this past season, Suter put up 14 goals and 13 assists in 55 games as a rookie while riding shotgun to Kane. He's a 25-year-old late bloomer who played professionally in Switzerland for six years before coming over to North America. Suter will be paid $3.25 million a year on his new contract, a hefty raise from $925,000. The Wings sure could use his scoring touch.
Signing: Canadiens sign forward Mike Hoffman to three-year deal
Analysis: Hoffman's basically a one-dimensional player, but the one thing he does extremely well is score goals. That makes him valuable to all 32 teams and especially a goal-starved squad like Montreal. The Canadiens overcommitted on term here, no doubt. As we've seen elsewhere today, though, players are clearly looking for stability, so interested GMs are forced to pony up or miss out. Hoffman, who'll make $4.5 million per season, is sneakily tied for 38th among all NHLers in goals since 2012-13. He has a terrifying wrist shot and could be a nice fit alongside pivot Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
Signing: Lightning re-sign forward Brayden Point to eight-year deal
Analysis: After this extension, Point is under Lightning control until 2030, and, as strange it may sound, that's awesome, even at a $9.5-million cap hit. Point, who's in his prime right now, should be well worth the monetary commitment of this deal, which mirrors teammate Nikita Kucherov's 2018 contract in term and money. Point does it all: scores clutch goals, can assume the shutdown center role, performs an integral role on a deadly power play - the list goes on. The 2014 third-rounder was an essential contributor to Tampa Bay's back-to-back championships and will be counted on to reach even greater heights. Bolts fans are smiling extra big today.
Signing: Maple Leafs sign goalie Petr Mrazek to three-year deal
Analysis: The Leafs and Canes ended up swapping goalies Wednesday and, at first glance, Toronto appears to have made out quite well. The goalie carousel was turning quickly and Mrazek, with his medium term and $3.8-million cap hit, is a sensible match for the Leafs. He's quite familiar with splitting the goaltending load fairly evenly and will likely continue to do so with Jack Campbell, who remains a relatively inexperienced NHL starter after breaking out last year. The question with Mrazek is how the 29-year-old might fare outside of Carolina's insulating defensive structure. Toronto cleaned up its act defensively in 2020-21, so that's encouraging for the Czech, but you just never know with fringe starters who are entering new environments.
Signings: Hurricanes sign defensemen Tony DeAngelo and Ian Cole to one-year deals
Analysis: What a contrast in these two signings as Carolina continues to turn over its blue-line personnel. The offensive-minded DeAngelo gets a second chance after the Rangers bought him out for getting into a physical altercation with a teammate and expressing extreme views on social media about COVID-19 and politics. That's a tough sell to the fan base. Then there's the defensive-minded Cole, who's known league-wide as one of the true "good guys" in the sport. That's an easy sell. If I was GM of the Hurricanes, I know I'd be signing one but not the other. In terms of money, DeAngelo, 25, is getting $1 million, while Cole, 32, is now a $2.9-million player.
Trade: Senators trade forward Evgenii Dadonov to the Golden Knights for defenseman Nick Holden and a third-round pick in 2022
Analysis: Dadonov, who has two years left on a contract paying him $5 million per season, drives play at even strength and has a bullet of a shot. He addresses a need for Vegas as a goal-scorer and could be a complementary piece within the club's top-six forward group. The package going to Ottawa isn't anything special - Holden is ultimately expendable and a third-round pick is a lottery ticket - so this is a win for the Golden Knights. Vegas is so determined to win a Cup with its current core that any roster upgrade that doesn't sacrifice significant future assets is probably worth the plunge. As for the Senators, moving on from Dadonov is no biggie as the rebuild continues.
Signing: Predators re-sign forward Mikael Granlund to four-year deal
Analysis: This is an odd signing for a franchise that's going through an identity crisis. What are the Predators accomplishing by locking up a middle-six winger at a $5-million cap hit while they retool? Put another way, GM David Poile's got too many hefty contracts on the books already, so why handcuff himself even more? Granlund had two 60-point seasons a few years ago, but his rate of production has declined since arriving in Nashville in 2019. He's receiving a raise from $3.75 million in 2020-21.
Signing: Kraken sign goalie Philipp Grubauer to six-year deal
Analysis: Move over, Chris Driedger, you're now 1B in Seattle. Yup, Grubauer immediately supplants him, though there's no doubt this will be a tandem setup. Based on how Seattle is currently built, the goalies should be well-supported defensively, which is promising for the goalies and also an excited fan base. Grubauer's contract, which carries a $5.9-million cap hit, is a gamble due to the term, as he'll turn 30 in November. Goalie performance is volatile, and while Grubauer finished third in Vezina Trophy voting in 2020-21, he still hasn't played more than 40 games in a single season. The transaction, as a whole, deserves a B- grade. The biggest takeaway? If it wasn't obvious before, Seattle definitely isn't tanking for high draft picks in its inaugural season. The Kraken want to win.
Signing: Kraken sign forward Jaden Schwartz to five-year deal
Analysis: Finally, Seattle has an offensive catalyst. GM Ron Francis hoarded defensive-minded forwards during the expansion draft, but in Schwartz, he brings in a proven producer who is also solid defensively. Schwartz, who spent a decade with the Blues and won a Stanley Cup in 2019, has a career points-per-game average of 0.69. There's a comfy spot for the 29-year-old left winger on the Kraken's top line and first-unit power play. The new contract doesn't have an outrageous cap hit, either, at a middle-class $5.5 million. There's also a chance Schwartz's totals will balloon as he takes on a larger role. This deal has little downside.
Signing: Kings sign forward Phillip Danault to six-year deal
Analysis: Anze Kopitar, Quinton Byfield, and Danault: How's that for a 1-2-3 punch down the middle for at least the next three years? Look out, Pacific Division - if not this year, then in 2022-23, especially when you factor in other blue-chip prospects who are ripening in the Kings' system. As for 28-year-old Danault, he's one of the best defensive centers in the league, as he showed this past postseason in battling offensive stars on Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vegas. The term on his new contract isn't ideal for Kings GM Rob Blake, but that's the reality of the situation when Danault is such a hot commodity, and the cap hit is still a reasonable $5.5 million. I really like this addition.
Signing: Blackhawks sign defenseman Jake McCabe to four-year deal
Analysis: Considering the Blackhawks are pushing hard to compete in 2021-22, this is a crafty acquisition by GM Stan Bowman. McCabe, who's just 27, has flown under the radar for years as a shutdown defenseman on the woeful Sabres, and the $4-million cap hit on his new contract is palatable. Will McCabe be matched with fellow import Seth Jones on the top pair? At minimum, it will be interesting to see how McCabe adjusts to a different playing environment. He is coming off surgery after tearing his ACL, so there's danger baked into Chicago's commitment. Then again, Bowman has been aggressive this offseason, and McCabe's situation is par for the course.
Signings: Hurricanes sign goalies Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta to two-year deals
Analysis: So this is why Hurricanes GM Don Waddell was OK with casually trading away Calder Trophy finalist Alex Nedeljkovic for a third-round pick. By adding Andersen and Raanta on multi-year deals (at cap hits of $4.5 million and $2 million, respectively), the Canes can call upon two goalies - similar to the outgoing James Reimer-Petr Mrazek tandem but with a higher ceiling. Both of the new deals carry risk; Andersen, 31, is coming off a down year filled with health concerns, and Raanta, 32, is seemingly always battling injuries. But both netminders have proven they can be above-average NHL starters. And that's really all Carolina should need as a club that tends to outduel the opposition in regards to shot attempts, shots on goal, and scoring chances.
Trade: Oilers trade defenseman Ethan Bear to the Hurricanes for forward Warren Foegele
Analysis: The first player-for-player trade of the day is a classic case of GMs exchanging depth players in their mid-20s to address glaring needs. For Carolina, that means adding to a defense corps that recently lost Jake Bean and is presumably losing UFA Dougie Hamilton soon. Meanwhile, Edmonton bolsters a forward group that has sorely lacked legitimate talent in its bottom six for the past few years. Bear will be a third-pairing defenseman for the Hurricanes and Foegele will be a third- or fourth-line winger and penalty killer for the Oilers. What's left to be determined is the cap-hit differential, since Bear is set to make $2 million on an expiring deal and Foegele is an RFA with arbitration rights. At any rate, this is a logical swap on all fronts.
Signing: Devils sign goalie Jonathan Bernier to a two-year deal
Analysis: This contract is for Bernier, of course, but also Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey's starter of the present and future. Bernier, who gets a nice piece of the pie at $4.125 million annually thanks to the club's abundance of cap space, will be a great mentor to Blackwood. It'll be fascinating to see how the team splits the workload with the Devils paying two NHL starters. (GM Tom Fitzgerald has quietly added value to his rebuilding squad this summer with this transaction, a well-received showing at the NHL draft, and the acquisition of defenseman Ryan Graves.)
Signing: Kraken sign forward Alexander Wennberg to a three-year deal
Analysis: This is a bit of a head-scratcher. The Kraken were careful to avoid bad-value contracts in the expansion draft, yet Wennberg at $4.5 million per year doesn't inspire a ton of confidence. The 6-foot-2 Swede has been traditionally deployed as a bottom-six center. He scored a career-high 17 goals in 56 games for the Panthers last season, but he did it on a career-high 20.7 shooting percentage, suggesting the jolt in production was a one-off. There's nothing wrong with the player, or the term, really - it's just the price tag that's iffy. Perhaps Seattle sees serious potential in giving Wennberg a bigger role?
Signing: Flyers sign defenseman Keith Yandle to a one-year deal
Analysis: Honestly, nothing to dislike here. The Flyers get a third-pairing defenseman who can help run a power-play unit for just $900,000. There's no long-term commitment, which is nice because Yandle is 35 and fresh off a performance-based buyout from the Panthers. He can be a liability defensively, so there's a not-insignificant risk of giving Yandle too much ice time. Something to watch for in the fall: Yandle has played 922 consecutive NHL games, which is 42 shy of Doug Jarvis' all-time record.
Signing: Canadiens sign defenseman David Savard to a four-year deal
Analysis: Montreal GM Marc Bergevin is doubling down on the club's identity by snagging Savard, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound defenseman. This past postseason, the Canadiens' top four featured nothing but giants in Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Joel Edmundson, and Ben Chiarot. With Weber's NHL future in jeopardy, Savard, who's set to earn $3.5 million annually, provides insurance on the right side. The contract could be shorter and cheaper but it isn't a gross overpayment. Savard will be tasked with blocking shots and clearing bodies from the front of the net like he did last year for Columbus and Tampa Bay.
Signing: Blue Jackets re-sign forward Patrik Laine to a one-year deal
Analysis: This situation will be interesting to monitor. Laine, who scored only 10 goals in 45 games last year, accepted his qualifying offer from Columbus, giving him a $7.5-million paycheck and cap hit in 2021-22. Will the Finnish sniper jell with Jakub Voracek, the team's newly acquired playmaking center? Does he stay the entire season and put butts in seats for a poor squad, or will he be shipped out shortly after his goal-scoring returns to normal levels? There doesn't seem to be a long-term fit between Laine and Columbus. However, this extension certainly leaves the door open.
Signing: Flames sign forward Blake Coleman to a six-year deal
Analysis: Oh boy, this is bittersweet if you're a Flames fan. On one hand, Coleman is a goal-scoring winger who's reliable defensively. He's the perfect player to move up and down the lineup. You want him on your team. On the other hand, both the term and the $4.9-million cap hit of his new contract are scary. Coleman turns 30 in November, and the chances of his best days being ahead are slim. Is Calgary GM Brad Treliving rewarding Coleman for what he's done in the recent past - namely, being a key piece on the back-to-back champion Lightning? It sure looks like it. The deal stacks up from a market perspective, though, since Coleman's former linemate Barclay Goodrow recently received $3.6 million annually over six years from the Rangers. While Treliving is gambling here, there are worse gambles given Coleman's resume and utility within the Flames' forward group.
Signing: Hurricanes re-sign forward Jordan Martinook to a three-year deal
Analysis: There were rumors Martinook was looking forward to testing the free-agent market, so re-upping with the Hurricanes this early in the day counts as a minor surprise; minor, not major, since over the past few years he's been such an essential part of the culture in Carolina. Martinook, 29, is a rah-rah bottom-six winger who'll make $1.8 million annually on his new contract. He kills penalties, isn't afraid to issue a heavy hit on the forecheck, and, if necessary, will drop the gloves. With so much turnover on the Canes, inking a glue guy like Martinook to a reasonable deal is smart.
Signing: Stars sign defenseman Ryan Suter to a four-year deal
Analysis: The stink's fresh on Suter since he was bought out by the Wild just two weeks ago, but there's still plenty of good hockey left in the 36-year-old workhorse. Four years of good hockey? That's a stretch. But in the first half of Suter's new contract, which carries a manageable $3.65-million cap hit, he should be a strong second-pairing defenseman for Dallas. The club's blue line runs through Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg, so Suter won't be counted on to rediscover his peak performance from when he was considered a top-10 player at the position. He's basically being asked to replace Jamie Oleksiak, who was selected and signed by the Kraken.
Signing: Oilers re-sign defenseman Tyson Barrie to a three-year deal
Analysis: This extension has serious "why not?" vibes. Barrie led all NHL defensemen in scoring in 2020-21 with 48 points in 56 games. He fits in well in Edmonton as a slick-skating D-man who can consistently distribute the puck to the team's fast, skilled forwards. There are questions about what Oilers management is doing with the blue-line corps, in general, but that's a separate conversation. Barrie gets a pay bump to $4.5 million from $3.75 million last year, and the term isn't onerous. It looks like the 30-year-old has found a home after signing with the Oilers last offseason following a poor stint in Toronto.
Signing: Oilers sign forward Zach Hyman to a seven-year deal
Analysis: Connor McDavid, meet your new puck retriever and defensive safety valve. For years, Hyman played a similar role in Toronto alongside superstar center Auston Matthews. There's no reason to believe he can't do the same for the Oilers. Hyman's home-run contract, which carries a $5.5-million cap hit, should be fine in the short term. It's dicey over the long term, however, given the Toronto native is already 29 years old and has dealt with significant injuries. That said, GM Ken Holland needs to start surrounding McDavid and former MVP Leon Draisaitl with better support on the wing, and this kind of commitment is the price. Hyman, a well-liked teammate, also has some scoring touch and is an effective penalty killer. Oilers fans should be pleased.
Trade: Blackhawks trade defenseman Nikita Zadorov to the Flames for a third-round draft pick in 2022
Analysis: Did Calgary just acquire its Mark Giordano replacement? Zadorov isn't the same caliber of defenseman as the former Flames captain; however, he is a left shot who can occupy a spot in the top four. Zadorov, 26, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, and after a flurry of roster moves, Chicago simply didn't have enough cap space to re-sign him. This is a praise-worthy pounce job by Treliving. A third-rounder isn't much to pay for a physical, 6-foot-6 blue-liner who should complement righty Rasmus Andersson on the second pair. Zadorov, for what it's worth, is coming off a one-year, $3.2-million deal. Calgary is the Russian's fourth NHL team.
Signing: Red Wings re-sign forward Sam Gagner to a one-year deal
Analysis: A low-risk, low-reward transaction. Detroit brings back a veteran who put up 15 points in 42 games last season and is due to make $850,000. At this point in his career, Gagner is a fourth-line forward capable of helping out on the power play. He averaged 15:26 of ice time in 2020-21 and he brings some intangible benefits, as the soon-to-be 32-year-old has built a strong reputation as a mentor. This will be Gagner's third year with the Wings.
Signing: Golden Knights re-sign defenseman Alec Martinez to a three-year deal
Analysis: Tidy piece of business by Vegas, a team firmly in win-now mode. Martinez, who will earn $5.25 million per year through 2023-24 on the new contract, would have been a sought-after UFA defenseman if he had hit the market. Locking him up keeps Shea Theodore, Martinez's defensive partner and the club's top blue-liner, happy. Martinez, 34, has a fantastic shot, including a lethal one-timer that was on full display this past postseason. The former King was acquired by the Golden Knights in a 2020 trade with Los Angeles and has really hit his stride on a squad that values big, mobile D-men.
John Matisz is theScore's senior NHL writer.