Hockey

Hockey, NHL Free Agency Day One

All Quiet in NY as NHL Free Agent Frenzy Gets Underway By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

“Z…Z…Z…z…z…z…z…z…z…z…z…z…z.” If you’re a NY Hockey fan, that’s the sound you heard during the first day of the NHL’s annual Free Agent Frenzy. 

Now, that’s a little misleading, as the Rangers made three low-key signings after the market opened Wednesday at 12pm(EST). Of course, the Blueshirts weren’t expected to be major players in the free agent market. The trade market, now that’s a different story. But we’ll get to that.

On Day One of Free Agency the Seventh Avenue Skaters signed 29-year-old defenseman Patrik Nemeth to a three-year/$7.5M deal ($2.5M AAV). Nemeth split last season between Detroit and Colorado while averaging 18:01 TOI. He’s a textbook stay at home defenseman who has a little edge to his game. Basically, he’s taking Brendan Smith’s spot on the roster, minus the ability to fill-in as a forward. 

Nemeth is ticketed for the third-pair and will be relied upon to help break Nils Lundkvist into the NHL; assuming Lundvist makes the Opening Night roster. Lundkvist’s primary competition is likely to be Zac Jones, who had a cup of coffee with the Blueshirts last season. In that battle, Lundkvist is the favorite. 

The other Rangers free agent signings were: 29-year-old defenseman Jarred Tinordi (two-years/$1.8M; $900K AAV); 29-year-old forward Greg McKegg (one-year, two-way contract worth $750K) and 25-year-old forward Dryden Hunt (two-year, two-way contract worth $1.525M; $762,500 AAV).

Tinordi is a depth signing and should serve as the seventh defenseman for the Blueshirts. McKegg is in his second tour of duty with the Rangers and will likely compete for a spot on the fourth-line. Meanwhile, Hunt could compete for a roster spot, but will likely see time in Hartford. 

Chris Drury’s mission is to make the Rangers harder to play against by acquiring grittier, “sandpaper type” players for the team’s roster. So far, he’s following his plan, while also continuing to monitor the Jack Eichel trade market. 

Buffalo likely overplayed its hand by having sky-high demands and not getting a deal done by the draft. Now that the draft is in the rearview mirror, the Sabres have seen a dropoff in teams inquiring about Eichel and will likely have to accept a slightly lesser deal at this point if the goal remains to move on from their disgruntled Captain. 

As for the Islanders, Lou Lamoriello keeps everything as close to the vest as possible. There’s speculation he has deals already done with Kyle Palmieri and Zach Parise. But nobody outside of Lamoriello and those players knows for sure. Casey Cizikas is in talks to remain with the Islanders, but there’s no news as to where those talks stand. Essentially, no news is good news when it comes to the Islanders at this point.

However, on Tuesday night, roughly 12-hours before the market opened, a player who was thought to be on the Isles’ radar, Gabriel Landeskog, chose to re-sign with the Avalanche for eight-years at $56M ($7M AAV). With Landeskog avoiding the open market, the Isles need to look elsewhere for an impact player.

They won’t find it in Alex Ovechkin, who re-signed with the Capitals on Tuesday night — no surprise — for five-years and $47.5M ($9M AAV). His new deal allows Ovechkin to continue his chase for Wayne Gretzky’s All-Time goal scoring record (894). If Ovechkin averages 33-goals per year for five-years he’ll catch Gretzky. But that’s a story for another day. 

Other notable contracts signed by Free Agents are:

1) Conor Garland (forward): Vancouver signed him to a five-year/$24.75M ($4.95M AAV) deal on Tuesday after acquiring Garland in a Draft Day trade.

2) Pavel Buchnevich (forward): St. Louis signed him to a four-year/$23.2M ($5.8M AAV) contract on Tuesday after getting him from the Rangers on Draft Day.

3) Mike Reilly (defense): Boston signed him to a three-year/$9M ($3M AAV) deal before the market opened.

4) Alec Martinez (defense): Vegas retained him with a three-year/$15.75M ($5.25M AAV) contract when the market opened on Wednesday. 

5) Zach Hyman (forward): Edmonton bolstered it’s offense by signing him to a seven-year/$38.5M ($5.5M AAV) deal.

6) Alexander Wennberg (forward): Seattle made a splash signing him to a three-year/$13.5M ($4.5M AAV) contract.

7) Phillip Danault (forward): Los Angeles likely overpaid by giving him a six-year/$33M ($5.5M AAV) deal.

8) Nick Foligno (forward): Boston signed him to a two-year/$7.6M ($3.8M AAV) deal.

9) Blake Coleman (forward): Calgary shocked the NHL world by giving him a six-year/$29.4M ($4.9M AAV) contract.

10) Philipp Grubauer (goalie): Seattle pried him from Colorado with a six-year/$35.4M ($5.9M AAV) contract.

11) Dougie Hamilton (defense): New Jersey, after word initially leaked about the deal, delayed announcing the seven-year/$63M ($9M AAV) deal for an unknown reason, but eventually made things official.

12) Ryan Suter (defense): After being bought out by Minnesota, the 36-year-old defenseman had a robust market and chose to sign a four-year/$14.6M ($3.65M AAV) deal with Dallas. 

Honorable Mention: Tampa Bay signed Brayden Point to an eight-year/$76M ($9.5M AAV) contract extension that kicks in after the 2021-22 season.

In total, 161 players signed new deals, totaling 294-years in length and carrying a cumulative cap hit of $281,290,834, for a total expenditure of $783,600,000. (All numbers provided by capfriendly.com). 

Several trades went down as well and will continue to do so as teams attempt to navigate the flat-cap world we currently occupy. 

Overall, a busy first day of Free Agency for the NHL and there’s plenty more on the way.

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