Free agent frenzy
As we have reached Monday, July 8, the NHL free agency period has reached the start of its second week. Some teams have jumped all over multiple players, other teams have lost a lot of what made them successful last season.
It is always fun for me to look at which teams what teams panic, and which others stay the course as they sort out how to be more successful during the upcoming season.
Take the Tampa Bay Lightning for instance. After matching Detroit’s record of 62 wins during the regular season, the Lightning celebrated by getting swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opening round of the playoffs, a sort of first team in, first team out kind of deal.
In response, the Lightning signed three goaltenders in Curtis McElhinney, Scott Wedgewood and Zach Fucale, they added Luke Schenn to their blue line, and they added former Red Wings defenseman Luke Witkowski.
The Washington Capitals, who lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in their seventh game of the first round, has similarly hit the panic button with the signings of Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic. They also traded away Andre Burakovsky. Not sure what that solves at this point, but we will see.
The Red Wings signed defenseman Patrick Nemeth and goaltender Calvin Pickard. They also brought back Valtteri Filppula.
Filppula brings a wealth of experience back to the Motor City. Having won a Stanley Cup in 2008, he knows what it takes to be successful. He also was a good influence on the New York Islanders last season, a team that went from being the worst team in the league defensively in 2017-18 and then the best last season. He also scored 17 goals and 31 points on the season.
Nemeth has played six seasons between the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche. He scored one goal and 10 points last seasons in 74 games last season with the Avalanche.
Pickard is a former draft pick of the Avalanche who bounced around the league a bit last season, getting claimed off waivers twice, once by Philadelphia and once by Arizona. He will likely serve as a backup to Jimmy Howard next season.
Three former Huskies had a good week last week as well. Jujhar Khaira resigned with the Edmonton Oilers while Tanner Kero and Blake Pietila both joined new teams in the Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks, respectively.
Khaira played his second full season with the Oilers last year. He played in 60 games, scoring three goals and 18 points. His 15 assists was a new career high. He has seen time at wing and at center, making him one of the versatile forwards the Oilers have on roster.
Kero joined former Huskies winger Joel L’Esperance and defenseman Shane Hanna in Dallas. The former WCHA scoring champion played 67 games for the Utica Comets in the AHL last season, scoring 24 goals and 57 points.
Pietila left the New Jersey Devils organization after playing 217 career games with Binghamton and Albany of the AHL. He scored 20 goals and 46 points last season with Binghamton. His 20 goals led the team.
He also played in 19 NHL games last season, registering one assist in that time.
My favorite team, the San Jose Sharks, are apparently subscribing to the addition by subtraction method this offseason. While they did resign Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier to new contracts, they lost a big piece of the puzzle in Joe Pavelski (who signed with Dallas), Gustav Nyquist (who signed with Columbus), Joonas Donskoi (who went to Colorado) and Joakin Ryan (who signed with Los Angeles). Surely, general manager Doug Wilson has a plan, I am just not sure what that plan might be.
However, I admit, that is all part of the game. Some teams make a lot of moves in free agency, others do not. Some teams significantly improve, others find pieces to fill holes. Time will tell which teams made the right moves to get them to the promised land this coming season.