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NHL Free Agency

2022 NHL 1st Team All-Star left winger Johnny Gaudreau headlines a very strong 2022 NHL free agency crop. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

NHL Free Agency 2022 Tracker: Live Updates On Every Major Move

2022 NHL 1st Team All-Star left winger Johnny Gaudreau headlines a very strong 2022 NHL free agency crop. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

NHL Free Agency 2022 Tracker: Live Updates On Every Major Move

Few days on the NHL calendar are as highly anticipated as the day NHL free agency opens. No day — not the draft, not the trade deadline — features more players going from one NHL team to another than today will. And it’s not just about quantity, either. There are legitimate stars available this year. A near Hart Trophy finalist in Johnny Gaudreau. A potential Hockey Hall of Fame candidate with plenty left in the tank in Claude Giroux. Three key members of the Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche. And plenty more as well.

Follow along right here at Vendetta Sports Media for live updates on where the biggest names in hockey are heading. Free agency is now open. Scroll down to the bottom for the most recent updates.

Oilers Re-Sign Evander Kane To 5-Year, $20.5 Million Contract

This was one of the more logical re-signings possible, at least from the player’s perspective. While testing the market is usually a player’s preference, Kane’s tumultuous off-ice activities 1) would have hurt his value and 2) emphasize the importance of finding a home with a good fit. Edmonton proved to be that when Kane signed there after being bought out by San Jose, with Kane tallying 39 points in 43 games, then adding 13 goals in 15 games in the playoffs.

A four-year term is pretty reasonable, and keeping term short is always important when signing a power forward like Kane. The cap hit is excellent for Kane’s production, both at last year and over the course of his career. But you never know when off-ice issues could turn Kane from a problem for opponents to defend into a problem for his own team, which is what led to his end in San Jose and coming to Edmonton in the first place.

Early Front Runners Emerge

Let’s evaluate these potential fits one-by-one.

Jack Campbell (EDM): This news would all but confirm Mike Smith will spend the final year of his contract on LTIR. Campbell had an up-and-down season in Toronto after emerging from Frederik Andersen’s shadow as the team’s starter in 2020-21. He had a save percentage of .915 or better in three months last season, the same amount of months he had a save percentage under .895. The overall numbers are a bit mixed. A .914 SV% is solid, but -2.3 goals saved above expected is a bit underwhelming. And behind an Edmonton defense that was much worse than Toronto last year at limiting expected and actual goals, it’s not hard to see how Campbell, a solid goalie, could struggle.

Darcy Kuemper (WSH): Obviously a lot of this is contingent on how healthy Kuemper is after the scary eye injury he suffered in Round 1 of the playoffs. His mediocre playoff numbers make it easy to forget how strong Kuemper finished the regular season after a rough start. Last season, he stopped 21 goals above expected, fifth best in the league. He was sixth in the league in that department in 2019-20, 13th in 2018-19, and 17th (in just 29 games played) in 2017-18.

Andrew Copp (DET): The Red Wings have their cornerstones up front (Tyler Bertuzzi, Lucas Raymond, the likely to be extended soon Dylan Larkin), but desperately need to fill their middle six and left side on defense. Copp definitely helps with the former. His versatility is especially important on an up-and-coming club, as he can move wherever in the lineup to best accommodate whatever prospects are ready to make the NHL in 2022 and beyond.

Claude Giroux (OTT): After just acquiring a dominant goal-scorer in Alex DeBrincat, it only makes sense to acquire a skilled playmaker as well. Enter Giroux, who has local ties to the Senators and is a UFA for the first time in his career. Giroux should undoubtedly fit in well in Ottawa. He can play center or the wing and is still a tremendous passer and excellent on face-offs, while also capable of driving play. Whether or not it makes sense for the 34-year old to sign with a team that isn’t a clear-cut Cup contender is a bit more debatable. But Giroux’s arrival would help expedite Ottawa’s return to the playoffs.

Reilly Smith Officially Re-Ups with Vegas for 3 Years, $5 Million AAV

As the Tweet describes, this wasn’t a surprise. Frank Seravalli reported Vegas came to terms with Smith, an original Golden Misfit, almost a month ago. The contract is fairly responsible for the 31-year old winger, who had a nice bounce back year offensively after struggling a bit in 2020-21. The problem for Vegas is this contract puts them back over the cap. And RFAs Nicolas Roy, Keegan Kolesar, Brett Howden, and Nic Hague all need new deals. The Golden Knights will have to make another move at some point.

Gaudreau Leaning New Jersey; Devils, Flyers In the Mix

It’s probably coming down to the Devils and Flyers for the New Jersey native Gaudreau. After an earlier report by ESPN’s Emily Kaplan that Gaudreau was leaning Philly, things have changed. The Flyers would need to clear significant cap space to afford Gaudreau (although since teams are allowed to exceed the cap by 10% in the offseason, the Flyers could save that move for later). And New Jersey is in a much better state than the Flyers in both current roster and prospect pipeline. Nothing is official yet, though.

Avalanche Re-Sign Darren Helm to 1-Year, $1.25 Million Deal

Colorado continues to replenish its depth, re-signing Darren Helm on a cheap one-year pact. Helm is a solid defensive fourth liner and penalty killer who can skate. Last year was the first season of Helm’s 15-year career not spent with Detroit. It had a pretty good ending, of course, with Helm scoring one of the biggest goals of Colorado’s Cup run.

Bruins Acquire Pavel Zacha

Turns out we aren’t only going to get free agent signings today.

Zacha has largely failed to live up to the hype of being selected No. 6 overall in the 2015 draft. He’s not a bad player, though. In 2020-21, he did score at a 57-point pace for an 82-game season (although that was at least partially due to a bit of a shooting percentage bender). The 25-year old is an RFA with a $3 million qualifying offer.

Update: Per Elliotte Friedman, Erik Haula will be going to New Jersey in the deal. The 31-year old broke the 40-point threshold for the second time in his career, and can play center or the wing. He’s under contract for one year at $2.375 million. The Bruins get the younger and arguably better player, so they probably win this trade in a vacuum. But Boston only has about $2.4 million in cap space, so they might need to make another move before they can add Zacha, let alone re-sign Patrice Bergeron or/and David Krejci.

Josh Manson Set to Re-Sign with Colorado

Colorado continues to bring as much as the gang back as possible. And even though he’s only been an Av since March, that now includes Manson. The physical blue-liner is a solid fit in Colorado’s top-four, especially next to a skilled puck mover like Samuel Girard or Bowen Byram. Manson is 30, and you always have to be especially concerned with physical players declining quickly. But Manson is still a solid player who is particularly stout at defending zone entries. The contract, as per Elliotte Friedman, doesn’t seem too unreasonable, especially given how highly Manson is thought of in the hockey world. The deal comes with a full NTC in years 1-2 and a partial NTC in years 3-4.

More Trades!

Two fairly big potential (key word: potential) trades here. The Burns one seems closer to being completed, with LeBrun later reporting multiple players are going to be involved in the trade. Given Burns’ hefty $8 million cap hit, that’s not much of a surprise. Burns is Carolina’s Tony DeAngelo replacement, who they traded to Philadelphia for three draft picks at the draft. He, of course, was their Dougie Hamilton replacement, who left for the Devils in free agency last year. And he was their Justin Faulk replacement; the two were teammates for one year before the Hurricanes traded Faulk, then with one year left on his deal, to the Blues in summer 2019. Funny how that works.

Burns is still a very productive offensive defenseman. He scored 10+ goals ninth time since arriving in San Jose in 2011, although back earlier in his career he actually spent some time at forward. His 54 points were 12th among blue-liners last year as well. However, Burns has always been very one-dimensional, and those concerns only grow after turning 37 years old in March. He’s under contract for three more years at an $8 million cap hit with a 28-team no-trade list. It’s a pretty big gamble for the Hurricanes to take, and may finally signal the Sharks approaching a much-needed rebuild.

Update: Here are the specifics of the Burns trade.

Senators Sign Claude Giroux to 3-Year, $6.5 Million AAV Contract

From Above: After just acquiring a dominant goal-scorer in Alex DeBrincat, it only makes sense to acquire a skilled playmaker as well. Enter Giroux, who has local ties to the Senators and is a UFA for the first time in his career. Giroux should undoubtedly fit in well in Ottawa. He can play center or the wing and is still a tremendous passer and excellent on face-offs, while also capable of driving play. Whether or not it makes sense for the 34-year old to sign with a team that isn’t a clear-cut Cup contender is a bit more debatable. But Giroux’s arrival would help expedite Ottawa’s return to the playoffs.

Maple Leafs Sign G Ilya Samsonov

This completes Toronto’s tandem after the Maple Leafs traded for Matt Murray earlier in the week. Samsonov was also included on our intriguing unqualified RFAs list. His game has regressed a little bit over the last few years, but did have a promising rookie year in 2019-20 and is only 25. He’ll also be an RFA when the deal expires, so if it goes well, Toronto can either re-sign him or flip him.

Trocheck To The Rangers

This is New York’s Ryan Strome/Andrew Copp replacement. Trocheck is probably a bit of a downgrade here, but he’s still a capable 2C with plenty of talent. He’s had a couple seasons (2017-18 with Florida, 2020-21 with Carolina) where he’s looked like more than that, though. The Rangers could probably use at least one more middle-of-the-lineup forward.

Kraken and Blues Sign Offensive Defensemen Schultz, Leddy

Both Schultz and Leddy can move the puck well, and Leddy is particularly strong. However, both are also in their early 30s and thus on the decline, so we’ll see how they hold up in the future. The Blues announced the cap hit for the 31-year old Leddy is $4 million.

Depth Moves Galore (New Update!)

Usually signing depth players to term is a bad idea, but a bury-able $1 million cap hit makes this palatable. Lazar is a pretty good fourth-liner, too, especially defensively.

Aubé-Kubel was one of the players to make our intriguing unqualified RFAs list. He’s quite the forechecker but has struggled to stay out of the box.

Acciari won’t be scoring 20 goals again, but he’s still a solid fourth-liner. He definitely fits the physicality and tough style St. Louis is known for.

Rebuilding Teams Filling Out Lineup

And here are the specifics on the Stetcher deal.

Lyubushkin is a solid defensive defenseman who will make the Sabres tougher to play against. Those types of players are valuable as long as you don’t over commit to them, which the Sabres aren’t doing here. I imagine the Maple Leafs would’ve liked to bring him back. But that price would’ve required moving someone like Justin Holl to make it work.

A bit surprised to see Comrie to go to Buffalo given the Sabres already have Craig Anderson and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in the organization. Especially given the high demand for backup goalies. Comrie only played in 19 games last year, but had a .920 save percentage and stopped 10.3 goals above expected, 10th most in the league. Every goalie above him played at least 46 games.

Yes, Columbus isn’t really a rebuilder (maybe?), but it’s not a move big enough to warrant its own section.

RFAs Getting Paid (With New Update!)

The Lightning are getting their own special section for their three eight-year RFA bombshells. See below for them.

LW Ilya Mikheyev to Vancouver on 4-Year Contract with $4.75 Million Cap Hit

Mikheyev brings tons of speed to the table and is a good penalty killer as well. The knock on him in years past has been his inability to finish on his chances, but that wasn’t really a problem in 2021-22 as Mikheyev scored a career-high 21 goals in just 53 games last year. If he regresses in that area, the contract could turn into an overpay.

D Ben Chiarot to Detroit — Update: 4 Years, $4.75 Million AAV

Detroit definitely needed help on left defense, but the question is how much this really helps. Chiarot is a divisive player — loved by old-school fans for his physicality and responsibility, but there isn’t much evidence he really helps his teams win.

Update: Friedman just reported the terms of the deal as well.

LW Frank Vatrano to Anaheim; 3 Years, $3.65 Million AAV

Vatrano is a solid two-way third-liner who showed with the Rangers that he can be very productive when the fit is right. With Anaheim not re-signing Sonny Milano, perhaps Vatrano can be a support piece in the top-six to young centers Trevor Zegras or Mason McTavish. The Ducks still have the most cap space in the league even with this deal accounted for.

Oilers Re-Sign D Brett Kulak

Solid move here by Edmonton, who needed help on its left side after Duncan Keith’s retirement. Kulak has always graded out very well by analytics and was solid in Edmonton after coming over from the Canadiens at the deadline.

Lightning Add D Ian Cole, LW Vladislav Namestikov on 1-Year Deals, Lock Up Sergachev, Cirelli, and Černák Through 2031

The Lightning haven’t hesitated to lock up their star players in the past, but Sergachev, Cirelli, and Černák don’t really meet that lofty distinction. Good teams often get in trouble when they lock up merely good players on massive contracts that don’t match the players’ production. See contracts like Brent Seabrook’s in Chicago or those of Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick, and Drew Doughty in Los Angeles (though Quick and Doughty have bounced back in recent years). Now that’s not saying these deals are guaranteed to be that, of course. But the possibility can’t be ignored.

On the other hand, Cirelli’s deal is a bit more palatable, as he’s been a sneaky Selke candidate over the last few years. Sergachev has been a bit more sheltered behind Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh, the latter of which is now in Nashville. Usually teams make big commitments to players after they show they can handle a bigger role, not before. If Sergachev rises to the task this season, maybe we’re looking at this contract differently next summer. But for now, it’s a fairly big gamble. As for Černák, he’s deserving of the raise, having emerged as a very good shutdown defender. Maybe he’s a bit of a product of playing with Hedman and McDonagh, but I don’t doubt Černák is a very good player in his own right. These extensions signal to me the Lightning are probably out on Ondřej Palát, though.

Salary Cap Related News

Kuemper, Campbell, and Copp Contracts are Official

From Above: This news would all but confirm Mike Smith will spend the final year of his contract on LTIR. Campbell had an up-and-down season in Toronto after emerging from Frederik Andersen’s shadow as the team’s starter in 2020-21. He had a save percentage of .915 or better in three months last season, the same amount of months he had a save percentage under .895. The overall numbers are a bit mixed. A .914 SV% is solid, but -2.3 goals saved above expected is a bit underwhelming. And behind an Edmonton defense that was much worse than Toronto last year at limiting expected and actual goals, it’s not hard to see how Campbell, a solid goalie, could struggle.

For more on the Campbell contract, click here.

From Above: Obviously a lot of this is contingent on how healthy Kuemper is after the scary eye injury he suffered in Round 1 of the playoffs. His mediocre playoff numbers make it easy to forget how strong Kuemper finished the regular season after a rough start. Last season, he stopped 21 goals above expected, fifth best in the league. He was sixth in the league in that department in 2019-20, 13th in 2018-19, and 17th (in just 29 games played) in 2017-18.

For more on the Kuemper contract, click here. And here’s some clarity on the contract’s trade protection.

From Above: The Red Wings have their cornerstones up front (Tyler Bertuzzi, Lucas Raymond, the likely to be extended soon Dylan Larkin), but desperately need to fill their middle six and left side on defense. Copp definitely helps with the former. His versatility is especially important on an up-and-coming club, as he can move wherever in the lineup to best accommodate whatever prospects are ready to make the NHL in 2022 and beyond.

For more on the Copp contract, click here.

Oskar Lindblom Signs with Sharks

After being bought out by the Flyers yesterday, the fan favorite Lindblom finds a new home. It’s a good opportunity for Lindblom to play in a middle-six role consistently, something that hasn’t really happened since he was diagnosed with cancer in Dec. 2019.

Flyers Gonna Flyer

I actually don’t mind the Flyers bringing back Braun. He’s a decent defensive minded third-pairing defenseman, and given the state of Philadelphia’s right side, some defensive presence is desperately needed there. But throwing a four-year contract to Deslauriers, who would be just as good at boxing as he is at hockey, is another complete misfire in a disastrously offseason for Chuck Fletcher and company. I’ll admit, my Flyers fan bias is probably clouding my judgment at least a little here. But I’m far from the only one dunking on the Flyers right now.

Defensive Defensemen Unite

Well, turns out the Gudbranson deal was big enough to at least start its own section. Yes, Gudbranson was surprisingly solid last year in Calgary. But for most of his career, Gudbranson has graded out pretty poorly by advanced metrics, routinely being outshot and out-chanced at 5-on-5. Like with Deslauriers, it’s not that physicality doesn’t have value. But it needs to be packaged with other skills and come at a reasonable price. Oh, and Gudbranson is entering his 30s, meaning his already not great “best” days are likely behind him.

I wonder if this means more moves are on the way for the Penguins. Their defense seemed fairly set with Dumoulin-Letang, Matheson-Marino, and Pettersson-Ruhwedel or Pettersson-Friedman as their three pairings. This deal basically puts Pittsburgh over the cap. And they still don’t have RFA Kasperi Kapanen under contract.

What seemed like a slightly risk signing last summer turned into a disaster for the Rangers. Nemeth never really fit in, to the point where the Rangers basically acquired a superior version of him in Justin Braun to use in the playoffs while Nemeth sat for 13 of the Rangers’ 20 playoff games. Emberson is a 2018 3rd round pick who was listed in the “has a chance (to play in the NHL)” section of Corey Pronman’s evaluation of the Coyotes system in Sept. 2021.

André Burakovsky Signs 5-Year Deal with Seattle

And the terms.

Burakovsky broke out after being traded to the Avalanche in 2019. In his final three years in Washington, he scored 85 points in 196 games, or about .43 points per game. In three years in Colorado, Burakovsky registered 150 points in 191 games, an average of about .79 points per game. That’s the difference between scoring 35 points in an 82-game season versus 64 points. I’m a bit skeptical he can be the centerpiece of an offense, something Seattle is desperate for. He’ll definitely help out, but Seattle needs some help down the middle in addition to Burakovsky. Maybe this paves the way to add another Av in Nazem Kadri to the mix?

Detroit Adds Wingers Dominik Kubalík and David Perron

Fun fact: even though Detroit is the sixth team of Perron’s 15-year career, this is the first contract he’s signed for a team not named the St. Louis Blues. It was Perron’s second departure from St. Louis that sparked a late career turnaround, as Perron went from solid depth forward to top-line talent after joining Vegas for its inaugural season in 2017-18. He remained as such in four more years with the Blues, scoring a career-high 27 goals last year.

Meanwhile, Kubalík’s fallen off since scoring 30 goals as a rookie in 2019-20 with Chicago. He’s still a high-volume shooter though, which is the one main selling point in his game. But that’s enough to make him at least a solid third-liner with the potential to be more. Another of our top unqualified RFAs to watch goes off the board.

Mason Marchment to Dallas

Almost forgot about this one, much like how Marchment was a forgotten player a few years ago before breaking out last year in Florida.

This will, in all likelihood, do it for the live updates. For the upcoming signings of Johnny Gaudreau, Nazem Kadri, and more, stayed tuned to Vendetta Sports Media — we’ll have separate articles for those signings. Our own Colson Valby kept track of some more of the depth deals you may missed.

  • G Jaroslav Halak, NYR, 1 x $1.55 mill AAV
  • C Noel Acciari, STL, 1 x $1.25 mill AAV
  • G Colin Delia, VAN, 1 x $750k AAV
  • G Louis Domingue, NYR, 2 x $775k AAV
  • D Erik Gudbranson, CBJ, 4 x $4 mill AAV
  • LW Juraj Slafkovsky, MTL, 3 yr Entry Level Contract
  • LW Nick Cousins, FLA, 2 x $1.1 mill AAV
  • LW Arturri Lehkonen, COL, 5 x $4.5 mill AAV
  • D Marc Staal, FLA, 1 x $850k AAV
  • G David Rittich, WPG, 1 x $900k AAV
  • C Greg McKegg, EDM, 2 x $375k guaranteed
  • LW Nic Petan, MIN, 2 x Unknown (two-way)
  • RW Sheldon Rempal, VGK, 2 x Unknown (two-way)
  • C Colin White, FLA, 1 x $1.2 mill AAV
  • C Glenn Gawdin, ANA, 2 x Unknown (2021-22: two-way, 2022-23: one-way)
  • D Kale Clague, BUF, 2 x $750k (two-way)
  • D Josh Brown, ARI, 2 x $1.275 mill AAV
  • C Trevor Lewis, CGY, 1 x Unknown

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All Advanced Stats are 5-on-5 unless otherwise stated and via Natural Stat Trick, Corey Sznajder’s Website All Three Zones (subscribe to his Patreon here) and Moneypuck.com

All Salary Cap Information via CapFriendly

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