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NHL Free Agency 2024 Live Blog

NHL Free Agency
Dec 7, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) plays the puck into the offensive zone during the second period against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

NHL Free Agency 2024 Live Blog

There’s no day quite like July 1 on the NHL calendar. The start of the season is exciting, but only a handful of teams usually significantly deviate from preseason expectations. The Stanley Cup Final is thrilling, but most of the hockey world doesn’t have a dog in the fight. Only die-heart fans have seen more than a few highlights of the players in the NHL Draft.

But when free agency comes around, everyone can be involved. The rumors swirl at a rapid pace. And while Stanley Cups are lost more often than won on this date, we just saw Sergei Bobrovsky become the first player to win a championship after signing for at least $10 million to a new team in free agency.

The possibilities leading up to the opening bell are truly endless. Today, though, is a day for actuality. So, let’s go through the chaos together and see who’s going where.

This post will be updated throughout the day.

Carolina Unites Former Flyers

Philadelphia is a key place in the NHL journeys of Shayne Gostisbehere and Sean Walker. The Flyers drafted Gostisbehere in the third round of the 2013 Draft and watched him flourish early in his career, earning second place in Calder Trophy voting in 2016 and 10th in the Norris Trophy race in 2018. Walker arrived in Philadelphia last fall as a cap dump, then exited in February on his way to Cup-contending Colorado in exchange for a first-round pick (and to take on another bad contract in Ryan Johansen’s).

The two may be playing on the same pair this year for a team in the Flyers’ division. The Hurricanes signed both — Gostisbehere for three years at a $3.2 million AAV and Walker for five years at $3.6 million. Both are mobile players who can move the puck well and join the rush. Walker is a bit stronger defensively while Gositsbehere has a rocket from the point. Remember, the Hurricanes new GM Tulsky used to write about the Flyers for Broad Street Hockey. Who knows if that influenced these moves, but both look like sound ones.

Montréal Locks Up Slafkovský

One of the biggest pieces of news today came relatively late in the free-agent period. With one year left on his entry-level contract, the Montréal Canadiens wasted no time in securing Juraj Slafkovský’s future.

Slafkovský earned the deal as his second season progressed. He struggled to adapt to the NHL after being a late riser who went No. 1 overall to the Canadiens in the 2022 Draft. However, he put up 50 points in a solid sophomore season. Kent Hughes has been aggressive in signing his young talent to long extensions. Nick Suzuki is under contract for six more seasons, Cole Caufield for seven, and now Slafkovskŷ for nine (the eight-year extension plus the last year of his ELC).

The question is whether the time is right now. Jumping the gun on extending young players is always tricky, especially one with only one solid but not spectacular season under their belt. Montréal still has lots of cap space this year and moving forward, but this is the type of deal you need to get right. Hopefully for their sake and Slafkovský’s, they have.

Red Wings Remake Their Crease

No Jacob Trouba trade, at least not yet. Bringing back Patrick Kane is nice, although it feels like Steve Yzerman needs a win after the widely panned Jake Walman trade.

For now, Red Wings fans will have to settle for a wealth of options in the net. Detroit didn’t need to sign a goaltender today — they could’ve easily ridden with Ville Husso and Alex Lyon. Instead, they signed two goaltenders — Cam Talbot for two years at a $2.5 million AAV and Jack Campbell for one year at the league minimum.

How Detroit manages their crease is anyone’s guess. Alex Lyon was much better than Ville Husso last year (.904 SV% vs. .894 SV%). But Husso makes $4.75 million — would Detroit send him to the AHL or could he be moved in another Walman-like trade?

Update: Detroit did also sign Erik Gustafsson on a two by two. Gustafsson isn’t good defensively but has emerged as one of the better third-pair defenders in the league the last few seasons.

New D in Dallas

If you’re an analytics fan, you’re probably not thrilled with the changes Dallas has made on the backend. After losing Chris Tanev and not qualifying Nils Lundkvist, change abounds on the Stars’ blueline. In arrive righties Matt Dumba and Ilya Lyubushkin to try to fill the void.

Dumba was once a top-four staple with the Minnesota Wild (whose lone move of significance of today was to sign defensive bottom-sixer Yakov Trenin for four years at a $3.5 million cap hit). However, he’s regressed in recent years, struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay last year. Lyubushkin had some success in two separate stints in Toronto that included lots of time with Morgan Rielly. Neither contract is massive — two years each at $3.75 million per season for Dumba and $3.25 million for Lyubushkin.

Update: Dallas later added Brendan Smith for one year at $1 million for more physical depth on defense.

Updates on the Metro

As mentioned below, Washington indeed came to terms with Roy, an emerging analytical darling in Los Angeles. The contract is for seven years at just over $40 million total, which puts the Capitals almost $4 million over the salary cap with a roster of 12 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goaltenders. Teams are allowed to exceed the cap by 10% in the offseason.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Rangers agreed on a trade that sent Reilly Smith to the Big Apple. Smith struggled in his lone season in Pittsburgh and is 33 years old. Smith still managed a respectable 40 points and is both versatile and a proven playoff performer. He joins Sam Carrick as a new addition up front for the Blueshirts. Pittsburgh gets a second and a fifth back after acquiring Smith from Vegas last year for just a third.

The Columbus Blue Jackets made one of the more confounding signings of the day with a five-year, $27.5 million contract awarded to Sean Monahan. He revitalized his career with the Montréal Canadiens, but we’re talking about a second-line center who turns 30 on opening night at best on a team that’s nowhere near the playoffs.

Finally, the Philadelphia Flyers stuck to their word of a quiet free agency. Still, they brought back would-be UFA Erik Johnson for one year at $1 million to be their No. 7 defenseman. Garnet Hathaway drove play and his scoring came around in the second half, earning him a two-year extension with a $2.4 milllion AAV.

Update: The Devils added to their backend again with a three-year, $12 million deal to Brenden Dillon. It’s a bit risky for a physical 33-year-old, but Dillon is still sound in the defensive zone. Stefan Noesen signed in Jersey as well.

Islanders Add a Scorer

While defense will likely always come first in this era of the New York Islanders, the team needs help up front. Lou Lamoriello recognized this by selecting one of the top snipers in the NHL Draft in Cole Eiserman at No. 20.

Even if that pick hits, Eiserman won’t be in the NHL now, though. Anthony Duclair should help bridge the gap until his arrival. The speedy winger will head to Long Island for the next four seasons, per a team announcement. Update: The contract carries a cap hit of $3.5 million, per The Athletic’s Arthur Staple.

The Islanders are the ninth team in Duclair’s 10-year NHL career. If he plays the whole deal on the Island, his stint with the Islanders would be the longest of his career. Duclair couldn’t produce in the desert that was San Jose last year but turned it up after being traded to Tampa Bay. He’s scored 20 goals on four occasions and hit 31 two years ago in Florida. The Islanders only currently have about $4.6 million in cap space so the deal probably isn’t too pricey.

Update: New York also re-signed Mike Reilly on a one-year, $1.25 million deal. Reilly played well in a depth role after the Isles claimed him off waivers in November from Florida.

Chicago Makes Noise

Kyle Davidson is slowly starting to build the Chicago Blackhawks back up. Chicago isn’t ready to return to the playoffs, or probably even be significantly close. But year two of Connor Bedard is an important one for player and team, not to mention all of the other young talent the Blackhawks have coming up.

A five-year deal for Bertuzzi is a bit risky given his physical style. He recovered nicely from a slow start to record his fourth 20-goal season in the last five years (the only year he didn’t hit the mark was 2020-21 when he played just nine games). But putting him and Hall next to Bedard gives Chicago a legitimate first line. Teuvo Teräväinen can support some of the other young talent on the team and will give Blackhawks fans the feels as “Turbo” returns to where he started his NHL career (and where he won the Cup in 2015). Things had gone a bit sour in Carolina even though his scoring numbers bounced back last season.

Pat Maroon and Craig Smith are more Nick Foligno-type players for the bottom six. It’s a bit surprising to see Chicago bring in this many forwards and it will be interesting to see the job security young players like Frank Nazar and Landon Slaggert have at training camp. Getting a defender made sense, though, and Alec Martinez fits the bill as a steady, low-risk option for one year.

Signing Laurent Brossoit for two years at a $3.3 million cap hit could signal a lack of trust in Arvid Söderblom. He struggled with a .880 SV% in 32 games, although he’s still waivers exempt according to CapFriendly. That would allow Chicago to keep the 24-year-old and run with Brossoit and Petr Mrázek next year.

Kraken Splurge on Stephenson

GM Ron Francis wasn’t content to stop with one pricey seven-year pact. A second goes to former Vegas Golden Knight Chandler Stephenson.

Stephenson is a tremendous skater, although looking at NHL Edge, he went from 322 speed bursts over 20 miles per hour in 81 games in 2022-23 to 217 in 75 games last season. His top skating speed also fell from the 85th to 59th percentile. He’s recorded three straight 50-point seasons and was third on the Golden Knights in time on ice last season. Still, this seems like one of the diciest deals of the day.

Action in Oilers Bottom-Six, Kings Depth

The Oilers played keep, lose, and gain with Connor Brown, Warren Foegele, and Viktor Arvidsson. Brown’s AAV is only slightly pricier than last year ($1 million vs. $775K), but this deal has no bonuses attached. Those were a major sticking point when Brown came out of the gates ice cold, and while he may never be a 20-goal scorer again, he found a role as a bottom-sixer and energetic penalty killer during the team’s Finals run.

Meanwhile, Foegle had ups and downs in Edmonton, which acquired him for Ethan Bear from Carolina three years ago. His 41 points this season were a career-high and he chipped in eight points during the playoffs. The Los Angeles Kings prioritized physicality, signing Foegele for three years at $3.5 million per season and hulking defender Joel Edmundson for four years at a similar salary. The Kings are reportedly bringing back depth pieces Pheonix Copley and Trevor Lewis.

That left Arvidsson on the outside looking in on the Kings’ plans after three years with the club, which included being limited to 18 games due to injury in 2023-24. He’s scored 20 goals five times in his career and hit 30 twice. At two years for $4 million per, Arvidsson could be a rare high-value signing on July 1.

Duchene and Drouin Stay Put

Following a buyout last summer from Nashville, Matt Duchene recovered nicely on a one-year “prove-it” deal with the Dallas Stars. Duchene registered 65 points, his third-highest total since 2011-12, and was a great fit in the team’s middle-six. With Joe Pavelski retiring, Dallas needed not to lose any more offensive punch. Finding a way to keep Duchene on another one-year deal worth just $3 million is a win for GM Jim Nill.

The Colorado Avalanche had to navigate a tricky salary cap situation to bring Jonathan Drouin back, complicated by the uncertainty surrounding Valeri Nichushkin and Gabriel Landeskog. Drouin thrived alongside his old junior linemate Nathan Mackinnon in what felt like a last-chance situation that he made good on with a career-best 56-point year. Colorado only committed to him for one more year, but Drouin gets a nice raise from $825K to $2.5 million.

Canucks Replace Lindholm with DeBrusk

Maybe replace isn’t the right word given that Lindholm is a center and DeBrusk a winger, and both players have different styles. But in terms of top-six forward and salary cap place, not re-signing Lindholm or pulling in another big fish like Guentzel opened the door to DeBrusk.

DeBrusk’s time with the Boston Bruins was uneven, going as low as a trade request and peaking at a 50-point 2022-23 year, his third 25-goal season with the club. DeBrusk has the skill set to be the perfect support piece for J.T. Miller or Elias Pettersson. Splurging on wingers can be risky, but that’s mitigated by getting someone who can play in every situation like DeBrusk. Having a strong advanced stats profile helps, too. And at 27 years old, the seven-term isn’t as risky as it would be for many other free agents.

Hurricanes Lose Skjei and Pesce

One big free agent signing is noteworthy. Two is intriguing. Three is seismic.

In that case, break out the Richter scale at Bridgestone Arena. A seven-by-seven deal with Brady Skjei takes the Predators over $100 million spent on the opening day of free agency. Nashville’s defense went from elite to solid when Mattias Ekholm departed for the Edmonton Oilers at the 2023 trade deadline. Now, Nashville again has a dynamite option on the left side behind former Norris Trophy winner Roman Josi.

Skjei took a huge step forward with the Carolina Hurricanes after they took a chance on him for a first-round pick at the 2020 trade deadline in a deal with the New York Rangers. They found another diamond in the rough in defensive dynamo Brett Pesce, a third-round pick in 2013 who has thrived in a top-four role. But he’s departing for a divisional rival, heading to the New Jersey Devils for six years to replace Marino. Carolina did re-sign Jalen Chatfield a few days ago and gave an eight-year extension to Jaccob Slavin today. But new GM Eric Tulsky has work to do, especially after losing Jake Guentzel to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Toronto Refreshes Defensive and Goaltending Depth

For now, the contentious core of the Toronto Maple Leafs remains intact. But Toronto still found itself with a surprising amount of cap space heading into another critical offseason.

They used some of that on a six-year contract with Chris Tanev. That may seem outrageous for a 34-year-old who plays a physical style, but it’s likely designed to keep the cap hit at a palatable $4.5 million. Treliving is familiar with Tanev, hitting a home run with the four-year, $18 million deal that brought him to Calgary in 2021. He’ll easily be the best right-handed defender Morgan Rielly has played with in his career (apologies to Tyson Barrie, who didn’t fit in his one season with the Maple Leafs).

He’s not the only defender the team signed though, also coming to terms with Oliver Ekman-Larsson on a four-year deal carrying a $3.5 million AAV. Ekman-Larsson showed what he can do while healthy and not in a headline role in Florida.

After extending Joseph Woll for three years early in the day, Toronto completed its tandem with a two-year contract handed to Anthony Stolarz. Both goaltenders are very talented. Woll has a career .912 save percentage in 36 games. Stolarz has a .915 SV% since becoming an NHL regular in 2021-22 with the Anaheim Ducks. However, neither has reached the 30-game mark in a single season and both have concerning injury histories. Maybe that’s why Treliving also signed Matt Murray to a one-year deal. Murray was on Long Term Injured Reserve all of last season and was inconsistent in his first season in Toronto the year prior. He could fill the third goalie year that Martin Jones filled admirably a year ago.

Bruins Fill Holes at Center, Defense

Elias Lindholm made so much sense as a trade acquisition for the Boston Bruins last year. Despite not making any additions to replace the retired Patrice Bergeron and David Krejčí, the Bruins were still solid in 2023-24, as Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha were good enough down the middle in the regular season. That wasn’t the case in the playoffs, as the duo combined for just two goals and were leapfrogged on the depth chart by Morgan Geekie.

Lindholm exploded for Calgary during the team’s excellent 2021-22 campaign, tallying 82 points and finishing second in Selke Trophy voting. But his scoring has steadily declined, from 82 to 64 to 44 last season, his lowest total since 2017-18. Perhaps he can be stronger alongside Brad Marchand and/or David Pastrňák. With a seven-year contract carrying a $7.75 million AAV, he better be.

However, the Bruins made another big move by signing Nikita Zadorov to a six-year, $30 million deal. A 14-goal 2022-23 season looks like an outlier, but Zadorov’s biggest strength is that he’s 6-foot-6, 248 pounds every time he steps on the ice. Depending on which numbers you look at, Zadorov is either overvalued for that frame or has an intriguing skillset that can be very valuable when maximized. After shopping in the bargain bin last summer, GM Don Sweeney is taking some big swings to try to get Boston back to its first Eastern Conference Final since 2019.

Seattle Adds Montour

It’s been one step forward, one step back in the brief existence of the Seattle Kraken. The Kraken went from 60 points in year one to Game 7 of the second round in year two but dropped out of the playoffs again last season. Scoring was the team’s main issue, as the Kraken finished 29th in the league with 2.61 goals per game.

They’ll add more offense from the backend by signing Brandon Montour, a top-pair piece during each of the Florida Panthers’ trips to the Stanley Cup Final. He took a slight step back scoring-wise after a career-high 73-point 2022-23. But the talent is still there and it’s worth remembering he was injured at the start of last season. He and Vince Dunn will be formidable on Seattle’s blue line, although separating the two capable scorers may make more sense.

Chychurn Goes from Capital to Capital

Jakob Chychurn is going from the capital of Canada to the capital of the United States. It took the Washington Capitals just a third-round pick and Nick Jensen to acquire Chychrun from the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa paid a first and two seconds to bring in Chychrun from the Arizona Coyotes at the 2023 trade deadline.

Chychrun was once regarded as one of the rising star defenders in the NHL after scoring 18 goals in the 56-game 2020-21 season with Arizona. He tied his career-high in points from 2020-21 last year with the Senators, albeit in a full 82-game campaign. However, he is set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Ottawa general manager Steve Staois, who did not originally acquire Chychrun, didn’t want to lose him for nothing.

This is the second trade the Capitals have made for a veteran with one year left on their deal after acquiring Andrew Mangiapane from the Flames for a second-round pick. Chris Johnston said on TSN’s Free Agency Frenzy Washington could target Matt Roy to fill the void left by Jensen on the right side.

Toffoli Heads to San Jose

The San Jose Sharks are still rebuilding, but bad teams must surround their youth with talent to keep them from drowning. We’ve seen the Chicago Blackhawks prioritize this with the acquisition of Taylor Hall last year and this year’s signing of Tyler Bertuzzi.

San Jose is doing the same now, inking Tyler Toffoli to a four-year contract with a $6 million cap hit. Toffoli is one of the league’s most reliable second-line scorers. Save for an eye-popping 73-point campaign with the Calgary Flames in 2022-23, Toffoli has scored between 44 and 58 points every season since 2014-15. He should pair nicely with Will Smith or Macklin Celebrini down the middle.

Nashville The Biggest Spenders

The Nashville Predators were surprisingly aggressive in free agency last year, signing Ryan O’Reilly, Gustav Nyquist, and Luke Schenn to help the team return to the playoffs this year. However, it’s been six seasons since the Predators last won a playoff series. More firepower is needed for the team to return to true contention.

Well, that’s what general manager Barry Trotz went out and got. Key pieces from three of the last four championship-winning teams, Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Marchessault, are heading to Nashville. Pierre LeBrun reported that Stamkos’ contract is around $8 million per year for four years, while Marchessault will check in at years with a cap hit of approximately $5.5 million.

Although they didn’t have a lot of big names, last year’s Nashville team tied a franchise record with an average of 3.24 goals per game, which ranked 10th in the NHL. Adding Stamkos and Marchessault will give young talents such as Philip Tomasino and Luke Evangelista more help in their development. Age is a concern — Stamkos and Marchessault will be 38 years old when their deals expire. Stamkos already has shown signs of his overall game declining. But the Predators will be an exciting team in 2024-25.

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