Skip to main content
column

10 questions (and answers) after free agency Day One

NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen attempts to make sense of it all

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

It was a frenzy indeed.

One by one, the players who became unrestricted free agents Friday started to come off the board. On and on it went, millions and millions of dollars doled out in a matter of hours.

The news slowed by the evening hours on the East Coast, allowing for time to take stock of all that happened on the first official day of the 2016-17 NHL season.

Here is a Q&A that asks and attempts to answer some questions about the moves made Friday:

1. Who won the day?

The Tampa Bay Lightning, and they didn't even sign a noteworthy unrestricted free agent.

The Lightning had another big day to cap a huge week by signing defenseman Victor Hedman to an eight-year, $63 million contract extension and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to a three-year, $10.5 million contract extension. Each contract starts with the 2017-18 season.

Hedman and Vasilevskiy see in Tampa Bay exactly what Steven Stamkos also sees; it's a great place to play and the Lightning can be good for a long time. That's why Stamkos decided to stay with the Lightning by signing an eight-year, $68 million contract Wednesday.

That the Lightning will have Stamkos and Hedman under contract from 2017-2024 for a combined annual salary-cap charge of $16.375 million is a major coup for general manager Steve Yzerman.

On the open market, Stamkos and Hedman could have combined for $20 million or more per season. Instead, Yzerman has more room to attempt to re-sign restricted free agents Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn and Vladislav Namestnikov this summer while looking ahead to possibly re-signing potential 2017 RFAs Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin and Andrej Sustr next summer.

The victim in all this likely is Ben Bishop, who is signed through this season but doesn't appear to have a future beyond that in Tampa Bay with Vasilevskiy under contract and close to being ready to assume the No. 1 role.

Video: Lightning lock up Hedman with eight-year extension

2. Of the three seven-year contracts signed, which one is the best?

Milan Lucic's seven-year contract reportedly worth $42 million with the Edmonton Oilers.

Lucic has had success with high-end centers such as Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. Now he should get a chance to recreate that success with Connor McDavid, and if not him, maybe Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

It's fair to wonder if Lucic's style of play will allow him to remain an effective player for the duration of his contract, but he's coming off a 20-goal, 55-point season and there's no reason why he can't put up similar or better numbers in Edmonton, where he should also make a big impact on helping the Oilers establish a winning culture.

The other seven-year contracts went to Kyle Okposo ($42 million from the Buffalo Sabres) and Andrew Ladd (reportedly $38.5 million from the New York Islanders).

3. Why is Mikkel Boedker a good fit with the San Jose Sharks?

He's 26, fast and has a history with Sharks coach Peter DeBoer.

Boedker is trying to live up to his potential as the No. 8 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft. The Sharks are giving him the chance with a four-year contract reportedly worth $16 million.

There's a lot to like about this contract for the Sharks, especially since DeBoer helped Boedker become a top-10 pick when he played for him in Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League in 2007-08.

The Sharks thought they were fast until they went up against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final. Boedker makes them faster and deeper, and they didn't break the bank to get him.

Video: COL@NSH: Boedker puts Avalanche on the board

4. Is Eric Staal a No. 1 center?

Not anymore, but he might have to play one for the Minnesota Wild after signing a three-year, $10.5 million contract.

This is a good move for Staal and the Wild because it's a cap-friendly contract for a player who is motivated to prove he still has a lot of game left in him.

Staal struggled toward the end of his tenure with the Carolina Hurricanes and he was miscast as a third-line forward who toggled between center and left wing in his short tenure with the New York Rangers.

He said after last season that he wanted to go to a team that gave him a defined role and a real chance. He has those things in Minnesota and could wind up being a steal at $3.5 million per season.

5. Did the Dallas Stars get a steal in Dan Hamhuis?

Yes.

Hamhuis, 33, signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract with the Stars, who basically traded the potential of signing Alex Goligoski to a long-term contract (he got six years with the Arizona Coyotes) for the short-term gain of a veteran defenseman who still can play a strong game.

The Stars can get two good years out of Hamhuis in a top-four role with John Klingberg, Johnny Oduya and potentially Stephen Johns. They could also expose him in the NHL expansion draft, and he would be an intriguing player for Las Vegas as a veteran with one year left on his contract.

Video: Analyzing Dan Hamhuis signing with the Dallas Stars

6. Did the Florida Panthers give James Reimer a five-year contract to be their backup goalie?

Not necessarily, even though Roberto Luongo is still in Florida.

Reimer won't be a typical backup with the Panthers after signing a five-year contract reportedly worth $17 million.

The immediate bonus is that Luongo is expected to miss the start of this season after offseason hip surgery. That's also why the Panthers still have Reto Berra too.

The long-term bonus could be limiting Luongo's starts. He's 37 and played in 62 regular-season games last season. He admitted he was fatigued during the playoff series against the Islanders after playing three games in four nights, including an overtime game.

The other possibility is the Panthers could be looking toward next summer and the expansion draft; they could protect Reimer and expose Luongo.

7. What are the Vancouver Canucks trying to do?

Not sure.

That Loui Eriksson, who turns 31 on July 17, got a six-year, $36 million contract isn't the point, because he's coming off a 30-goal, 63-point season and he was going to get that type of contract regardless.

That the Canucks gave it to him is the head-scratcher. They seem like a team caught in between, trying to appease aging and loyal generational stars Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin while also hoping young players like Jake Virtanen and Bo Horvat are ready for big roles.

Getting Eriksson should appease the Sedins, but the Canucks should be looking more toward getting younger and faster, which is how you build a winner in the NHL now.

8. Did the Boston Bruins get David Backes when he's on the decline?

It looks that way.

Backes is one of the best guys in hockey, with the latest bit of evidence coming in his goodbye letter to St. Louis. However, at 32 years old, with all the miles on his body in all those battles with the Blues over a decade, it's fair to wonder how much he has left as a top player.

The Bruins are banking on it being a lot. They signed him to a six-year, $30 million contract.<

That's six years and $5 million per season to a player who is coming off a 45-point season. It was the first time he failed to put up 50 points in a full season since 2009-10.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm7: Backes pads the lead with great shot

9. Is Alexander Radulov worth it?

The jury is out.

The most controversial signing of the day had to be Radulov to the Montreal Canadiens on a one-year, $5.75 million contract.

Radulov hasn't been in the NHL since he played briefly with the Predators in 2011-12. He has spent the past four seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League playing for CSKA Moscow. He scored in Russia, so the Canadiens are banking on him scoring for them too.

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said he was adamant about the term being only one year, which is good news for Montreal because nobody can even attempt to predict how this will go.

10. Is there good value left on the board?

Absolutely.

Teams looking for help on defense can sign Jason Demers, Kris Russell and Justin Schultz.

Teams looking to add some scoring pop to their top-nine forward group can eye Jiri Hudler and Kris Versteeg.

Don't forget about grizzled veterans Shane Doan and Matt Cullen, each 39 and with more to offer.

View More