2019 NHL Free Agency: Winners and losers from Day 1 on the open market
Who struck it big and who fell flat on the opening day of free agency?
Not every deal on the opening day of free agency can be a big winner. While some teams scored big by acquiring a player (or players) that will help them get where they need to go, other teams made decisions that will turn regrettable and haunt them at night for years to come. That's the fun of this whole thing!
Here are some early winners and losers from the opening day of NHL free agency.
Winner: Sergei Bobrovsky
The biggest individual winner of the day was Sergei Bobrovsky, who got a massive seven-year, $70 million commitment from the Florida Panthers. That's a whole lot of money and term for a guy who is about to turn 31 and is coming off a season in which he posted a pedestrian .913 save percentage and a 5.27 goals saved above average mark last season (23rd in the league).
But the Panthers desperately needed goaltending, especially following last week's Roberto Luongo retirement. Bobrovsky is arguably the best goaltender on this year's free agent market and has twice won the Vezina.
It's an overpay from Florida and they may regret this deal down the line, but it's a huge win for Bobrovsky to be able to cash in on their desperation and significant cap space.
One of the most perplexing deals of the day was handed out by Penguins, who gave Brandon Tanev a six-year deal worth $3.5 million annually.
It's not that Tanev is a bad player. He has value. He skates well. He plays hard, hits hard, is solid defensively and is an asset on the penalty kill. But he's a bottom-six forward who, at 27 years old, is coming off a season in which he tallied a career-high 14 goals (first time he's reached double-digits) and 29 points.
It looks even worse when you consider the Penguins traded Phil Kessel to help only to make a move like this.
Winner: Maple Leafs
The Leafs didn't make too much of a splash on the free agent market -- they signed a handful of guys, including Jason Spezza, at or close to league minimum in order to fill out the roster.
But Toronto made a massive splash on the trade front when they acquired Tyson Barrie (21 goals and 59 points last season) and Alex Kerfoot from Colorado in exchange for Nazem Kadri and Calle Rosen, with a couple of picks swapping sides as well. In Barrie, the Leafs get the top-pairing defenseman they really need (especially with the likely departure of Jake Gardiner) and it should be a great fit on an explosive Leafs squad.
Barrie also comes at a fairly inexpensive price, as the Avs will retain half of his $5.5 million cap hit for this season -- the last year of his current deal.
They do lose Kadri in the deal, and that stings because he's a tough depth piece on a very affordable deal for the next three seasons, but the Leafs' loss is softened with the acquisition of Kerfoot, who will likely replace Kadri on the third line. Kerfoot is has posted back-to-back 40-point seasons while averaging less than 15 minutes of ice time.
It seemed inevitable that Tyler Myers would get too much money this offseason and it seemed kind of inevitable that the Canucks would be the team to overpay for him. Both things came true on Monday, even if Myers' deal (five years, $30 million) wasn't as outrageous as some of the reported proposals prior to this week.
Still, $6 million per is too much for Myers, who is best suited to be a second-or-third-pairing defenseman. He's not terrible and he might be able to provide immediate help to Vancouver, a team lacking on the back end, but he's not particularly great in any area of his game.
Who doesn't love a little chaos to kick off free agency? Maybe it's not, but there was plenty of moving and shaking in the NHL on Monday. Big signings. Big trades. Hell, we even got ourselves an offer sheet.
The Montreal Canadiens tendered a contract to Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho, offering him a five-year deal worth $8.454 million annually. That's the first time in six years that the NHL's free agency period has included a restricted free agent signing an offer sheet.
It doesn't happen often due to an "unwritten code" among general managers. An offer sheet of another team's young star could lead to retribution and strained relationships down the line, and front offices rarely want to take that chance. It's even more rare for the move to actually work. The last successful offer sheet came in 2007, when the Edmonton Oilers poached Dustin Penner from the Anaheim Ducks to the tune of five years, $21.5 million.
It didn't take the Hurricanes long to announce that Aho wouldn't be getting added to list of successful tenders.
It's a no-brainer to extend Aho at that price, as he's currently the team's best player at 21 years old and that's pretty fair value for the production he put up last year. He's coming off a breakout year in which he scored 30 goals and registered 83 points in 82 games for the Canes.
Loser: Robin Lehner
It's tough times out there for a Vezina finalist, apparently. Despite a career year that saw him post a .930 save percentage and a 26.24 goals saved above average mark, Robin Lehner only got a one-year, $5 million deal, from the Chicago Blackhawks where he'll likely split duties with Corey Crawford if Crawford is healthy.
It's especially perplexing considering the Islanders -- Lehner's former club -- gave Semyon Varlamov four years at the same price ($5 million) to replace him. Varlamov is three years older than Lehner and is coming off a worse year (.909 save percentage, negative-1.16 goals saved above average), so it makes you wonder why they weren't willing to give that sort of commitment to Lehner, or why Lehner wasn't willing to accept.
The Rangers secured the biggest prize of this year's free agent class with the signing of Artemi Panarin, who gets his wish by landing in a big market and destination city. Yes, the Rangers paid a premium by making Panarin the highest-paid winger in the league at $11.6 million annually for seven years, but they can afford to do so at this point in time.
They get one of the game's elite wingers in Panarin, who has a chance to become the face of a franchise under very bright lights. The offensive dynamo is eighth among all players in points (320) since entering the league in 2015. He's coming off a career-best season in which he scored 28 goals and had 87 points.
Panarin, 27, becomes the latest addition in what has been a tremendous offseason for New York. The Blueshirts have added hyped Finnish prospect Kaapo Kakko (selected second overall in this year's draft), promising defensive prospect Adam Fox (trade with Carolina Hurricanes), top-pairing defenseman Jacob Trouba (trade with Winnipeg Jets) and now Panarin in free agency. They've also got several promising young players coming up through the organization, so they're in a very good place right now.
It's looking like one hell of an accelerated rebuild in the Big Apple.
Loser: San Jose Sharks
The big win for the Sharks came a few weeks ago when they re-signed Erik Karlsson, making sure he wouldn't get to headline this year's free agent class. However, they paid a massive price ($11.5 million for eight years) to do so and they suffered the consequences on Monday in the opening day of free agency.
Because of the Karlsson extension, the Sharks had to watch several good offensive pieces walk away on Monday, including captain Joe Pavelski (signed a three-year deal with the Dallas Stars) as well as secondary pieces Joonas Donskoi (four-year deal with Colorado Avalanche) and Gustav Nyquist (four-year deal with Columbus Blue Jackets).
That's a tough hit for the Sharks, who will need to find ways to make up for those losses at the front of their lineup as they look to contend again next year. They did, however, extend RFA Timo Meier on a very solid deal ($6 million for four years) Monday, so it wasn't a total loss up front.
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