The Toronto Maple Leafs made a major free agent addition as they signed 37-year old left winger Patrick Marleau to a 3-year/$18.75 million contract. Marleau had been with the San Jose Sharks ever since the team drafted him in 1997 and I was absolutely shocked that he didn’t stay with the Sharks for the rest of his career. Marleau decided to instead take the big offer from Toronto in order to likely finish his career with the Maple Leafs. Marleau isn’t the player that he was during his prime with the Sharks, but he is still a very productive 2nd line player as he had 27 goals for San Jose last season. The Maple Leafs had a very young roster heading into next season, so the veteran leadership of Marleau is a perfect fit for Toronto. Marleau is still a productive player, but he will be even more valuable to the team as a mentor to the talented young players on the roster like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. It is really sad to see Marleau leave San Jose considering the impact that he had on that team over the years. However, the Maple Leafs just offered him a ton of money that he couldn’t refuse at this point in his career. Toronto definitely overpaid for Marleau, but this is is a good signing for the team overall and he will be a perfect fit on the 2nd line for the Maple Leafs.
The Montreal Canadiens bolstered their defense in free agency as they signed former Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner to a 5-year/$23.125 million deal. Alzner won’t provide much offensively as his career high for points in a season is 21. However, Alzner is a good defensive player and he always has an outstanding plus/minus every season including last year when he had a career high plus 23. Alzner will likely be on the top defensive pairing along with elite defenseman Shea Weber. Alzner will be a good complement to Weber since Weber is a great offensive performer and Alzner is known as a defensive specialist. The Canadiens now have much more quality depth on defense with the addition of Alzner and it makes this team a playoff competitor for several years. If Alzner can contribute more offensively then this would be a great signing, but this at least will improve Montreal defensively and it is still a solid signing for the Canadiens.
Kevin Shattenkirk has proven himself as a top defenseman in the NHL and he is now paid like one as he signed a 4-year/$26.6 million deal with the New York Rangers. Shattenkirk is still in the prime of his career since he is only 28 years old and he will make an immediate impact on defense for the Rangers. New York really needed a good 2nd defenseman to go along with Ryan McDonagh and Shattenkirk gives the team a very good top defensive pairing. The Rangers already had enough goaltender and forward depth to be a solid playoff team, but they lacked the defense to be able to make a deep playoff run. Shattenkirk is an impact player both offensively and defensively as he had 56 points last season which is really good for a defenseman. The Rangers did pay a lot of money to sign Shattenkirk, but it is definitely worth it as he still has many years left of quality play left in him and he was probably the best free agent available this year. This is a terrific signing for the Rangers and it is another step to helping them become a more competitive team in the eastern conference.
The Dallas Stars made the biggest signing of the NHL free agency by signing right winger Alexander Radulov to a 5-year/$31.25 million contract. Radulov was considered one of the top players available in an extremely weak NHL free agent class this offseason. Radulov had a good year for Montreal as he had 18 goals and 36 assists for the Canadiens last season. However, Radulov is 31 years old and he hadn’t even played at the NHL level since 2011 until playing for Montreal last season. Dallas did have a major need for a right winger this offseason, but this signing just feels like a major reach since Radulov had been out of the NHL for so long and this contract will likely take him to the end of his career. The Stars should have just traded for a right winger or found a temporary solution in free agency rather than making a commitment to an aging player that isn’t even very good. Radulov will be an upgrade for the Stars on their first line to go along with star players Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. However, the Stars shouldn’t have overpaid for Radulov and they certainly should have given him a shorter-term deal. Radulov could make a big impact for the Stars, but this is just a really risky signing for a player that is 31 years old and still hasn’t proven himself at the NHL level.
- Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews changed the fortunes for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season as he turned Toronto from one of the worst teams in the league into a playoff team. Matthews is remarkably only 19 years old and I would be shocked if he isn’t an NHL MVP very soon. Mitch Marner also made an incredible impact for the Maple Leafs as a rookie in 2016 as he had 42 assists and he is still only 20 years old. There is no doubting that the Maple Leafs have a very capable offense for many years to come. However, for this team to become a Stanley Cup contender then they will definitely need to find a better starting goaltender. Frederik Andersen is a very good backup goalie, but the Maple Leafs need to somehow acquire a true number 1 contender in order to continue to get better. Toronto could also improve their depth at defense, but if they can find a way to find a better goaltender then this team could be tough to beat. It is amazing how good this team has become after being one of the worst teams in the NHL just a couple of years ago.
2. Edmonton Oilers
It has been awhile since Edmonton was even close to being a contender, but last year the Oilers finally made it back to the playoffs. Connor McDavid has led the Oilers resurgence as he had a remarkable 100 points last season in order to win the Hart trophy as the NHL MVP. The best part for the Oilers is that McDavid is only 20 years old and the Oilers also have another really good center Leon Draisaitl who had 77 points for Edmonton last season despite being only 21 years old. Don’t forget about Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins either as both of those players are tremendous offensive players as well. Edmonton is stacked with young talent especially on offense and that is what will carry this team probably to a championship sometime soon. Goaltender Cam Talbot had a very good year for the Oilers as well as he had a 2.39 GAA in 73 games. However, the Oilers need to find a good backup goaltender this offseason in order to take a lot of pressure off of Talbot. Also, the Oilers need to find some much more quality defenseman this offseason and if they can do so then this team will be even better next season and for many years to come.
3. Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets came close to being a playoff team last season after having a very good rookie season from 19-year old right winger Patrik Laine who had 64 points in 2016. I expect Laine to get even better next season and add him to Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Bryan Little and suddenly the Jets have a very potent offense for the future. Winnipeg also has two good defenseman with Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba. However, for the Jets to continue to improve then they will need to add some more depth at the defense position this offseason. The thing that is really holding Winnipeg back from being a playoff team is their goaltending. Connor Hellebuyck is a decent backup goalie, but he is certainly not a good number 1 goaltender as he had a terrible 2.89 GAA last season for the Jets. Winnipeg needs to find a new number 1 goalie somehow and if they can upgrade at that position then there is no doubt that this team could make the playoffs easily.
The Arizona Coyotes traded defenseman Michael Stone to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a 2017 3rd round pick and a 2018 conditional 5th round pick.
The Coyotes are clearly sellers prior to the March 1 trade deadline and this trade could be the first of many for Arizona. Michael Stone hasn’t had a very good season in 2016-2017 as he only has 1 goal and 8 assists in 45 games. Stone is scheduled to be a free agent after this season, so it makes sense for the Coyotes to trade him away now and get some draft picks to help in their rebuild. Arizona probably wasn’t going to re-sign him anyway and he wasn’t going to be much of a use to the team anyway since the team is not going to make the playoffs this season. Arizona now gets a third-round pick which should be useful to get a decent young player that can help to rebuild the Coyotes for the future. Also, if Stone re-signs with the Flames this offseason then the Coyotes would get a 2018 5th round pick. This is a great trade for the Coyotes since they are getting a couple of decent draft picks for a player that they don’t need anymore anyway.
Calgary is trying desperately to hold onto their playoff spot and they are looking to win immediately which is why they traded for Stone. He won’t provide much offensive abilities, but Stone isn’t a bad option to add some defensive depth to the team. Stone will likely be on the 3rd pairing of defenseman for the Flames behind quality defensive like Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton. This isn’t an impact trade for Calgary, but at least they now have some more depth at defense late in the season. It was probably too much to give up for Stone especially if they don’t plan on bringing him back this offseason. However, it at least provides some more stability to their roster if they want to make the playoffs.
The Vancouver Canucks had an awful year in 2015 as they are in the middle of a rather big rebuild process. However, they made a really strange trade on Wednesday as they traded forward Jared McCann, a 2016 2nd round pick, and a 2016 4th round pick to Florida for defenseman Erik Gudbranson and a 2016 5th round pick. This move is questionable for many reasons for the Canucks mainly because they are trading away a young player with potential as well as high draft picks that could get some more young talent. McCann was a 2014 1st round pick by Vancouver and yet he’ll only be 20 years old when the 2016 NHL season begins. McCann struggled last season at the NHL level as he only had 18 points in 69 games. I don’t know what Vancouver was expecting from him because they were only giving him an average of 12:31 of ice time every game as a depth forward. He clearly wasn’t ready to play in the NHL and they should have kept him in the minor leagues to develop at least for another year. McCann did struggle, but he has lots of potential and it seems silly to give up on a 1st round pick not long after he was drafted. Vancouver is looking to build up its roster for the future which is why it doesn’t make sense at all to give up two high draft picks in this year’s draft. They could have gotten a really good player with their 2nd round pick, but now they are just slowing down their rebuild process even longer because they won’t be able to build towards their future as much. Erik Gudbranson has some talent which is why he was the 3rd overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Panthers. However, Gudbranson has really struggled to live up to his potential as he only has 43 points in 309 career NHL games. He only had 9 points last season, so he is clearly limited with his offensive abilities. The Canucks struggled with their defense last season and they were looking for some more offensive production out of their defensemen. I really don’t know what the Canucks are hoping to get with Gubranson because he doesn’t have any offensive capability that Vancouver was in need of. He does provide physical play, but he has a career -49 plus/minus which really is terrible for a defensemen. Vancouver is hoping that Gudbranson will be a top 4 defensemen for them, yet he has only proven to be a top 6 defensemen at best in his career so far. It just doesn’t make much sense as to why the Canucks would give away so much talent for future years in order to get a defensemen that won’t give them much going forward besides depth. Gudbranson is a decent player, yet he doesn’t fit what Vancouver needs and they really hurt their rebuilding process by giving up McCann and a 2nd round pick.