The NHL off-season started out with a bang, but has since fizzled. There were big splashes made by some general managers, while others just stood on the sidelines. There were two general managers that stood out above the rest with the offseason winding down.
Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and David Poile of the Nashville Predators have made moves for their teams to succeed now and into the future. There is still work to be done especially by Yzerman, but these two have proven that they are willing to go all out to win. Poile and the Predators pulled off one of the biggest trades of the offseason by swapping big-name defensemen with the Montreal Canadiens, and resigning players to favorable contracts. Yzerman didn’t need to make the big trade since the Lightning have been in the Conference Finals in back-to-back seasons. He just needed to find a way to get his players to sign cap friendly contracts, whether they were unrestricted free agents or restricted free agents.
Yzerman found a way to keep his core players, and at the ever important cap friendly prices. J.T. Brown and Cedric Paquette were both signed to new two-year contracts to kick the summer off for Tampa Bay. On June 29, Steven Stamkos, the most coveted unrestricted free agent of the summer, signed an eight year deal with a cap hit of $8.5 million to stay with the Lightning and take some of the drama from day one of NHL free agency, which was to happen on July 1. The team announced the contract extensions of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and defenseman Victor Hedman on July 1. Vasilveskiy signed a three year, $10.5 million extension, while Hedman is locked up for the next seven years with a cap hit of $7,875,000 million per season.
The work didn’t stop there for Yzerman, who still had some restricted free agents to get a deal done with before arbitration. On July 17, Tampa Bay announced that the team had resigned Alex Killorn to a seven year contract worth $31,150,000, a cap hit of only $4.45 million per season. Yzerman was then left with Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov and Nikita Nesterov to try to get a deal done with to avoid an arbitration hearing. Namestnikov signed a two year deal worth $3,875.000 to go with a cap hit of $1,973,500 per year. Yzerman also signed some depth players and some AHL players.
There are still two restricted free agents that Yzerman and the Lightning need to come to terms with before the season starts. Those two players are Kucherov and Nesterov. Kucherov has gotten better in every season that he has played with the Lightning. He seems to up his game when the playoffs roll around. He has scored clutch goals and has 41 points in 43 playoff games the past two seasons. Nesterov has been in and out of the Lightning lineup but is a good option as the team’s seventh defenseman, especially since the team like to play 11 forwards and seven defensemen at times.
Poile didn’t have as nearly as many players to resign as Yzerman, but he may have pulled off the trade of the offseason. If anyone was paying attention to social media on June 29, they would know that it was a crazy day in the hockey world, and the Predators were a part of it. The Predators had announced that they had received defenseman P.K. Subban from the Canadiens in exchange for defenseman Shea Weber. It had been rumored all offseason that the Canadiens would move Subban, and they finally made the move. The Predators already stacked blue line had just gotten even better with the addition of Subban.
Two days prior to the Subban trade, Poile managed to sign restricted free agent. Filip Forsberg to a six-year, $36 million contract, which was another steal for him. The cap hit will only be $6 million for the length of the contract. The Predators decided to buyout Eric Nystrom and Barret Jackman, and those contracts will count towards the cap for the next two seasons. Poile signed defenseman Petter Granberg to a two year contract with a cap hit of $612,500 per season. Yannick Weber and Matt Carle were each brought in on one year deals for defensive depth, which every team needs. Poile also resigned center Calle Jarnkrok to a six year contract worth $12 million. The contract should be easy to move, if Jarnkrok doesn’t live up to expectations, with only a $2 million cap hit per season.
Yes, there were other general managers that made big moves, but these managed to improve their teams while keeping them mostly intact.
HONORABLE MENTION: Arizona Coyotes
The Arizona Coyotes and General Manager John Chayka had a good offseason. Chaka improved the blue line, added some veteran players to compliment the youngsters and landed some good free agents.
The first thing Chayka did was to acquire the rights to pending free agent defenseman Alex Goligoski. Goligoski signed with the Coyotes before free agency even started. The contract of forward Pavel Datsyuk was acquired in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings, just to help the Coyotes get above the salary cap floor. Datsyuk signed a contract to play in the KHL for the next couple of seasons. Jamie McGinn was signed as a free agent and will add another scoring option in the top six. Arizona also signed free agent forward Ryan White, who will add some grit and can chip in on the offensive side of the puck.
The biggest improvement for the Coyotes has been on the blue line with the additions of Goligoski, Luke Schenn and Jamie McBain. Chayka also resigned defensemen Kevin Connauton and Connor Murphy to new contracts. The Coyotes were bold and players this offseason and they should be a competitive team with a nice mix of youngsters and veterans.