by Alli Baker
The first of July is like Christmas for hockey fans. Once free agency begins, every team has a chance to ink a big-name player and drastically change their upcoming season. This year’s free agency frenzy didn’t disappoint, as many superstar players moved around the league on July 1. These new additions will no doubt have a sizable impact for their new teams in the 2014-2015 season:
Dan Boyle and the New York Rangers: After losing Benoit Pouloit and Anton Stralman to free agency, the Rangers had some holes to fill. Not having much cash to work with, GM Glen Sather made some shrewd moves, signing veteran defenseman Dan Boyle to a two-year, $9 million contract. The 38-year old provides a veteran presence and experience. The defenseman made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004 and won gold in the 2010 Olympics with Team Canada. Boyle can provide offense for the Blueshirts, as well – the ex-Shark scored 12 goals in 75 games last year with San Jose. In signing Boyle, the Rangers acquired a top defenseman for a low price, allowing the team to also sign Tanner Glass and resign Dominic Moore.
Jarome Iginla and the Colorado Avalanche: In order to follow up its impressive turn-around season and playoff push during the 2013-14 season, the Avalanche knew a top player would be needed if the team was to continue to be a contender. Losing Paul Statsny to the Blues was not a step in the right direction for the Avs. Signing Jarome Iginla to a three-year, $16 million contract was. One of the younger teams in the NHL, the Avalanche are definitely going to benefit from having the veteran added to the roster. The former Boston Bruin is undoubtedly a top six forward for Colorado and will provide the team with extra offense. In 78 games last year with Boston, Iginla posted 30 goals and 61 points. The 37-year old doesn’t look to be slowing down, either, and should become a solid part of Colorado’s lineup over the next few years.
Mike Camallerri and the New Jersey Devils: The New Jersey Devils desperately needed to make a big move this offseason and acquire a player or two to provide some much-needed offense. GM Lou Lamoriello did just that, inking ex-Calgary Flame Mike Camallerri to a five year deal worth $25 million. The 11-year NHL veteran scored 26 goals in 63 games last year with the Flames and has consistently been a 20-plus goal scorer. The Devils had tried on two other previous occasions to acquire Camallerri, and finally did so on the first day of free agency. The 32-year old said that he was most looking forward to having the chance to play alongside superstar Jaromir Jagr.1 The Devils also added Martin Havlat, hoping the two new acquisitions will be able to boost the team’s lackluster offense from the previous season.
Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, and the Washington Capitals: After a less-than ideal finish to the 2013-14 season, the Caps had some serious work to do this offseason. The organization started by hiring former Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz in hopes that he could provide some wisdom for the defensively-challenged team. Washington, home to NHL superstar Alex Ovechkin, didn’t have a problem scoring goals. Defense, on the other hand, was a challenge. GM Brian MacLellan added some depth by signing Penguins’ defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to massive contracts. Niskanen was signed for seven years and $40.25 million, while Orpik got five years and $27.5 million. Although these signings will definitely reinforce Washington’s defensive depth, they are considered to be the worst deals of free agency thus far by many. Orpik, who is already 33 years old, has been injured often throughout the past few seasons and may not provide the consistency the Caps need. The contracts also take up a sizable amount of cap space.
Ryan Miller and the Vancouver Canucks: The Vancouver Canucks added some talent in goal Tuesday by signing two-time Olympian Ryan Miller to a 3-year, $18 million contract. The 33-year old will bring his experience and work ethic to Vancouver and it’s the hope of GM Jim Benning that Miller will become a good role model for many of the team’s younger players.2 Miller, who has reached 30-plus wins seven times, is without a doubt an improvement for the Canucks.
Brad Richards and the Chicago Blackhawks: The Hawks started free agency already over the cap limit, but still needed to make a move to remain competitive in the Central Division. This goal was accomplished by signing veteran Brad Richards to a one year, $2 million contract. Richards, who scored 20 goals last year with the Rangers, will no doubt add offensive talent to the Blackhawks. For this bargain, the Hawks also get a number two center who could possibly play alongside Patrick Kane. Although this isn’t a massive deal, it’s exactly what Chicago needed to do.
Thomas Vanek and the Minnesota Wild: It was the deal everyone knew would eventually happen: the Wild finally acquired Minnesota native Thomas Vanek on Tuesday, signing him to a three-year, $19.5 million contract. The 30-year old will replace the holes left by the departure of Dany Heatley and Matt Moulson. Vanek, who played college hockey at the University of Minnesota, should help to fix the Wild’s goal-scoring problem. The former Montreal Canadien scored 27 goals and had 41 assists in 78 games last year. It’s that ability that GM Craig Leopold is counting on to make the Wild a legitimate Stanley Cup contender next year.
Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman and the Tampa Bay Lightning: The former New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan gave the Tampa Bay Lightning some inside information on Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman and quite possibly provided an incentive for the two other ex-Rangers to head to the Bolts. The trio played together in New York for parts of three years, so a Tampa reunion was not out of the question. Stralman signed for five years, $22.5 million; Boyle signed for three years, $6 million. The Lightning moved Nate Thompson and Teddy Purcell in order to make enough room for the two new contracts, so the big question is whether the addition of Boyle and Stralman will make Tampa better or worse.
Free agency is far from over and signings will continue to occur throughout the summer, but the biggest names are already off the market. Now all there is to do is wait three months to see how the moves will work out when the 2014-15 season begins.
1 – CBC.CA
2 – ESPN.com