Saturday, 1 July 2017

Free Spending Day

July 1 is Canada Day to non-hockey fans across this great country. Instead, the day has shackled hockey fans to TVs and social media as they watch who their favorite teams sign on the opening day of free agency in the NHL. While I'm sure that a good Canada Day party won't slow most fans, some die-hards will be debating the moves made at 10am until 9:59am next year on this day. That being said, there were some key signings, but the most important signing of the day for any Canadian team came as a re-signing. Let's look at what Canada's seven NHL teams did.


Vancouver had some immediate needs, but they decided to be thrifty rather than unloading the bank vault on one or two players. It appears that Jacob Markstrom will be the starter by default after Ryan Miller opted for a contract with the Anaheim Ducks.
  • Michael Del Zotto - defence (Philadelphia).
  • Anders Nilsson - goaltender (Buffalo).
  • Sam Gagner - center (Columbus).
  • Patrick Wiercioch - defence (Colorado).
  • Alex Burmistrov - center (Arizona).
Sam Gagner isn't the top-line centerman the Canucks needed, but he will take some scoring pressure off Bo Horvat as the young centerman improves. Alex Burmistrov is a project as Arizona found out, and Vancouver will see if another change of scenery helps. The Wiercioch and Del Zotto signings will push a number of defencemen on the Canucks roster as well as providing good depth for a defence corps decimated by injuries. Anders Nilsson will get opportunities to play as Markstrom's backup.

Overall: B+.


Obviously, the biggest contract that is being negotiated is for Connor McDavid's extension. I understand that McDavid will become the highest-paid player in the league, but I still think Edmonton is making a mistake in overpaying for players down the middle. I'm not saying that McDavid isn't worth the money, but if McDavid was sincere at the NHL Awards about team success being more important than individual trophies, he may want to leave some cash on the table to keep other important players around. That being said, Edmonton was quiet today.
  • Ty Rattie - right wing (Carolina).
Rattie will be given a shot to make the roster, but this move may be more about strengthening the Bakersfield Condors. Rattie has the ability to grab a roster spot that perhaps was occupied by Benoit Pouliot, but he'll need to come into camp with a purpose this season.

Overall: C-.


The Flames, as we know, decided to build through trades rather than free agents in acquiring Mike Smith and Travis Hamonic, so their needs were few. I don't really believe Mike Smith will be better than the tandem of Elliott and Johnson, but we'll see what happens this season as the Flames look to push upwards in the Pacific Division standings.
  • Marek Hrivik - left wing (NY Rangers).
Hrivik hasn't seen much action in the NHL, appearing in just 16 games with the Rangers, but there's hope that he can elevate his game this season and eventually join the Flames. Realistically, this move makes the Stockton Heat better as the top-nine in Calgary are virtually set with Versteeg re-signing earlier this week.

Overall: D, but they didn't really need to make any moves.


Winnipeg reportedly was looking to upgrade their goaltending after Connor Hellebuyck apparently wasn't good enough last season. They also wanted to address their defensive situation after buying out Mark Stuart and allowing Paul Postma to test free agency. To say Winnipeg had some holes to fill would be an understatement.
  • Steve Mason - goaltender (Philadelphia).
  • Dmitry Kulikov - defence (Buffalo).
  • Michael Sgarbossa - center (Florida).
  • Buddy Robinson - right wing (Ottawa).
  • Cameron Schilling - defence (Los Angeles).
Mason and Kulikov address the two biggest needs the Jets had, but I'm not sure they improve upon what they already had. Mason runs hot and cold in the net, rarely ever looking consistent from week to week, while Kulikov was suffering with a back injury last season that really affected his play. He's reportedly at 100%, but that doesn't take away from the fact that he's still the fifth-best defenceman the Jets have. The Jets also restocked the Moose by adding Sgarbossa, Robinson, and Schilling, and they should help the AHL affiliate with their experiences at that level.

Overall: C+.


Ottawa needed to find some defensive depth left behind by Marc Methot in case Thomas Chabot suffers through some struggles. Ottawa also was looking at building for another playoff run next season, so there was some hope they could acquire some additional scoring up front. They didn't have gaping holes to fill, but upgrades could be found for certain positions.
  • Nate Thompson - center (Anaheim).
  • Tyler Randell - right wing (Boston).
  • Ben Sexton - center (New Jersey).
  • Max Reinhart - center (Cologne - DEL).
  • Erik Burgdoerfer - defence (Buffalo).
  • Danny Taylor - goaltender (HC Sibir Novosibirsk - KHL)
Nate Thompson will solidify the bottom-six for Ottawa, but these moves were intended to give the newly-located Belleville Senators a fighting chance next season. Reinhart could surprise after spending a season overseas, but I expect the bottom five players to start the season with the B-Sens.

Overall: C-.


Toronto made some waves by re-signing both Curtis McElhinney and Garret Sparks, putting the Leafs in pretty good standing when it came to the backup goaltending job next season. They also re-signed Colin Greening who was an excellent leader for the Marlies last season. They definitely could use some upgrades on the blue line, and adding some defensive help up front would be smart. Brian Boyle left the team via free agency, so there's at least one roster spot available for a free agent.
  • Ron Hainsey - defence (Pittsburgh).
  • Dominic Moore - center (Boston).
  • Chris Mueller - center (Arizona).
  • Vincent Loverde - defence (Los Angeles).
The Leafs found some defensive help in Ron Hainsey, but they'll need him to play as he did for Pittsburgh in the playoffs if the Leafs want to improve defensively. I like the Dominic Moore signing as he'll provide some extra speed in the bottom-six compared to Boyle. Mueller and Loverde will bolster the Marlies' lineup, and there are still rumours out there that the Leafs are in on Patrick Marleau. Keep your eyes on this one, folks.

Overall: B+.


Montreal had alreayd acquired some defensive help via David Schlemko, but there were still concerns with the Habs' blue line. With Alex Radulov flirting with free agency and asking for big dollars, the Canadiens possibly would need to look for a replacement to bolster their scoring. With a reported huge contract on the horizon for goaltender Carey Price, GM Marc Bergevin would need to find some magic on free agency day.
  • Karl Alzner - defence (Washington).
  • Byron Froese - center (Tampa Bay).
  • Peter Holland - center (Arizona).
  • Matt Taormina - defence (Tampa Bay).
  • Joe Morrow - defence (Boston).
Bergevin certainly addressed his blue line by signing Karl Alzner, but I'm not sure he was the guy the Canadiens needed. He will make the Habs better, but there may now be concerns with the foot speed of the Canadiens' blue line. Peter Holland is a safe signing for depth down the middle while Froese, Taormina, and Morrow will help the Canadiens' depth overall. Morrow and Taormina will get looks before being assigned to Laval, I imagine.

Overall: B.

As a hockey country, it wasn't a bad Canada Day. Teams gt better with the signing of some key players, but no team really hit one out of the park with the signings they made. We'll see how much improvement these new players bring once the teams return to the ice in October, but hope springs eternal on Canada Day in the NHL.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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