Day one of NHL free agency was a wild ride, headlined by Johnny Gaudreau choosing an offer from Columbus, which I’m not even sure Columbus thought was possible as of July 12. WILD.
Not everything was that extreme, but most of it is it at least worth a couple sentences to discuss. So, let’s do exactly that.
A quick thought on every deal of relative note from free agency day one, starting with the last deal of the day and working back to the first.
Kristians Rubins, D, Ottawa
Contract: One year, $750,000 AAV
The Sens need help on their back-end, and the big Latvian has some upside as a depth AHL/NHL guy. If he’s playing consistent minutes for your group you’ve got issues, but he’s a serviceable fill-in guy when there’s a need.
Nikita Zadorov, D, Calgary
Contract: Two years, $3.75 million AAV
Zadorov is a giant, prime-aged defender who had a pretty good season under Darryl Sutter, and those guys don’t come cheap. This isn’t exactly a bargain, but the Flames had a successful d-corps last year, so I can see why they’d be interested in keeping most of it together.
Nico Sturm, C, San Jose
Contract: Three years, $2 million AAV
“A rising tide raises all boats” seems like a relevant quote here, as Sturm being a useful depth contributor to the most recent Stanley Cup champion sees him get paid. I like it for SJ too, as the cost isn’t that unreasonable, and you’re sure you’re shoring up your depth on a deal that gets what’s likely the 27-year-old’s best years.
Ryan Strome, C, Anaheim
Contract: Five years, $5 million AAV
The Ducks have ample cap space, so it makes sense they’d start to add some players who can be effective for them for a longer term. Strome is a 6-foot-1 centre who scored over 20 goals last season, and while maybe not a huge needle mover, he should be able to contribute reliably for at least the first few years of that deal.
Reilly Smith, RW, Vegas
Contract: Three years, $5 million AAV
As Vegas moved on from Max Pacioretty, it was important that they didn’t lose all the pieces that have made them so effective for years now. At 31 it’s unlikely that they’ll get more from Smith than he’s given in the past, but three years is an understandable contract to keep a guy they needed to keep on board.
Haydn Fleury, D, Tampa Bay
Contract: Two years, $762,500 AAV
Fleury’s career looked awfully promising in the early going, but never quite took off as expected. This is a good bet for both sides, as the player will be put in great structure to find his game, and the Bolts could wring extra value from a player who hasn’t yet hit his ceiling.
Ondrej Kase, RW, Carolina
Contract: One year, $1.5 million AAV
Two things are true about Kase: one is that he’s an excellent player, and the other is that he’s injury prone. It’s a fair bet for the Canes, who might be able to grab value on his upside (or put him on LTIR), but it’s hard to be confident Kase will be available when they need him most.