NHL Free Agency 2014: Winners, Losers and the Middle
The free agency frenzy for the NHL is a little more than a week old, and through all the signings and the 400 plus million dollars spent, you can honestly say that there were moves that made you scream and shout and others that made you shake your head.
On the local scene, free agency for the Islanders, Rangers and Devils was a way to step forward and a way to step back. Each team looked for ways to improve their squads both offensively and defensively with key signings. Out of all three teams, I believe each team was a winner so far for the summer. For the Islanders, adding goaltending (Halak/Johnson) and depth at forwards (Grabovski/Kulemin) helps fills needs that have been lacking for several years. The Rangers added grit to their 3rd and 4th lines, while also getting a veteran D Dan Boyle to help their young defensive core. Lastly, the Devils got their shot in the arm on offense by bringing in Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat.
Meanwhile, around the league several teams made a splash, while others stood and watched on the side. One huge winner was the St. Louis Blues. Bringing in twenty-nine year old center Paul Stastny and underrated Finnish center Jori Lehtera (26) really adds a punch down the middle alongside David Backes in a Western Conference stacked with elite centers. Another winner was the Dallas Stars. Coming off of their first playoff appearance in five years, GM Jim Nill bolstered the Stars offense by picking up Jason Spezza in a trade from Ottawa, while also adding Spezza’s former teammate Ales Hemsky. My third winner has to be the Florida Panthers. Just days after selecting Aaron Ekblad number one overall, they added a plethora of quality players in Jussi Jokinen, Dave Bolland and Shawn Thornton. Just these three names will help a young team already boasting some of the league’s best upcoming talent.
So, when there are winners in something, there always have to be losers and some who just stayed the same; in free agency there’s no exceptions. A big loser from free agency frenzy was the Detroit Red Wings. Missing out on signing defenseman Dan Boyle or Matt Niskanen leaves the Wings desperate trying to find the guy to help stabilize their defensive corps. I might be wrong here, but the Washington Capitals are my second loser. Overpaying Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik whose thirty-four makes you wonder how unreliable D-man Mike Green is to the organization after being a former two-time Norris trophy Finalist. Final loser of free agency: the Carolina Hurricanes. New GM Ron Francis did nothing to improve the Canes situation on defense or offense.
Lastly, the team that stayed in the middle for me was the Buffalo Sabres. Maybe looking forward to next year’s draft already- I’m not sure. Buffalo adding Matt Moulson, along with Josh Gorges and Brian Gionta, definitely adds leadership to a group brimming with young talent, and nearly NHL ready prospects.
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