NHL: 10 Teams That Made the Biggest Splash in the Pre-Lockout Minutes

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor ISeptember 25, 2012

NHL: 10 Teams That Made the Biggest Splash in the Pre-Lockout Minutes

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    With the lockout imminent, there was a flurry of signings around the NHL as teams scrambled to lock up players to contract extensions before the new CBA took effect and the rules changed.

    It is not clear how the rules will change eligibility for unrestricted free agency, restricted free agency, contract length and rookie contracts, so teams went out and made sure they kept some of their better players under contract for the foreseeable future.

    Here is a look at the top 10 teams that made the biggest splash in the pre-lockout minutes. Keep in mind that includes signings within two weeks of the start of the lockout on September 15th.

    Feel free to chime in if you feel I missed something or if you disagree.

10. Buffalo Sabres

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    The Sabres big pre-lockout move was the signing of forward Tyler Ennis to a two-year contract extension.

    Ennis is just 22 years old and scored 20 goals in 2010-11 before injuries limited him to just 48 games last season (he still scored 15 goals and 34 points in a little more than half a season).

    Keeping the 5'9", 164-pound native of Edmonton in the fold was a good move for the Sabres and ensures some continuity among the club's young talent. Buffalo selected Ennis in the first round of the 2008 NHL Draft.

9. Anaheim Ducks

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    The Ducks also made only one big move just before the lockout but it was an important one. Anaheim signed defenseman Cam Fowler to a three-year contract extension.

    Fowler was the club's top pick (12th overall) in the 2010 NHL Draft and shows great promise. His entry level contract would have expired after this coming season if not for this deal.

    The 6'1", 196-pound Windsor, Ontario, native already has scored a total of 15 goals and 69 points in his first two NHL seasons and he is considered the cornerstone of the Anaheim defense. He should see his ice time increase after the Ducks traded Lubomir Visnovsky to the Islanders on draft day.

8. Vancouver Canucks

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    The Vancouver Canucks wasted little time in signing 31-year-old Alex Burrows to a four-year contract extension just before the start of the lockout. The talented winger would have been eligible for free agency in the summer of 2013.

    The move made sense. Burrows has been a good fit on Vancouver's top line along with the Sedin Twins. In fact, Burrows has scored more than 26 goals in each of the past four seasons including a career-high 35 goals and 67 points in 2009-10.

    Because of his age, the native of Pincourt, Quebec, would have almost certainly been a free agent next summer regardless of any changes in the new CBA had he not inked a new deal.

    Burrows also adds some grit to the Vancouver lineup. He has five seasons with 90 or more penalty minutes over the last six years.

7. Winnipeg Jets

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    The Winnipeg Jets are rebuilding through the draft and winger Evander Kane is one of the key components of that program.

    The Vancouver native exploded for 30 goals in his third NHL season in 2011-12 to lead the team and his 57 points place him second on the Jets.

    Kane would have been a restricted free agent next summer but the Jets ensured that the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft would stay in Winnipeg by inking him to a six-year contract extension just before the lockout to effect.

6. Nashville Predators

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    The Predators didn't sign any superstar players in the days just before the lockout, but they did sign more players than any other team and the quantity their signings got them on this list as much as the quality.

    GM David Poile signed forward Craig Smith to a two-year extension, second-pair defenseman Kevin Klein to a new five-year deal, second-year winger Gabriel Bourque to a two-year extension and defenseman Jonathon Blum, who was a restricted free agent, signed a one-year contract for the coming season.

    Smith and Blum are starters but depth players. Klein should see increased responsibility and minutes now that Ryan Suter has signed with Minnesota and Bourque is an up-and-coming player who could see top six minutes this year if he continues to work hard and develop.

    There are no superstars on this list, but the Predators locked up some meaningful pieces of their team in the final days before the lockout.

5. Phoenix Coyotes

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    The Coyotes finally got captain Shane Doan's name on a contract extension just before the lockout went into effect.

    It was long known that Doan wanted to stay in Phoenix if possible, but the Coyotes' ownership issues complicated the situation and prevented Doan, an unrestricted free agent, from committing to remaining with the club.

    Keeping their captain and spiritual leader is major accomplishment for GM Don Maloney who is always facing budget issues on a team that is still, as of now, owned by the league. Basically put, the Coyotes wouldn't be the same team without Doan.

4. Dallas Stars

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    Kari Lehtonen had a very strong season for the Dallas Stars last year and the club rewarded him with five-year contract extension.

    A former first-round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2002, Lehtonen struggled with health issues and inconsistency throughout his career but seems to have found a home in the Lone Star State.

    The Finnish netminder suffered a knee injury during last spring's World Championships, but that appears to have healed and should not be an issue once the season gets under way.

    The Stars added veteran forwards Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney, so they expect to make a run at the playoffs right away. Lehtonen is now clearly a part of the long- and short-term plan in Dallas.

3. Washington Capitals

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    The Capitals made a pair of moves just before signings ended on September 15th, agreeing to new deals with forward Troy Brouwer on a three-year extension and defenseman John Carlson to a new deal as well.

    Brouwer is a winger with good size and experience. At 27, he's just entering his prime and he has already won a Stanley Cup with Chicago two years ago. He scored 18 goals and 33 points for Washington last year and can fill in on a number of different lines if the situation requires it.

    Carlson is just 22 and has put up consistent offensive numbers in each of his first two NHL seasons. He is already on Washington's top defensive pair and hasn't even realized his full potential yet at this point in his career. His entry-level deal would have expired at the end of the coming season so signing the Natick, Massachusetts, native to an extension ensures that he will be a big part of the Capitals' lineup for the foreseeable future.

    Overall, these are two very good moves by Caps' GM George McPhee.

2. Detroit Red Wings

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    The Red Wings made a pair of important moves just before the roster freeze took effect.

    First, they signed free agent defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo to a two-year contract. The Wings lost two quality defensemen in Brad Stuart and future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom so signing a new defenseman was vital. Earlier attempts to sign Ryan Suter were unsuccessful but Colaiacovo will be a solid addition.

    Then Detroit re-signed restricted free agent forward Justin Abdelkader to a new four-year contract. The 25-year-old Michigan native has never scored more than eight goals in an NHL season, but scoring is not his role. Abdelkader is a top defensive forward who is used to check and slow down opposing team's top players. He should continue to grow into that role and is a valuable player for the Wings to keep around.

1. Boston Bruins

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    The Boston Bruins were very active in the days leading up to the lockout and signed three key players to new contract extensions and inked their top pick in this year's draft to an entry-level deal as well.

    Boston signed young sniper Tyler Seguin to a six-year extension. Seguin's entry-level deal would have expired after the coming season and the Bruins didn't want to risk exposing him to even restricted free agency. Seguin scored 29 goals and 67 points in his second NHL season last year.

    The Bruins also signed two of their most popular players to new deals in forwards Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand. Lucic upped for three more seasons while Marchand was signed for four more years. Lucic was fourth and Marchand fifth on the Bruins in scoring and keeping them around allows Boston to keep their scoring depth up front.

    First-round draft pick Malcolm Subban was also signed to an entry-level contract just before the lockout began, helping the Bruins sign their top pick from this year's draft.

    Overall, the Bruins were active and signed some important cogs on their roster to extensions just before the lockout began.