The work stoppage has dominated all of the NHL storylines over the past few months. One of the pains of the lockout is that teams can’t unveil their new players that fans have been looking forward to seeing hit the ice since July.
Since nobody is able to see their full team play together, it doesn’t hurt to look at how those rosters were put together this summer. Here are five of the most shocking free-agent moves of last summer.
The biggest shocker on this deal is the fact that the Minnesota Wild were able to snag both of the top two free agents on the market. Everybody knew that they would be players in free agency, but it came as a surprise to everyone that the pair signed together.
Clearly Craig Leipold and general manager Chuck Fletcher were taking a page out of the NBA playbook by signing the best players in order to form a team around established All-Stars.
Since Parise and Suter both signed up for 13-year contracts, it gives the Wild a solid core for many years to come. Even if a new collective bargaining agreement includes a cap on contract years, it is expected that both players will be hanging around Minneapolis for quite some time.
Shea Weber’s deal wasn’t exactly what the Predators had in mind going into negotiations with the restricted free agent. Luckily for Weber, the Philadelphia Flyers came in and threw a ridiculously large contract his way.
Nashville had already lost Ryan Suter to the Wild and couldn’t afford to have its stud defenseman pack his bags too. Weber signed what is currently the third longest contract in NHL history, and the value of the contract is only behind Alexander Ovechkin’s $124 million deal.
The Flyers forced Nashville’s hand to match the offer sheet. Ultimately this non-move was one of the biggest moves in NHL history for player contracts.
Olli Jokinen was coming off his best season since his final campaign with the Florida Panthers in the 2007-08 season. The veteran center will turn 34 this year. Despite his age, he has proven that he can still be a scoring threat.
Many teams that think they are close to a title will pay a premium for a reliable player that could put them over the top. Which is why the move to Winnipeg was very surprising. Winnipeg is a relatively young team with quite a bit of raw talent.
That talent didn’t translate into many wins because the Jets finished 11th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 37-35-10. Jokinen has only played six postseason games in the NHL, so moving to a team that finished fourth in their division didn’t seem likely.
Much like Jokinen, the 40-year-old Jagr could possibly have found a spot with a real contender but decided to sign with a team that finished out of the top eight teams in their conference. The difference is that Jagr is already a guarantee for the Hall of Fame and has 189 points in 180 playoff games.
Jagr was part of a high-powered Flyers offense, and the Dallas Stars brought him in to help fix their scoring woes. Many Stars fans figured that Jagr’s role would extend to that of an on-ice coach as well.
It seems like a perfect fit for the Stars until they can restock their forwards with younger talent, but it was hard to believe that Jagr would come for just the money.
Maybe Jagr just wanted to keep playing and have fun without the expectation to win a Stanley Cup right away? Maybe the Stars offered him the most money? Or it could be that Joe Nieuwendyk was being honest when he spoke about Jagr wanting to take on the new challenge of playing in the Western Conference.
Either way, before free agency, the Stars were not on the top of anyone’s list to snag Jagr for the upcoming season.
Martin Brodeur spent most of last season trying to decide if he was going to retire. The speculation on his return to the NHL lingered throughout the entire postseason, and many believed he was going to go out after having a fantastic run into the finals.
What is shocking is that only weeks after being unsure if he wanted to come back, he re-signed for two years with the New Jersey Devils. It was going to be hard to let a legend like Brodeur leave after he proved he had enough left in the tank to nearly win a championship.
In the end, Brodeur got another $9 million to stay with the Devils. There is still a chance that if the lockout causes a lot more missed time, Brodeur could still retire. It doesn’t seem likely, but neither did a two-year contract coming his way after all of the first retirement talk.