2014 NHL Free Agency: Departed Players Teams Will Miss Most

Brendan O'Meara@@BrendanOMearaFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2014

2014 NHL Free Agency: Departed Players Teams Will Miss Most

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    The tornado that was the first three days of free agency came through and ravaged the league with 94 signings on July 1, or Canada Day as they call it in the Great White North, 22 on July 2 and only eight on July 3. Many of the big, heavy-hitting names came off the shelves faster than Furbies around Christmas time.

    The only difference is that, unlike a Furby, teams will actually miss some of these guys now that they're gone, which brings up the question: Which departing players will their former teams miss the most?

    He could be a big, brawny defender or a center good for 60 points and a smattering of leadership. No matter how you slice it, many of these players left a vacuum behind them and it’s time to see who lost out as a result because they couldn’t afford these studs.

8. Dan Boyle, D

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    Dan Boyle is 37 years old and can still provide value on the ice. The problem for the Sharks, his former team? It won’t be for them. He signed a two-year deal with the New York Rangers for $9 million.

    The Sharks finished with the fifth best record in the league last season and as far they're concerned, they lose a vital contributor in Boyle. He was their second best scoring defenseman with 36 points.

    The pressure will be on defenseman Brent Burns to make up for Boyle’s departure to the Rangers.

7. Mike Cammalleri, LW

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    Gerry Thomas/Getty Images

    Mike Cammalleri was thrilled to hear he’d be playing with Jaromir Jagr on the New Jersey Devils, a team Cammalleri signed with for five years and $25 million. 

    Cammalleri left Calgary for the Garden State and took with him a significant chunk of offense for the Flames to now fill. He scored 25 goals and 46 points last season and figured his best chance at contending for the playoffs was with the Devils.

    The Flames scored just 209 goals last season, better than only four teams in the Western Conference. They finished above only one team—Edmonton—in the Pacific Division. The Flames will miss his production as their leading goal scorer, but letting him go allows them to turn the page and continue rebuilding.

6. Matt Niskanen, D

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Matt Niskanen is one of the best defenders in the league and the Washington Capitals paid him like so. He signed for seven years and $40.25 million. He leaves a big, 6’ hole in the Pittsburgh defense, but it may not be too bad.

    The Pens lose a young talenta big, right-handed body who can play both ways. Pittsburgh replaces him with Christian Ehrhoff, but he's four years older and just two inches taller. 

    Justin Bourne of The Score said, “I get that Ehrhoff is getting paid by the Sabres until he’s a corpse, and that frees him up to go play for a potential winner, but what’s with the one-year thing?"

    You hate to see somebody this talented leave. Niskanen had a career year last season and could be on his way to being one of the most oppressive defensive forces for the next four to five years. And that will be in our nation's capital. 

5. Ryan Miller, G

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    Bill Smith/Getty Images

    St. Louis was on the verge of breaking through and it felt that adding Ryan Miller late last season was the ticket. It didn’t work out, but Miller’s departure to the Vancouver Canucks may be a loss the Blues will regret.

    They signed some offense with Paul Stastny and opted to let Miller go. Miller wasn’t exactly an all-star in his 19 games with St. Louis. In 40 games with the mediocre Sabres last season, he had a save percentage of .923, his highest since 2009-10. Clearly he's valuable in the net, but maybe that's truer when he's under constant duress. 

    A full season could have been just what St. Louis needed in the net to keep the score close for playmakers like Stastny to do their thing. In a year's time, maybe the Blues will be singin' the... Never mind.

4. Jussi Jokinen, LW

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    The Penguins appear content to let Jussi Jokinen go to the Florida Panthers. He scored 57 pointsgood for fifth on his teamproviding depth to a lineup that has the great Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

    Will the Pens miss him? 57 points isn’t exactly a middling performance, one that they only addressed by signing Blake Comeau, a forward from Columbus who scored only 16 points in 61 games.

    Clearly that’s a downgrade, but the Penguins took a chance in letting Jokinen get away. Sure, he’s 31, but while that’s not exactly young, it’s not exactly old either. 

3. Thomas Vanek, LW

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Probably what stings the most about losing Thomas Vanek isn’t losing his offense so much as how cheaply he was acquired by Minnesota. 

    Vanek took a shorter contract and less money to move close to his home. Vanek played 18 games in the regular season for Montreal and scored 15 points in that time. 

    Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher said to NHL.com's Dan Myers:

    This guy has been a premier scorer since he entered the League. He still managed to have 68 points despite playing in three cities. We really wanted a [right-handed] shot, we wanted someone who can play with top players, and we wanted someone who can help our power play.

    Montreal will certainly miss getting a chance to have Vanek for an entire season as they look to once again go deep in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

2. Anton Stralman, D

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    The New York Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Final in large part because of Anton Stralman’s durability and possession skills. He played 81 games in the regular season. But the Rangers are strapped for cash and Larry Brooks of The New York Post wrote:

    Break up the NHL Eastern Conference champions? You betcha, for the combination of free agency and life in a restrictive hard-cap world will ensure the Rangers’ 2014-15 team photo will look significantly different from the one that was snapped during the Stanley Cup finals.

    Stralman heads to Tampa Bay, a plus for them and a minus for New York. Apparently people who follow advanced statistics feel Stralman is one of the better players on the market, though his stats wouldn’t indicate that.

    One thing can be agreed upon: The Rangers will miss him as they try to get back to the Final.

1. Paul Stastny, C

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Yes, Paul Stastny will be missed by the Colorado Avalanche. How much? He came off a season where he scored 60 points and led the Avs to a second-best 112 points in a strong Western Conference.

    They’d miss him less if they didn’t have to play him. St. Louis was just one point behind the Avs in the Central Division, which makes it all the more possible that letting Stastny go will come back to haunt Colorado.

    Colorado went out and signed Jarome Iginla from Boston for three years and $16 million to help cover the hole left behind by Stastny. But will a 37-year-old entering his 20th season really make up for the loss? Time will tell, which is what makes the Stastny signing all the more painful. 

    Justin Bourne of The Score wrote, “... It helps the Avs for now, it’s just a ton of money to commit to an aging scorer.”