NHL Free Agency: 7 Teams Helped the Most by Free Agency
The first weekend of free-agent frenzy has been filled with interesting twists. Players have packed their bags for rivals, and trades have come out of nowhere.
Some general managers broke the bank to lock up crucial pieces for their rosters, and others played it safe.
Although we won't know for sure how these signings will work out until we drop the puck in October, it seems like it's never too early to determine who are the winners and losers.
Here are seven teams that have been helped the most so far. The list is in no particular order. Please note that some of the signings were made prior to July 1, but I felt they were important nonetheless and didn't want to go without mentioning them.
If you feel I missed any teams, please let me know in the comments.
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Dale Tallon was so busy on Friday that at one point, one of my friends, who plays hockey in a recreational league, tweeted that he was about to call Tallon and tell him he could be had for league minimum.
Tallon is serious about getting the Panthers back to the postseason for the first time since 2000, and he sent his message by going nuts on both the trade and free agency wires.
He picked up three Stanley Cup winners, as well as two other players with solid playoff experience. In addition, he signed a goaltender who is capable of handling the load Vokoun leaves behind.
Sean Bergenheim: A breakout star for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs, Bergenheim also had 29 points in the regular season. In the postseason, he was fourth in the NHL in nine goals and finished with 11 points and one game-winning goal. He was signed to a four-year contract.
Ed Jovanovski: Jovanovski was brought back to the franchise where he started his career, as he was a member of the Panthers from 1995-1999. He had spent the last five years with the Phoenix Coyotes, and this year, he finished with 14 points and a plus-four rating while posting one assist in four playoff games.
He is a five-time NHL All-Star and has played in over 1,000 NHL games. The 35-year-old defenseman is under contract for four years.
Tomas Kopecky: Kopecky is a two-time Stanley Cup champion (2008 with the Detroit Red Wings and 2010 with the Chicago Blackhawks). He had a career season in 2010-11 as he finished with 42 points as well as three power-play goals and two game-winning goals.
Kopecky has been improving every year and was also given a four-year deal.
Scottie Upshall: Upshall also cashed in with a four-year contract and has posted three 30-point seasons in his career. He spent 2010-11 with Phoenix and the Columbus Blue Jackets and finished with 34 points to go with two power-play goals and two game-winning goals in 34 games.
Kris Versteeg: Versteeg is the second member of Chicago's Stanley Cup team to be reunited with Tallon.
He spent last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers, where he had 46 points, six power-play goals and one game-winning goal. He had six points in 11 games as Philly went to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Brian Campbell: Campbell was traded from the Blackhawks and was a first-time Stanley Cup champion last spring. This season, he had 27 points to go with a plus-28 rating and three points in seven playoff games.
He was fourth on Chicago with 101 blocked shots and third with 22:58 of ice time. In the playoffs, he played over 26 minutes a game.
Jose Theodore: The veteran netminder, who has spent most of his career as a backup, spent the 2010-11 season with the Minnesota Wild. He went 15-11-3 in 32 games and posted a .916 save percentage and 2.71 GAA.
He is signed for two years and has played 580 NHL games.
New York Rangers
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New York Rangers fans have been waiting for this moment to come: Glen Sather actually doing something right in free agency.
In addition to getting the biggest prize in this year's free-agent market, Sather also signed a solid secondary scorer and a player who can bring a physical edge to the Rangers lineup.
Brad Richards: Richards' next team has been discussed for months, and it ended up being the Blueshirts. He received a nine-year contract.
Richards won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004 and had been with the Dallas Stars since 2008. This year, he was the Stars' leading scorer with 77 points (also 10th in the NHL).
He also had three game-winning goals and seven power-play goals. He put up at least 50 points each year during his tenure in Dallas and was also an alternate captain.
In addition, he led the team with 5:20 of ice time on the power play.
Ruslan Fedotenko: The two-time Stanley Cup winner (2004 with Tampa and 2009 with Pittsburgh) was re-signed to a one-year deal.
This past year, Fedotenko had 25 points and a plus-nine rating with one shorthanded goal and put up two assists in five playoff games. In the regular season, he was fifth with 150 hits, while in the playoffs, he was second with 23 hits and eighth with 20:55 of ice time.
Mike Rupp: Rupp had 17 points this season and is definitely not afraid to get involved in the physical part of the game, as he had 124 penalty minutes.
He was also third with 181 hits. Rupp won a Stanley Cup with the 2003 New Jersey Devils and had spent his last two seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Tampa Bay Lightning
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After signing playoff hero Dwayne Roloson for another year, Steve Yzerman headed out to get some help for the Bolts' defense, which was average during the regular season.
The departure of Mike Smith for Phoenix also allowed Yzerman to sign a dependable backup goaltender.
Eric Brewer: Brewer came to Tampa Bay in a trade with the St. Louis Blues and was re-signed to a four-year deal prior to the start of free agency. He had 16 points and a plus-six rating in 76 games while posting seven points in 18 playoff games.
Brewer immediately established himself as a top defenseman in Tampa, leading the team with 21:34 of ice time and 3:01 played on the penalty kill.
He was also first in the playoffs with 25:36 of ice time while leading Tampa in hits (43) and blocked shots (51).
Matt Gilroy: Gilroy spent last season with the Rangers, where he had 11 points and a plus-five in 58 games. He also had one goal in five playoff games. During the regular season, he was ninth with 62 blocked shots. He signed a one-year contract with Tampa.
Bruno Gervais: Gervais was a member of the Islanders last season and had six points in 53 games. He was seventh with 79 blocked shots and played over 15 minutes a game. The restricted free agent is signed for one year.
Marc-Andre Bergeron: Bergeron was re-signed for two more years. He played 23 games in the regular season, but in the playoffs, he had three points and ranked fourth with 3:25 of ice time on the power play.
Dwayne Roloson: Roloson will be the Bolts' starting goaltender for another year. After coming to the team in a trade with the Isles, he finished the season with a record of 24-25-5 with a .914 save percentage and 2.59 GAA.
He was a crucial part of Tampa's playoff run, going 10-6 with a .924 save percentage and a 2.51 GAA. He was third in wins, fourth in save percentage and fifth in GAA.
Mathieu Garon: Garon spent last season backing up Steve Mason in Columbus. He went 10-14-6 with three shutouts while posting a 2.72 GAA and a .901 save percentage. He was signed to a two-year contract.
Toronto Maple Leafs
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Most of Toronto's moves so far have been through trades, but they have been able to add depth to their team. However, a couple of their new players have struggled with injuries, which is always a risk for a team to take.
Matthew Lombardi: Lombardi was acquired in a trade with the Predators but only played two games in Nashville this year after suffering a concussion.
In the 2009-10 regular season with Phoenix, he had 53 points and a plus-eight to go with four power-play goals and two game-winning goals. He also had six points in seven playoff games.
Lombardi was a key part of the Coyotes' power play in his last full season. In the regular season, he was second with 3:20 of ice time on the man advantage, and in the playoffs, he was third with 3:55 of ice time in that category.
Cody Franson: Franson came over with Lombardi in the Nashville trade. This year, he had 29 points and a plus-10 rating and also had six points in 12 playoff games.
In the regular season, he was eighth with 81 hits and seventh with 52 blocked shots. He was also eighth in the playoffs with nine blocked shots.
Tim Connolly: Connolly played with the Buffalo Sabres from 2001 until this past season. However, he has dealt with concussions in recent years. Despite this, he had 42 points in 68 games this season and also had two assists in six playoff games.
He is another power play specialist who was fifth during the regular season and the playoffs with 2:49 and 4:01 of ice time respectively while the Sabres had an extra player.
John Michael-Liles: The offensive defenseman was acquired in a trade with Colorado, where he had played his NHL career to date. He had 46 points this year and was second on the Avs with 22 minutes per game and first with 3:13 on the power play. He also led the team with 153 blocked shots.
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The Washington Capitals have had the regular season success, but they are trying to put together a team that can also perform in the playoffs.
Can they do it with a previous Stanley Cup champion and a goaltender that can handle a heavy workload but doesn't have the postseason experience?
Troy Brouwer: Brouwer was acquired from the Blackhawks. The 2010 Stanley Cup winner had 36 points to go with seven power-play goals and five game-winning goals this past regular season. He also had a plus-two rating in the playoffs. He is a heavy hitter and led Chicago with 262 hits during the regular season.
During the playoffs, he was again first in hits (23) and was also third with a 62.5 percent faceoff win percentage.
Jeff Halpern: Halpern returns to the Capitals after starting his career there from 1999-2006. He spent 2010-11 with the Montreal Canadiens, where he had 26 points and a plus-six rating to go with one shorthanded goal and three game-winning goals in the regular season.
He tallied one goal in four playoff games.
Halpern's strong suit is the faceoff circle. He was second in both the regular season (56.4 percent) and the playoffs (73.2 percent) in faceoff wins.
Joel Ward: Ward became one of the top free agents available thanks to his performance for the Predators in this year's playoffs. He had 13 points in 12 games, and during the regular season, he had 29 points. Washington awarded him with a four-year contract.
Tomas Vokoun: The Capitals got the steal of the postseason when they signed Vokoun, arguably the best goaltender on the free-agent market. Vokoun took a dramatic pay cut by signing for one year at $1.5 million a year.
Despite previously playing for the struggling Panthers, Vokoun still put up respectable numbers. He went 22-28-5 and was sixth in the league with six shutouts. He also had a 2.55 GAA and .922 save percentage.
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So far in free agency, Colorado has locked up a goaltending duo for a period of time and have gained a top defenseman.
They are looking to right the ship after a second-half downslide caused them to miss the postseason.
Semyon Varlamov: Varlamov was acquired from the Capitals for draft picks. He has played two seasons as a full-time NHL goaltender but has struggled with injuries and consistencies.
He was in 27 games this season and posted a record of 11-9-5 with two shutouts. His .924 save percentage and 2.23 GAA were ranked fifth and fourth in the NHL respectively.
Upon being acquired, Varlamov was inked to a three-year contract.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere: Giguere is an experienced goaltender who has a Conn Smythe and a Stanley Cup to his name. As a member of the Maple Leafs this year, he went 11-11-4 in 33 games with a .900 save percentage and a 2.87 GAA. The Avalanche gave him a two-year contract.
Jan Hejda: Hejda posted his second 20-point season with Columbus, as he had an even 20 points in 77 games. He led the Blue Jackets with 158 blocked shots and was third with overall ice time per game (21:07) and penalty kill ice time (2:50).
Columbus Blue Jackets
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Prior to free agency, Columbus made a huge splash by acquiring a high-scoring forward. They then went out and signed a defenseman who had a career year and a minor league goaltender who has the potential to back up Steve Mason.
Jeff Carter: Although Carter technically isn't a free agent signing, he should still be considered a key pickup. With the Flyers last season, he was seventh in the NHL and led Philly with 36 goals and also had 66 points and a plus-two rating. Furthermore, he was third with a 54.7 percent faceoff win percentage.
He has posted four 50-point seasons and was a 2010 Stanley Cup finalist.
James Wisniewski: Wisniewski's negotiating rights were traded to Columbus after he could not work out a contract with Montreal. He had his first 50-point season last year, as he finished with 51 points while also posting seven power-play goals and three game-winning goals.
Upon being traded to the Canadiens from the New York Islanders, he logged 22:42 of ice time and was first with 4:06 of ice time on the power play.
Curtis Sanford: Sanford has played 108 NHL games with the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks. When he last played in the NHL with Vancouver in 2008-09, he went 7-8 with a 2.59 GAA and .906 save percentage.
Although he was sent back to the AHL this year, Sanford had a strong year with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Montreal's AHL affiliate. He went 23-11-3 and was first in the league with a 2.13 GAA and second with a .916 save percentage.
Sanford has potential to make the Jackets' roster as Mason's backup, or at least get a call-up should Columbus' young netminder get injured.