With around one month left until NHL training camps open, the 2011 Free Agency period is basically in the rear-view mirror. There are still a few names out there that will land with teams or finalize their deals with their current team, but for the most part, it is time to reflect on the winners of the summer.
One clear winner that did not make the slide would seem to be the potential collusion of GMs around the league as it relates to restricted free agents. Yes, there is a steep price to pay if you sign one, but guys like Luke Schenn, Drew Doughty, Shea Weber and Steven Stamkos did not receive so much as an offer sheet.
Aside from that, there were some legitimate winners from the free agency period. In the slides ahead, we will cover the 16 biggest winners of free agency so far.
Playing against Mike Rupp is like rubbing sandpaper against your face. The gritty forward signed a three-year, $4.5 million contract with the New York Rangers.
For "Rupper," the term and amount were both too much to pass up, so he now takes his skills to Manhattan and will likely torment the Penguins since he is still in the Atlantic Division.
Stan Bowman helped the depth of the Chicago Blackhawks by adding Sean O'Donnell, Jamal Myers and Andrew Brunette. With the Hawks only being one season removed from a Stanley Cup championship, adding players instead of taking them away will provide help for the core guys like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Sheldon Souray is a winner from this summer by getting himself back on the NHL radar. His one-year deal with the Dallas Stars will put his NHL fate back in his hands, instead of being burdened with a high contract and AHL assignments.
Max Talbot is another gritty Penguin forward that won big this offseason. Much to the dismay of Pens fans, Talbot could not turn down a five-year, $9 million deal with the rivals from Philadelphia.
Sean Bergenheim turned a great playoff run into a four-year, $11 million contract. While the Panthers may not make the playoffs any time soon, he has good money and Miami weather. Life could be worse.
While he did not "max out" on his newest contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Stamkos can capitalize on the goodwill of taking less to help his team. The five-year, $37.5 million contract is nothing to laugh at either.
"Stammer" will not be hurting for spare change anytime soon. Now he can focus on his position as a rising star in the NHL who deserves to be in the discussion of the league's best player.
Tomas Vokoun signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Washington Capitals. Usually, such terms and the low amount would not put you among the "winners" of free agency.
Vokoun qualifies because he is stepping in to a Caps squad that appears to finally be serious about a deep playoff run. Plus, how can you criticize a guy that takes less for a shot at winning?
In the course of one year, James Wisneiwski went from making obscene gestures towards Sean Avery, to signing a six-year, $33 million deal. He now joins Jeff Carter as part of the new-look, gotta-win-now Columbus Blue Jackets.
Tomas Kaberle has his Stanley Cup. Now he also has a three-year, $12.75 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes. Pretty good summer for Mr. Kaberle.
Buffalo billionaire owner Terry Pegula put his Marcellus Shale money where his mouth is and cut the check for the Sabres to sign Ville Leino to a six-year, $27 million contract. Leino was coming off his best pro season and with the tumultuous summer in Philly, he took his services to another Cup-starved city with passionate hockey fans.
Simon Gagne inked a two-year, $7 million dollar contract to join the Los Angeles Kings. While expectations for this team will be through the roof, joining Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and the young defensive core is a great move for Gagne. Now if he can just stay healthy...
Nine years, $60 million dollars. There are few scenarios where you can add that to your life's list of accomplishments and have it be a bad thing. Richards heads to play for the New York Rangers. He best be prepared for the pressure.
The Nashville Predators and Shea Weber were unable to reach a deal through negotiations, so they took it to arbitration. Weber probably left the Preds execs wearing a barrel instead of clothes after he was awarded a $7.5 million, one-year contract.
Weber figures to cash in big time next season and beyond. He will also call his own shots. If Nashville proves they are capable of a Cup run, he can stay there for a ton. If not, there are plenty of teams that will want his services at a health wage.
George McPhee has faced a lot of critics for his team's inability to make a deep playoff run. After this summer, McPhee basically told them to pound salt.
He was able to secure a starting goalie for cheap in Tomas Vokoun, lured Joel Ward away from Nashville and also inked Jeff Halpern, Roman Hamrlik and Troy Brouwer.
All that and he somehow traded Seymon Varlamov to Colorado for a first- and second-round pick. Personally, I have been critical of McPhee in the past, but my hat gets doffed at him for his performance in the summer of '11.
In my opinion, Steve Yzerman wins the offseason because he was able to keep a player that should be a perennial Art Ross, Hart Memorial and "Rocket" Richard Trophy candidate for five more seasons. He also did this for under $8 million per season.
Stevie Y just knows how to win. Face it.