Stars on the Move
Even though the 2016-17 NHL season concluded well over a month ago, there has been plenty to keep the eager and hopeful minds of hockey fans entertained. Between the expansion draft, NHL entry draft, and free agency, some fans have seen their favorite teams drastically changed over the past few weeks.
No one was safe this offseason as even some of the veterans that have played for their one team the entirety of their career were subject to being moved. With the creation of the Las Vegas Franchise being finalized another team was thrown into the madness that is the NHL offseason.
Throughout the end of June and through the first weeks of July, hockey fans were provided with plenty of action to keep them huddled around their phones and computers constantly checking NHL news.
Long before the Expansion or Entry drafts took place, teams were already beginning to alter their rosters for the upcoming season. Some of the more notable moves prior to the drafts were Jonathan Drouin being traded to the Montreal Canadiens, Mike Smith moving to Calgary, and the deal that sent long-time Oilers forward Jordan Eberle to the Islanders in exchange for forward Ryan Strome. This officially marked the beginning of the insanity we've seen this offseason.
However, it was once we reached the date of the NHL entry draft which featured young stars like Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick being drafted 1st and 2nd overall that fans were really treated.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Colombus Blue Jackets shocked the league with a trade that sent sniper Artemi "the bread man" Panarin to Columbus for former-Hawk Brandon Saad. This shocked not only the fans and other teams, but fellow teammates such as Patrick Kane who said he was "a little disappointed" too see his linemate and friend, Panarin, go. (Mike Battaglino, NHL.com)
This was not the only trade that took place on the days of the entry draft. In the two days of the draft, we also saw Rangers vet Derek Stepan traded to the Coyotes, Flyer Brayden Schenn sent to the Blues, and the Calgary Flames add defenseman Travis Hamonic from the New York Islanders to an already impressive defensive core. The Flames would later add Eddie Lack of the Hurricanes to back up Mike Smith and complete their goalie tandem for the 2017-18 campaign.
July 1st was a date every hockey fan in the country had marked on the calendar. On that day free agents were officially available to sign with whichever team offered them an attractive deal. And unlike the past couple of years, this year's free agency did not disappoint.
On the first day of free agency, notable names such as Williams (Carolina Hurricanes), Sharp (Chicago Blackhawks), Hanzal (Dallas Stars), Shattenkirk (New York Rangers), Elliot (Philadelphia Flyers), Kunitz (Tampa Bay Lightning), Marleau (Toronto Maple Leafs), and Mason (Winnipeg Jets) all signed new contracts with different teams. This free agency specifically caught the attention of fans as it featured several players like Justin Williams and Patrick Sharp returning to their former clubs, as well as the goaltending carousel that occurred between four teams. This years offseason also saw veterans like Patrick Marleau and Chris Kunitz leave teams they'd played with for years for a fresh start.
After adding Ben Bishop at the end of the regular season, the Dallas Stars added defenseman Marc Methot and forward Martin Hanzal as supporting players in their star-studded roster. However, they weren't done their. On July 5th they signed forward Alexander Radulov to a $31.25 million contract keeping the former Predator and Canadian in the Lone-Star State for five years.
The Stars were one of the most successful franchises coming out of this year's free agency along with the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks. It looks like the reigning Western Conference Champion Nashville Predators will have their hands full in the West this year.
This offseason not only saw teams looking to improve after disappointing results last season in the entry draft, expansion draft, and free agency. It also included world-renowned players signing extension contracts with their clubs.
Shortly after the free agency period opened, Canadians goaltender, Carey Price, was locked up for eight years in Montreal. Price has been with the Habs his entire 12-year career and hopes to remain the storied franchise's starter over the course of his new contract, granted he can avoid any more season-ending injuries. Price will make $10.5 million a year through his new contract.
$10.5 million dollars a year seems like a lot of money for one player, especially in a league like the NHL where players are signed to significantly smaller contracts than athletes of other professional sports.
Price's contract was still not the largest we saw this offseason. Only three days after the Canadians netminder was signed to his enormous contract, the Edmonton Oilers locked up a star of their own.
Connor McDavid is coming off a historic season as he took home the Ted Lindsey Award (MVP as voted by the players), Art Ross Trophy (league's leading scorer), and the Hart Trophy (league MVP). He even inked a spot as the cover athlete for NHL 18, deeming it the "Young Stars" addition.
After experiencing a great deal of success in his first full year, McDavid became the official face of the Edmonton franchise much like Wayne Gretzky once did. The Oilers signed their new captain to a eight year deal, worth $100 million. The 20-year old will become one of the highest paid players in the league at the beginning of the next season.
After all the dramatic moves and extensive contracts that have been signed, another two months stand between NHL fans and the start of the regular season. While Jaromir Jagr eagerly awaits a call from a GM, fans eagerly wait and anticipate the excitement of the 2017-18 NHL season.