FROM THE PRESS BOX
Free Agency produced a lot of player movement. We take a look at a number of the bigger names and highlight what some teams did to improve. We also consider what other clubs still need to do, whether they have cap space or not. In addition, hockey fans will already know that some teams will not spend to the cap maximum, but instead be concerned with their own internal budgets. Bear that in mind when you note the salary cap space remaining for each club (provided for each team below).
2014 Free Agency – Part 1 (15 teams)
Anaheim – In addition to their acquisition of Ryan Kesler, in a deal with Vancouver, the Ducks added more scoring depth when they signed Dany Heatley. He agreed to a 1-year/$1M deal, probably forgoing bigger money elsewhere, in exchange for the chance to be a key depth scorer with a Cup contender.
Cap situation - $12,398,333 for 2 players
Buffalo – Few observers expected the Sabres to be very active, but they did manage to sign Josh Gorges and Andrej Meszaros to bolster a young defense corps. There are still some rumors, which insist that Tyler Myers is being shopped around (mainly because of the term and size of his contract- $5.5M cap hit over the next five years). They also added leadership when they signed Brian Gionta. In their biggest surprise move, they managed to lock up Matt Moulson for five years at $5M per season.
Cap situation - $17,005,834 for 2 players
Calgary – The Flames locked up goalie Jonas Hiller for two years at $4.5M per season to hopefully stabilize their goalie situation. Hiller fell out of favor late last year in Anaheim, but had been their starter for the last six years. Mason Raymond parlayed a nice comeback year with the Leafs (19 goals/45 points) into a three year $9.5 M deal with the Flames, where he expects to play somewhere on their top two forward units.
Cap situation - $18,563,333 for 4 players
Carolina – The Hurricanes re-signed Jiri Tlusty to a one year, 2.95M deal, hoping that he can bounce back from a sub-par 2013-14 season that saw him tally only 30 points in 68 games. They also signed a trio of players who toiled for Toronto last season. Tim Gleason was re-acquired after he was bought out by the Leafs, while Jay McClement was brought in to help the checking and penalty killing efforts here. Goalie Drew McIntyre will likely get his chance at a full year in the NHL after starring for the Leafs' AHL affiliate for the past two years.
Cap situation - $5,920,000 for 3 players
Chicago – The Hawks made big waves when they inked their team leaders, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to identical 10-year/$84M deals, which will kick in next season. With so many dollars committed to top end players, they caught a break when veteran playoff warrior Brad Richards agreed to join them next year for $2M. They are currently $2M over the new salary cap of $69M and will need to make at least one roster move (trade?) to comply.
Cap situation – over cap by $2,216,795
Colorado – The Avalanche made a surprise entry into this signing frenzy by inking Jarome Iginla to a 3-year/$16M deal when it became clear that Paul Stastny (St. Louis) was moving on. Their one remaining roster spot will go to Ryan O'Reilly, but not before going through salary arbitration, for about $6M per year.
Cap situation – signed max 32 players, with $9,695,238 in cap space
Columbus – The Jackets made their biggest move in an off-season trade to acquire Scott Hartnell, who should immediately take on a key leadership role here. They also resigned Curtis McElhinney to continue as their backup goalie.
Cap situation - $15,224,524 for two players
Dallas – The Stars made their big noise by brining Jason Spezza into the fold, to finish off his current contract, which carries a $7M cap hit before he is scheduled for free agency at season's end. They followed that up by signing Anders Lindback to fill in as the new backup goalie. Two experienced RWs, Ales Hemsky and Patrick Eaves, were brought in to bolster the depth at forward.
Cap situation - $7,366,667 for 4 players
Detroit - The Red Wings re-signed three of their own UFAs, Jonas Gustavsson, Kevin Quincey and Dan Cleary, to a series of short-term deals. They are also awaiting Daniel Alfredsson's decision to return for another year.
Cap situation - $8,020,455 for 2 players
Edmonton – The Oilers addressed the lack of depth on their defense by inking a trio of blueliners in free agency. Nikita Nikitin (2 years/$9M), Mark Fayne (4 years/$14M) and Keith Aulie (1 year, $800k) will be an upgrade to this corps. They also signed Benoit Pouliot to a 5year/$20M contract – a lot of money and term for a guy who has never scored 20 goals in a season.
Cap situation - $8,782,500 for 2 players
Florida – The Panthers shelled out big bucks for forwards Jussi Jokinen (4 years/$16M), Dave Bolland (5 years/$27.5M) and blueliner Willie Mitchell (2 years/$8.5M). They probably overpaid in each instance but GM Dale Tallon is filling a dual challenge of spending to the cap floor and insulating some recent draft picks with these experienced pros. Aging enforcer Shawn Thornton (2 years/ $2.4M) may become a fan favorite if he continues his fighting ways.
Cap situation - $12,459,625 for 3 players
Los Angeles – The Stanley Cup Champions had to pay for the renewed services of two key cogs, sniper Marian Gaborik (7 years/ $34.3M) and Matt Greene (4 years/$10M). They also added depth with Jeff Schultz and Adam Cracknell, who are experienced hands that will both cost less than $1M in their cap hits.
Cap situation - $2,208,106 for one player
Minnesota – The Wild confirmed their long-rumored interest in Tomas Vanek by signing the enigmatic scorer for 3 years/ $19.5M, no doubt hoping that he can recapture his best days in Buffalo alongside former Sabre Jason Pominville. He adds another big name to the recent free agent purchases made in Minnesota, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Cap situation - $12,874,744 for 4 players
Montreal – The Canadiens locked up their long-time defensive stalwart, Andrei Markov (3 years/$17.5M) and late season addition, Mike Weaver (1 year/$1.75M) before going out to add defensive specialist forward Manny Malhotra (1 year/$850k). Tom Gilbert (2 years/$5.6M) will help to solidify the blueline, too.
Cap situation - $15,151,667 for 2 players
NY Islanders – The Isles made a couple of good moves by signing backup goalie Chad Johnson away from the Bruins and adding defenseman T.J. Brennan, who starred in the AHL last season. They had previously added Jaroslav Halak (4 years/$18M) to become the starting goalie. Then they provided Nikolai Kulemin (4 years/$16.75M) and Mikhail Grabovski (4 years/$20M) with contracts that have many outsiders questioning those signings - figures that seem too high from my vantage point, dating back to their days in Toronto.
Cap situation - $14,900,524 for one player
I will summarize the moves of the remaining teams in the next installment of "From the Press Box."