By: Cullen Raidna
Free-Agency, one of the best times for hockey fans everywhere. People tune in to their televisions to see what their general manager has up his sleeve for the upcoming season. While there where not many big names available on the market, several teams managed to make a splash through the market, as well as through trades, which a few of the NHL’s best players where involved in. What is almost as impressive as that is several teams managed to rebuild their program in just one day. Let’s take a more in depth look at this big time stretch in the off-season.
The team that helped itself the most was by far the Edmonton Oilers. New general manager Peter Chiarelli started his team rebuild during the draft with selecting Connor McDavid. McDavid is touted to be the best player the game has seen since Wayne Gretzky. Chiarelli did not stop there though. Not long after the free-agency began he signed veteran defenseman Andrej Sekara to a six-year contract worth 33 million dollars. It is no secret that with all offense Edmonton has that defense needed to be addressed. Sekera will add experience, as well as scoring from the back line. The Oilers also signed Mark Letestu to a three-year deal averaging about 1.8 million per year. Letestu is a reliable defensive minded center, a perfect fit for a team looking to solidify things on the defensive side. With all the fire power up front with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and now Connor McDavid. The Oilers also made a move for New York Rangers goalie Cam Talbot. Talbot was a back-up with starter’s talent. The Oilers also have goaltending prospect Laurent Brissiot in their farm system, waiting for his chance with a rejuvenated lineup to be the number one goalie in Edmonton.
The Pittsburgh Penguins made a huge splash on Wednesday, not through the market, but with a block-buster trade. The Penguins Acquired Phil Kessel and two prospects for defenseman Scott Harrington, forward Kasperi Kapenen, Nick Spaling, and draft picks. This trade was by far the biggest thing to happen during free-agency. The Penguin where in desperate need to find a winger that could play alongside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Kessel is a 30 goal scorer with great speed and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Kessel is great on the power play, with a world-class one-timer from the right hand side. The biggest surprise from the trade was that the Penguins did not have to give up their two best young defenseman in Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta. Maatta is expected to play on Pittsburgh’s top-pairing with Norris Trophy candidate Kris Letang. With a winger finally found for their two superstars, a young hungry defense core, the Penguins could find themselves once again knocking on the doors of the Stanley Cup.
The Columbus Blue Jackets also had themselves a day during free-agency. Starting on Tuesday they acquired forward Brandon Saad from the Chicago Blackhawks. At 22 years old Saad already has two Stanley Cup rings. Not to mention he has experience playing with two of the game’s premier players, Johnathan Toews, and Patrick Kane. Saad has already turned himself into a top-six forward capable of scoring 30 goals a season. With an expected top line of Nick Foligno, Ryan Johansen, and now Brandon Saad, Columbus is turning itself into a contender. With guys like Brandon Dubinsky and Scott Hartnell to provide more scoring, and newly acquired forward Gregory Campbell to solidify the bottom six, and the goaltending of Sergei Bobvrosky, look for Columbus to be right there in the playoff picture.
Other big names found themselves in new homes for this year’s season as well. Matt Belesky moves from the Anaheim Ducks to the Boston Bruins. Belesky looks to take Milan Lucic’s place on the roster as a guy to provide grit, penalty-killing, and a scoring punch. Michael Frolik leaves Winnipeg to play for the young-and-coming Calgary Flames. The Flames paid a big price to bring Frolik in to add the scoring and experience. Veteran defenseman where also on the move as Paul Martin and Mike Green found new homes. After five seasons with the Penguins Martin moves on to San Jose. The Sharks have plenty of offense on defense with Brent Burns and Martin will there to add a more defense minded guy to keep Burns in check. Mike Green parted from Washington to join the Detroit Red Wings. Green is a right handed shot, something the Wings have been looking for on their back line. Green packs a punch on both sides of the ice. Look for him to quarterback the power play and help bring the Red Wings back to the playoffs.