Not surprisingly, this past week was extremely busy around the NHL as there were many free agent signings around the league. Several of those plus a notable trade are at the forefront of the top stories of the week.
Panarin To The Rangers: It didn’t come as much surprise that Artemi Panarin is on the move despite a late effort from the Blue Jackets to keep him in the fold. The winger signed the richest contract for a winger in league history, inking a seven-year, $81.5MM contract with the Rangers that has a full no-move clause. The 27-year-old has hovered near the point-per-game mark in his three seasons in the NHL and is coming off an 87-point campaign to lead all unrestricted free agents. He’ll immediately step in on the top line in New York with heavy expectations as they have clearly put an end to their rebuild and are now looking to get back into contention quickly.
Bobrovsky Joins Florida: The Panthers were looking to make a big splash in free agency and they did just that as they inked goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70MM contract, the biggest deal ever handed to a netminder that actually made it to the open market. Bobrovsky is actually coming off of a bit of a down season with a .913 SV%, his lowest mark in three seasons but he was a lot better in the playoffs, posting a .925 SV%. He still represents a significant upgrade on what Florida had between the pipes in recent years and for a team that was 28th in the league in goals allowed last season, his addition will go a long way towards vaulting them back into the postseason discussion.
Toronto-Colorado Trade: The biggest trade on July 1st came from the Maple Leafs and Avalanche. After months of speculation, defenseman Tyson Barrie was indeed on the move as he was dealt to Toronto along with center Alexander Kerfoot and a 2020 sixth-round pick for center Nazem Kadri, defenseman Calle Rosen, and a 2020 third-round selection. The Avs are also retaining half of Barrie’s $5.5MM contract. The Maple Leafs add a much-needed upgrade on the back end at a very low price tag on the cap plus a capable young pivot in Kerfoot who quickly inked a four-year, $14MM contract. Meanwhile, in Kadri, Colorado adds a two-time 30-goal center on a team-friendly contract for three more years, giving them a big improvement down the middle while Rosen should slot in nicely in a depth role on their back end.
Offer Sheet: The last offer sheet in the NHL was back in 2013 when Ryan O’Reilly, then of Colorado, signed with Calgary. That is until Monday came along when Montreal signed Carolina center Sebastian Aho to a five-year, $42.27MM offer sheet. In an effort to make it more difficult on the Hurricanes, the contract was heavily front-loaded with signing bonus money but less than 24 hours later, Carolina indicated their intention to match it but waited until Sunday to make it official. With one team taking the plunge, will another follow suit with one of the other notable RFAs?
Duchene To Nashville: The pillaging of the Blue Jackets wasn’t limited to just Panarin and Bobrovsky as key deadline acquisition Matt Duchene is also on the move after signing a seven-year, $56MM contract with Nashville. The Predators have made several attempts to shore up their center position in recent years with the acquisitions of Ryan Johansen and Kyle Turris plus the signing of Nick Bonino but it has continued to be an area of some concern. Nashville is hoping that Duchene, who reached the 70-point mark for the second time in his career in 2018-19, can form a one-two punch with Johansen and give the team the stability they’ve been craving down the middle for several years to come.
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