By the time August rolls around each year, it seems like the off-season is dragging on. The July 1st free agent frenzy is long behind us and it’s been weeks since the last major signing. Fans are struggling to get their hockey fill and counting the days until the puck drops on preseason hockey. In 2017, fans have all the more reason to be sick of the off-season. When compared with the summer of 2016, this off-season has simply been boring. It was expected to be as such, but no one could have predicted just how quiet this summer could be.
As of today, August 6th, 2017, there have only been two unrestricted free agents signed to contracts worth more than $6MM per year: Kevin Shattenkirk to the New York Rangers (as predicted) and Alexander Radulov to the Dallas Stars. In contrast, there were four such deals signed on July 1st, 2016 alone. Drop that mark down to contracts worth more than $4MM annually, and you get uninspiring names this year like Evgeni Dadonov, Dmitry Kulikov, Nick Bonino, Karl Alzner, Martin Hanzal, and Steve Mason added to the list; hardly a superstar among them. 2016 saw high-profile players like Milan Lucic, David Backes, Loui Eriksson, Kyle Okposo, and Andrew Ladd all find new homes. Those signings came on the heels of the P.K. Subban – Shea Weber and Taylor Hall – Adam Larsson trades as well. The best swaps 2017 has to offer so far are Travis Hamonic or Marcus Johansson being dealt for draft picks. There have simply been a lack of franchise-altering moves made this summer.
Then you have the timeline of when deals got done. By August last year, the best unsigned free agents were Antoine Vermette, Jiri Hudler, and Jhonas Enroth. The year before, Cody Franson and David Schlemko highlighted the August market. In both cases, NHL teams got their deals done in July, filling the month with exciting signing news. This year? Not so much. Legendary players like Jaromir Jagr, Jarome Iginla, and Shane Doan remain available, alongside other able-bodied contributors like Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford, and Daniel Winnik. That’s in addition to Franson and Hudler as well. Teams are simply waiting around on this market for reasons unknown. Could it end up as an exciting run of signing in August? Maybe, but don’t count on it.
The weak 2017 free agent market coupled with the challenge of preparing for June’s Expansion Draft has simply resulted in one of quietest off-seasons in recent memory. Several teams still have needs and spots to fill and signings and trades remain possible, but at this point the summer is a lost cause. Time to look forward to next season and even next summer when we *hope* to see the likes of John Tavares, Rick Nash, Evander Kane, James Neal, James van Riemsdyk, Paul Stastny, Mikko Koivu, Cam Atkinson, Jonathan Marchessault, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Mike Green, Jack Johnson, Calvin de Haan, and Antti Raanta all hit the open market. Hopefully that list is enough excitement to get you through the rest of this one.