The first week of the NHL’s free agency period has come and gone. Teams quickly got busy trying to make much needed improvements ahead of the 2023-24 NHL season. Some teams had great successes while others didn’t get off to the best start. Who were the biggest winners and losers of the first week of free agency?
Winner: Carolina Hurricanes
After falling just short of making the Stanley Cup Finals, the Hurricanes made some big time upgrades to their roster. They signed defenseman Dmitry Orlov to a two year deal and winger Michael Bunting to a three year deal. Both of these players are great fits for the Hurricanes’ play style with Bunting adding some much needed goal scoring for the team. They also managed to bring back their quality goaltending tandem with Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta. And with the success they’ve already had, they’re also reportedly a leading contender to sign Vladimir Tarasenko. There’s no doubt that the Hurricanes are already one of the NHL’s biggest free agency winners.
Loser: Tampa Bay Lightning
For the second straight offseason the Lightning lost one of their key forwards to free agency. This time it was 27-goal-scorer Alex Killorn who joined the Anaheim Ducks as a free agent. Along with him went Pat Maroon and Corey Perry who were shipped off to new teams via trade. Even though the Bolts still do have a very competitive roster these kinds of losses aren’t insignificant. Players like Killorn, Maroon and Perry were parts of what made this core so dominant over the past few years. Replacing them won’t be an easy task and will make the Lightning’s quest for a fourth Stanley Cup that much harder.
Winner: Nashville Predators
New GM Barry Trotz got very busy in his first offseason with the Nashville Predators. On day one of free agency he signed Ryan O’Reilly, Luke Schenn and Gustav Nyquist to multi-year deals. These three signings emphasize Trotz’s emphasis on bringing on a veteran presence to the team. O’Reilly and Schenn are both very well rounded players at their position and have won Stanley Cups in years past. Nyquist is entering the later stages of his career but is still an effective offensive player with loads of playoff experience. Adding these three players to a Predators team that just barely missed the playoffs last season should help get them back to the playoffs next season.
Loser: Seattle Kraken
The Kraken started off free agency by losing several important players from last season. All of Morgan Geekie, Ryan Donato, Daniel Sprong and Carson Soucy signed elsewhere as free agents. Those losses brought about a considerable hit to the depth and chemistry that made the Kraken so successful last season. Sprong specifically hurts the most having finished third on the team in goals and sixth in total points. They’ve done some work to replace those pieces by bringing in the likes of Brian Dumoulin, Kailer Yamamoto and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. But aside from Dumoulin, none of those players quite fill the voids left by the players they lost.
Winner: New York Rangers
The Rangers didn’t have any big time signings over the first week of free agency. But what they did have is a myriad of bargain bin depth additions. The most notable of these additions was Blake Wheeler signing a one year, $800k deal. Wheeler has a pretty high floor for a player coming in on that type of deal and has the ability to possibly hit the 20-goal marker. Along with him the Rangers signed Jonathan Quick, Nick Bonino, Tyler Pitlick and Erik Gustafsson to similar low money, one year deals. All of these players fill out key depth roles without a high price tag. This low cost free agency is a big help to the team’s goal to win now while also giving them some needed cap flexibility.
Featured image courtesy of NHL.com
Check out our NHL page for more updates!