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Bolts, Preds, Blackhawks among winners in NHL free agency

Steven Stamkos signed an eight-year, $68-million deal to stay in Tampa. (AP Photo)

In one of the most momentous half hours in NHL offseason history last week, the NHL was shaken by three massive moves — Montreal trading P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber, Edmonton shipping Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson, and Steven Stamkos giving the Lightning a significant hometown discount to stay in Tampa Bay.

But those early moves hardly made July 1 — the NHL’s annual free-agent feeding frenzy — a dud. Here are some of the winners and losers around the league from both the preamble and immediate aftermath of free agency.


Tampa Bay

Toronto desperately wanted Stamkos to come home. Buffalo desperately wanted Stamkos to instantly legitimize the Sabres. Detroit desperately wanted Stamkos to put the Red Wings back among the NHL elite. Any of those teams likely would have paid $11-12 million a year for the one-time 60-goal scorer. Tampa Bay got him to stay for a relative pittance at $8.5 million a year. Not only that, the Lightning locked up defenseman Victor Hedman for eight years at $7.875 million a year, again well below market value. GM Steve Yzerman then signed Ben Bishop’s eventual replacement in goal, Andrei Vasilevskiy, to an affordable three-year deal. Every Stanley Cup-winning team in recent years has had at least one world-class forward, defenseman and goaltender. By adding nobody, but keeping everybody, Tampa Bay is the big winner.


Montreal fans will be lamenting the day Marc Bergevin let Subban go for years to come. The charismatic, philanthropic, usually brilliant, occasionally maddening defenseman will become the face of the Predators franchise. And in coach Peter Laviolette’s go-for-broke attack, Subban will become an even bigger star. It’s the perfect marriage of star and style and city.


The Hawks still have serious concerns up front, but getting Brian Campbell — still very much an elite defenseman at age 37 — for a mere $2.25 million (Florida reportedly offered him $4.75 million to stay) is a massive coup that addresses their biggest problem area.

Other winners

Calgary (signed Troy Brouwer, and acquired a new and improved goalie tandem in Brian Elliot and Chad Johnson); San Jose (got winger Mikkel Boedkker on a team-friendly four-year deal, and underrated defenseman David Schlemko, while re-signing Tomas Hertl); Buffalo (signed high-scoring winger Kyle Okposo to flank Jack Eichel).



The Habs got grittier, but did they get better? Weber is still terrific, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 and is signed through 2025-26 (!). Meanwhile, KHL star Alexander Radulov’s first NHL stint was something of a debacle; he has the skill, but does he have the maturity? Bergevin bet $5.75 million that he does.

St. Louis

The Blues lost not only their captain, but their heart, soul and identity with David Backes leaving for Boston. St. Louis was justified in not wanting to commit long-term to two aging, physical players in Backes and Brouwer. But between losing them and trading away Elliott, the Blues — who only signed David Perron and backup goalie Carter Hutton — are definitively worse off than they were this past season, at least in the short term.

N.Y. Islanders

The Islanders lost a high-scoring winger in Okposo, an outstanding two-way center in Frans Nielsen, and an energetic fourth-liner in Matt Martin. They replaced those players with two solid players in Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera. But they overcommitted to the 30-year-old Ladd (seven years), and it’s asking a lot for the 37-year-old Chimera to repeat the 20-goal effort he had with Washington last season, just the second 20-goal season of his long career.

Other losers

Toronto (failed to land Stamkos, and gave Martin a baffling four-year, $10-million deal); N.Y. Rangers (underwhelming signings such as Michael Grabner and Nathan Gerbe continue their steady fade-out from contention); Anaheim (after replacing a very good coach in Bruce Boudreau with a retread in Randy Carlyle, the Ducks did, well, absolutely nothing).


Twitter: @marklazerus