NHL Free Agency Winners and LosersBy: Lauren Burg
Every season teams lose players. That much is inevitable. Many of these teams just hope that they don't lose any key players, stars or leaders of their team. Of course, it isn't always possible to keep these guys because of the money they often demand. Alas, if you do lose one of these players it's bound to hurt. If you lose a player it's likely for them to end up with another team. This essentially means that one teams loss is another teams gain. With free agency now winding down to a snails pace I'm going to give you my 3 winners and losers of the free agency period.
Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford went on a huge spending spree this summer, acquiring Jordan Staal from Pittsburgh and Alexander Semin from division rival Washington in just over a months time. Rutherford also acquired Tim Wallace from another division rival, Tampa Bay, and Joe Corvo from Boston. He also made sure to address the Canes future, signing AHL Charlotte goaltender Justin Peters along with AHL forwards Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk and Jerome Samson to name a few.
In 77 games with Washington last season Semin put up some outstanding numbers, scoring 21 goals, totaling 54 points and putting up an impressive plus-9 rating. He also helps in the Canes' top six forward department, giving new head coach Kirk Muller better defensive forwards to work with. Staal, the brother of Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, also helps to provide Muller with some options on the top 2-3 lines. In 62 games last season with Pittsburgh Staal was often found on the scoresheet, scoring 25 goals and adding 25 assists to total 50 points. He also posted a great plus/minus rating of plus-11.
Wallace, in 18 games with Tampa Bay after being acquired mid-season from the New York Islanders, put up three goals, eight points and a decent plus-4 rating. More than that, he gives the Canes a pretty decent third or fourth liner who's capable of producing just enough and also is solid defensively. Corvo, a defenseman, showed he's very good defensively as is expected but can also help out offensively if need be. In 75 games with Boston last season, he scored four goals and added 21 assists to total 25 points. More important, however, was his plus-10 rating because they're numbers that will help the Canes top six forwards flourish by taking the added defensive pressure off of them.
Quite honestly, after addressing the team's pressing needs the Canes look to be the early favorites to not only win the Southeast Division but also go deep into the playoffs. That is, if we have a season….
A team that's been just mediocre for what seems like years, the Wild picked a great time to make a huge splash in free agency. They acquired this offseason's top two free agents in former New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise and former Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter, one of the best in the game these days. They also acquired former Ottawa Senators tough guy Zenon Konopka and former San Jose Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell.
Parise, after missing nearly all of the 2010-2011 season, was looking to come back strong last season. He did just that, putting up 31 goals and 69 points while playing in all 82 regular season games. Parise also came up big in the Devils' 2012 playoff run, one that ended two wins short of another Stanley Cup, by tallying eight goals and 15 points in 24 games. Suter, meanwhile, was doing what he could to help the Nashville Predators in their Stanley Cup quest. In 79 regular season games Suter put up 46 points and a plus/minus rating of plus-15, both good for second among Predators defensemen. Suter's 2012 postseason was probably less than he expected, as he put up only four points and was a minus-3 in 10 games.
Mitchell and Konopka also prove to be good additions because they add some toughness to the Wild lineup. Appearing in 76 regular season games Mitchell tallied 19 points while accruing 29 penalty minutes. Not huge totals but they give him plenty of room for improvement. Konopka, on the other hand, put up five points while accruing 193 penalty minutes in 55 regular season games with the Senators. Obviously, Konopka's not afraid to drop the gloves when need be, something that will only help the Wild.
To tell the truth this Wild team has the capability, and now the players, to make some major noise in the Western Conference for years to come. They have a great chance of winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup as well.
The Dallas Stars just barely missed the playoffs last season. They then made it their mission to fill last season's few missing pieces by making a fairly big splash during free agency. They did this by acquiring Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney, both veterans with a lot of NHL experience. Another acquisition they made was former Vancouver Canucks forward Aaron Rome. The Stars also made sure to re-sign players they didn't want to lose; guys like Jordie Benn, Mark Fistric, Richard Bachman, Ryan Garbutt and others.
Jagr spent many years in the NHL, winning a few Stanley Cups, before spending the 2010-2011 season playing overseas. He returned this past season, signing a one year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. Jagr scored 54 points and put up a respectable plus-5 rating in 73 regular season games last season. Jagr took a step back in the playoffs however, managing only eight points and a minus-5 rating in 11 games. Whitney, on the other hand, never left the NHL, winning a Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 before heading to the Phoenix Coyotes. Whitney led the Coyotes with 77 points and a plus-26 rating while not missing a game last season. He also registered eight power play goals, good for second on the team behind Radim Vrbata.
Rome probably doesn't need an introduction as some may remember him for the hit that knocked out Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton during the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. He was suspended, probably deservedly so, for the hit but that doesn't mean he's not a good player. He actually put up 10 points while playing in only 43 games last season due to injury. Since that probably doesn't give you much hope let's also look at his 2010-2011 campaign. During that season Rome tallied five points and a plus-one rating in 56 games played. That doesn't tell us a ton except that he can be good defensively. Honestly, with Rome he's got to stay relatively healthy so he can contribute. Then again I think that's the case with any player!
With these new additions, along with the re-signings, the Stars should have no problem making it back to the postseason. They also have a good chance of going deep in the playoffs and, though it's a stretch right now, possibly winning Lord Stanley's Cup.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils lost Zach Parise's numbers and leadership, traded defensive prospect Matt Taormina to Tampa Bay and only have Martin Brodeur for another year or two. Yeah, Adam Henrique's a great player and Patrick Elias/Ilya Kovalchuk have leadership capabilities. Kovalchuk also has captain experience, serving as the Atlanta Thrashers captain before being traded to the Devils. However, the numbers Parise puts up when healthy are hard to replace. In non injury-plagued seasons he routinely put up over 30 goals and more than 65 points. Last season, he was the Devils' second highest goal scorer with 31 goals, just behind Kovalchuk's 37.
Losing a guy like Parise would be difficult for any team to overcome. However, with Brodeur still aging, Henrique still very young and Kovalchuk's streakiness it might be completely devastating to a team that struggles to score goals as it is.
The Preds lost one of their top defensemen in Ryan Suter to Minnesota. Last season, Suter was the Preds' 2nd highest scoring defenseman with 46 points and a plus-15 rating in 78 games. The only Preds defenseman with a higher point total than Suter was Shea Weber with 49 points. The Preds also had to pay up just to keep Weber, something that might end up costing them in the future.
Another player the Preds lost was backup goaltender Anders Lindback to Tampa Bay. Obviously, they still have Pekka Rinne. If Rinne were to get injured though the Preds have no proven NHL caliber goalie behind him. With Lindback, they at least knew they had someone who had proven he could put up decent numbers.
With these losses the Preds might still be OK next season. In the near future, however, the team could pay for the moves they made this offseason.
The Flyers lost one of their top shut-down defenseman in Matt Carle, one of their top forwards in Jaromir Jagr and didn't upgrade their goaltending. They also aren't sure about the status of captain Chris Pronger who was sidelined much of last season with a concussion.
Carle, who signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay, put up 38 points and a plus-4 rating while suiting up in every game last season. Meanwhile, Jagr signed as a free agent with the Dallas Stars. Appearing in 73 games with the Flyers last season Jagr put up 54 points and a plus-5 rating. Pronger only played 13 games before being sidelined but still managed to put up 12 points and a plus-1 rating.
If that weren't bad enough the Flyers received news in early August that defenseman Andrej Meszaros tore his right achilles tendon while working out in his home country of Slovakia and is out indefinitely. Meszaros tallied 25 points with a plus-6 rating in 62 games last season.
Losing key players, whether to injury or free agency, always hurts. However, if you combine that with the Flyers past goaltending woes, the fact they lost one of their top point producers in Jagr and their recent string of bad luck you've got a recipe for disaster.
*All free agent signings were found here: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=636656
*All New Jersey Devils stats were found here: http://devils.nhl.com/club/stats.htm
*All Nashville Predators stats were found here: http://predators.nhl.com/club/stats.htm
*All Philadelphia Flyers stats were found here: http://flyers.nhl.com/club/stats.htm
*The Andrej Meszaros news was found here: http://flyers.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=639314
*Alexander Semin's stats can be found here: http://capitals.nhl.com/club/stats.htm
*Jordan Staal's stats can be found here: http://penguins.nhl.com/club/stats.htm?location=/stats2
*Aaron Rome's stats can be found here: http://canucks.nhl.com/club/stats.htm
**Feel free to contact me, Lauren, on Twitter @TBLightning491 or Daily Shootout, @DailyShootout. **