Reviewing Some Recent Notable NHL Trades & Free-Agent Signings

by | Aug 1, 2021 | Soapbox | 7 comments

July 25 to 31 was a busy week in the NHL following the entry-draft weekend with the annual free-agent market opening on July 28.

I noted the top UFA signings of the opening day of free agency for Bleacher Report. Here’s a quick look at several other notable free-agent signings, plus some interesting trades that caught my eye over the past week.

July 26: Florida Panthers re-sign Sam Bennett to a four-year, $17.7 million contract.

Bennett quickly meshed well with the Panthers following his acquisition from the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline. He’ll provide them with solid second-line depth in their quest to become a Cup contender.

July 27: Chicago Blackhawks acquire Marc-Andre Fleury from Vegas Golden Knights.

The Golden Knights had to shed salary to improve their roster depth. With a younger Robin Lehner under contract for four more years at $5 million per season, the 37-year-old Fleury and the remaining year of his contract ($7 million) had to go. Unfortunately, he found out about it on Twitter before the club could inform him. His omission of team owner Bill Foley and general manager Kelly McCrimmon in his farewell statement to the team and the fans spoke volumes.

Blackhawks acquire Tyler Johnson from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Lightning shed Johnson’s contract for the next three seasons. In return, they get the contract of permanently sidelined defenseman Brent Seabrook to put on LTIR. In other words, Lightning GM Julien BriseBois immediately shed $5 million from his books and garnered another $6.875 million in cap wiggle room if necessary.

Tampa Bay Lightning center Brayden Points (NHL Images).

July 28: Lightning re-sign Brayden Point to an eight-year, $76 million contract.

It’s a big investment by the Lightning but that’s the price to be paid for keeping a core player who is becoming one of the best centers in the NHL. He’s deadly during the regular season and seems to find another gear when the playoffs roll around.

Starting in 2022-23, the Lightning has almost $45 million invested in just five players. Those five, however, are Point, former league MVP and scoring champion Nikita Kucherov, former Norris and Conn Smythe winner Victor Hedman, current Smythe winner and former Vezina winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, and team captain and former Richard winner Steven Stamkos. They’re the core that helped win back-to-back Stanley Cups. You can argue they’re paying too much to keep that group intact but at least they’ve got true value for those salary-cap dollars.

Colorado Avalanche acquires goaltender Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes.

Avalanche GM Joe Sakic turned immediately to the Coyotes and Kuemper after starter Philipp Grubauer signed with the Seattle Kraken. The 31-year-old netminder has a year left on his contract with an affordable $4.5 million cap hit. He’s a terrific performer but has been plagued by injuries in recent years. Kuemper must stay healthy throughout this season if the Avs hope to win the Stanley Cup next June.

Calgary Flames sign Blake Coleman to a six-year, $29.4 million contract.

Coleman was an effective and versatile checking-line forward for the Tampa Bay Lightning in their back-to-back championship runs. His style of play should fit well with head coach Darryl Sutter’s system of grinding defensive hockey. Still, investing that much for six years on a middle-six forward who turns 30 this season could prove costly in the final half of the deal when his skills start to decline.

Boston Bruins sign Linus Ullmark to a four-year, $20 million contract.

Ullmark put up decent stats during his four years with the sad-sack Buffalo Sabres. Whether he’ll become a reliable starter on a better club in Boston remains to be seen. It’s an expensive gamble that could go sour. This signing also raises questions about the future of long-time starter Tuukka Rask once he returns from offseason hip surgery in February.

July 29: Columbus Blue Jackets re-sign Zach Werenski to a six-year, $57.5 million contract extension.

After seeing so many core players depart in recent years, the Blue Jackets had to ensure they could keep Werenski in the fold. The 24-year-old is an excellent puck-moving defenseman but they overpaid to keep him in Columbus. His $9.583 million AAV is higher than that of Colorado Avalanche rearguard Cale Makar ($9 million), who was a Calder Trophy winner in 2019-20 and a Norris Trophy finalist last season.


  1. Weighing all the moves over the last 2 weeks…. To me, hands down… Zito has done the best job

    If Bobo can play at just the worth of 75% of his Cap hit; and the young lad doesn’t have the sophomore blues… Panther’s are sitting with a team that is set up to win the Atl

    Can Pens or Leafs please flip GMs with Panthers

    • To all those in Leafland ,Shanny and Dufus are the sad result of fan loyalty that will never end.Prepare for many years of continuous frustration!

      • Ever since Shanny said there is no room in hockey for hitting and fighting I lost all respect for him. That is exactly what he did when he played in the league. Did he watch the playoffs with all of the hitting. Montreal out hit Toronto and that helped them big time. Dubas and his analytics drafting figure skaters should go back to the soo!!

  2. Pengy, wouldn’t you first have to give Shanahan – now headed into his 8th year of the re-build – the heave-ho?

    Since taking over, his team has played 7 seasons and 536 regular season games, averaging a seasonal record of 37 29 9 (2 shorted seasons factored in) scoring 235 goals for and 229 goals against.

    In the 7 seasons prior to taking over the team played 540 regular season games (one shortened season factored in) averaging a seasonal record of 34 33 10 while managing 216 goals for and 246 goals against. Overall, not huge differences.

    But, whereas they only made the playoffs once in the 7 years before he took over (losing 3-4 to Boston in 2012-13), they did qualify in 5 of the past 7 seasons, albeit losing out in the 1st round each time.

    At what stage do those calling the shots decide that, while there has undoubtedly been improvement over the 7 year comparisons, it still has not been sufficient to warrant keeping him around. If not now – when?

    • No challenge at all to your review and assertions in Shanny/Dubas

      I was just trying to point out that it was basically mandatory now for Hextall to do something… he’s fallen short

      A rebuild would have been better than having any trade-able assets get 1 year older while the tram misses the playoffs

      Zito as Leafs or Pens GM 👍👍👍

  3. Notice the bruins have pretty well called it a year on their uneventful waste of time and effort Weds. Krecji’s gone and they have noone to fill the second line centre position Studnicka? Unless he has put on some weight & gained some confidence not to mention talent forget it. Foligno ohh boy, Nick centring a line with Hall and Craig smith that’s like throwing a seven with one dice. Haula forget it, confirmed third liner Coyle is good third liner that is it. Where is the rushing d Sweeney? where is our second liner centre?

    • Reports are that he has put on some serious muscle this off-season. I’ve heard up to 15 pounds but that seems a little high. More likely around 10lbs of muscle and it seems like he is training really hard, eating right, etc.

      He seemed to play better when he played C as opposed to the wing so maybe there is some hope he can show some big improvements this upcoming season.