NHL 2022 free agency: Winners and losers after Day 1 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
NHL free agency kicked off on Wednesday, and it was a busy day across the league. So let's take a look at who the winners and losers were from Day 1 as we officially shift our attention to the 2022-23 season:
Columbus Blue Jackets
The biggest signing of the day came at 7:40 p.m. CT, and it was an absolute bombshell. Johnny Gaudreau, who was the top free agent on the market, shocked the hockey world by signing a seven-year, $68.25 million contract with the Blue Jackets, who apparently were lurking all day. It felt inevitable that Gaudreau would end up landing with a team closer to home (Philadelphia or New Jersey), but GM Jarmo Kekalainen swooped in and inked the six-time All-Star to a long-term deal. Gaudreau even left money on the table by doing so. What a day to remember for Columbus.
Detroit Red Wings
There might not have been a busier team than the Red Wings, who have clearly indicated they're no longer in rebuild mode. It's go-time. They added a top-six versatile forward in Andrew Copp, a 30-goal scorer in Dominik Kubalik, a six-time 50-point power forward in David Perron, a shutdown defenseman in Ben Chiarot and a two-time Stanley Cup champion depth defenseman in Olli Maatta. Plus, they acquired goaltender Ville Husso's negotiating rights at the 2022 NHL Draft and signed him to a three-year extension, giving the Red Wings a solid 1-2 punch between the pipes with him and Alex Nedeljkovic. The Red Wings may not be a playoff contender yet, but they'll probably be knocking on the door.
What a week it's been for the Senators, who made a significant splash at the draft by acquiring one of the NHL's elite goal scorers in Alex DeBrincat from Chicago. They then traded for a No. 1 goaltender in Cam Talbot to pair with Anton Forsberg, shed 75 percent of Matt Murray's contract, and signed four-time 80-point producer Claude Giroux, who should provide some much-needed scoring and veteran leadership to a young, up-and-coming team. The Senators also have nearly $20 million in cap space, which means they may not be done yet.
Tough week for GM Brad Treliving, and you could see the dejection in his voice and body language during his press conferences this week. On the night before free agency opened, Gaudreau informed Calgary that he would be hitting the open market and wouldn't re-sign with the Flames for family reasons. Just a massive void in the lineup, and the question immediately becomes: What does this mean for the future of Matthew Tkachuk, who's a pending restricted free agent with arbitration rights and one year away from unrestricted free agency? Calgary did re-sign Nikita Zadorov but lost his defenseman partner Erik Gudbrandson to ... Columbus. A double-whammy.
New York Islanders
The Islanders need to surround superstar Mathew Barzal with some more offensive talent, and they did absolutely nothing on Day 1 of free agency. Zero signings. Now, they were believed to be in the hunt for Gaudreau, so it's not like GM Lou Lamiorello just sat on his hands, but you do wonder what their Plan B is. There are still some decent names on the market, so we're not going to call this a failure of a summer just yet but it'll be interesting to see what additions are ultimately made to this roster by the time September rolls around.
Hiring Barry Trotz was the top priority for Winnipeg this offseason, and no doubt the Jets were devastated when one of the best coaches in NHL history announced he would be taking the year off, pretty late in the process. The Jets had to pivot by hiring veteran Rick Bowness to be their next bench boss, which isn't a terrible consolation, but they obviously put all their eggs in the Trotz basket and went into scramble mode after that because every other higher profile coach got snatched up. Fast-forward to Wednesday, and the only two free-agent signings the Jets made were backup goaltender David Rittich and forward Kevin Stenlund, who played the majority of last season in the AHL. Not ideal, especially with clouds hanging over the futures of Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.