By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was pretty quiet on the first day of NHL free agency.
Sweeney signed forward Par Lindholm to a two-year NHL contract with an annual cap hit of $850,000, and added forward Brett Ritchie on a one-year NHL contract worth $1 million. Depth wise, the Bruins also signed forward Brendan Gaunce to a one-year, two-way contract with a NHL cap hit of $700,000, goaltender Maxime Lagace to a one-year, two-way contract with an NHL cap hit of $700,000, and added Josiah Didier to a one-year AHL contract.
The Bruins also took care of some in-house decisions, with a three-year extension for defenseman Connor Clifton to a three-year contract extension through the 2022-23 season with an annual NHL cap hit of $1 million and a one-year, two-way contract with an NHL cap hit of $700,000 for forward Ryan Fitzgerald.
But how about the rest of their division?
Here’s what the Atlantic was up to on Monday…
Tampa Bay Lightning
Like the Bruins, the Lightning kept it relatively simple on July 1.
Tampa’s big move was signing veteran backup netminder Curtis McElhinney, who squared off against the Bruins in Games 3 and 4 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals, to a two-year deal worth $2.6 million in total. The 36-year-old McElhinney posted a 20-11-2 record and .912 save percentage in 33 starts for the Hurricanes last season.
The Bolts also inked defenseman Luke Schenn to a one-year deal worth $700,000, as well as skater Luke Witkowski to a two-year deal worth $1.4 million in total. The 29-year-old Schenn appeared in 26 total games between the Ducks and Canucks last season, while Witkowski returns to the Lightning organization after a two-season run with the Red Wings.
In terms of departures on the backend, the Lightning lost defensemen Anton Stralman (he went to the Panthers on a three-year deal) and Dan Girardi (still a free agent).
The good news for the Bruins when it comes to the Lightning, though, is that the Bolts were unable to come to terms on a contract with Joe Pavelski. The 35-year-old Pavelski, who has scored 205 goals over the last six seasons, reportedly met with the Lightning during the league’s interview period, but ultimately settled on a three-year deal with Dallas.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs were one of the league’s more active teams on July 1.
The Leafs kicked off their July 1 fun by coming to terms on a deal that’ll send defenseman Nikita Zaitsev and winger Connor Brown to the Senators in exchange for defenseman Cody Ceci and three other pieces. Ceci, a 25-year-old defenseman who matched a career-best with 26 points this past season, has some of the worst advanced metrics in hockey, but the Leafs seem hopeful that he’ll bounce back when slotted into a proper role on a deeper Toronto squad. He’s also a restricted free agent.
The Leafs also signed veteran center Jason Spezza to a one-year, $700,000 contract. The 36-year-old Spezza, who spent the first 11 years of his career with the rival Senators, had just eight goals and 27 points for the Stars last year.
But Toronto’s biggest move of July 1 came with their final move, as the Leafs shipped center Nazem Kadri, defenseman Calle Rosen, and a 2020 third-round draft pick to the Avalanche for defenseman Tyson Barrie, forward Alex Kerfoot, and a 2020 sixth-round drat choice. The Avs also retained 50 percent of Barrie’s $5.5 million salary in the trade. This trade unfortunately guarantees that Kadri will not get suspended in Toronto’s first-round series against the Bruins for a third year in a row.
Toronto’s maneuvering gives the Leafs just over $11 million to give new contracts to Ceci, Kerfoot, and Mitch Marner.
Marner, of course, remains unsigned.
In other words, expect more shuffling from the Leafs between now and Game 1.
The Canadiens got inventive with their Day 1 free agency plans, as they submitted an offer sheet to the Hurricanes’ Sebastian Aho. Carolina’s center accepted the offer, too, which was worth a reported $42.27 million over five years, and with a record-high number of signing bonus money attached to the contract. The signing bonus part is key element of this, too, as the Canadiens were essentially trying to call the Hurricanes out for being a budget team of sorts. Habs general manager Marc Bergevin wasted no time in throwing some bombs, too, saying that Aho “wants” to be in Montreal.
Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell has other plans.
“It’s certainly a surprise, I’m actually surprised [the offer sheet] wasn’t more,” Waddell told The Athletic. Waddell went on to mention that he has no plans of immediately matching the offer sheet (they have seven days to decide), noting that it would only help the Canadiens if they made an immediate decision, and that the ‘Canes had little interest in helping Montreal.
If the ‘Canes do not match (I’d say that there’s a 99.99999 percent chance that the Hurricanes will indeed match), the Canadiens will surrender their first, second, and third-round picks in 2020 to Carolina.
UPDATE: The Hurricanes have matched the offer sheet.
Montreal also signed goaltender Keith Kinkaid to a one-year, $1.75 million contract to be Carey Price’s backup. The 6-foot-3 Kinkaid posted a 15-18-6 record and .891 save percentage for the Devils last season.
Just as many predicted, the Panthers spent — and spent big — on July 1.
In need of a goaltender in the wake of Roberto Luongo’s retirement and James Reimer’s trade to Carolina, the Panthers found their guy with the signing of Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million contract. The Russian-born Bobrovsky had 37 wins (nine shutouts) and a .914 save percentage in 61 starts with the Blue Jackets last season. Bobrovsky, who has won at least 37 games in three straight seasons, is now the NHL’s second-highest paid goaltender (Price, at $10.5 million, remains No. 1).
Florida also beefed up their forward depth with the signing of Brett Connolly to a four-year, $13 million contract, and Noel Acciari to a three-year deal worth $5 million. Connolly was among the league’s better depth scorers throughout his three-season run with the Capitals, while Acciari is cashing in after establishing a gritty, hard-hitting resume for his hometown Bruins.
The Panthers also added veteran defender Anton Stralman on a three-year deal worth $16.5 million.
The Sabres were relatively quiet on July, making four separate signings all for the NHL league minimum.
That four included forwards Jean-Sebastien Dea, Curtis Lazar, defenseman John Gilmour, and goalie Andrew Hammond.
But Buffalo did make a splash of sorts with the acquisition of Jimmy Vesey from the Rangers in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick. Vesey, familiar to Bruins fans as a Massachusetts native and somebody who chose the Rangers over the Bruins when he decided to jump from Harvard to the NHL, scored 50 goals and 90 points in 240 total games with the Blueshirts.
Detroit Red Wings
Detroit’s big July 1 move came with Valtteri Filppula’s decision to return to where it all began, as the Red Wings and 35-year-old forward came to terms on a two-year contract worth $6 million in total. Filppula, who spent the first eight years of his career with the Wings, recorded 17 goals and 31 points in 72 games for the Islanders in 2018-19. It’s a reunion in more ways than one, no less, as Filppula is back with ex-Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman. Filppula, of course, skated with Tampa Bay for three and a half seasons.
Yzerman also added to his backend with the signing of Avalanche defender Patrik Nemeth to a two-year deal worth $6 million, and created some goaltending competition with the inking of Calvin Pickard to a two-year deal worth $1.5 million in total.
The Senators a professional hockey team. They continued that with the signing of Ron Hainsey (a one-year deal for $3.5 million), Tyler Ennis (a one-year deal worth $800,000), and Bruins tweener Jordan Szwarz (a one-year, $800,000 deal). The Sens, a potentially logical suitor for David Backes and his $6 million salary, now sit $1.5 million below the league’s salary cap floor.