The Flyers were quiet —as expected— on the opening days of free agency, but teams around the Metropolitan Division were not.
With the dust settling on the start of NHL free agency, it’s time to take a look at just what the Flyers’ division rivals were up to and how they did in and around July 1.
- Andre Burakovsky (Traded to Avalanche for Scott Kosmachuk, and 2020 second and third-round picks)
- Matt Niskanen (Traded to Flyers for Radko Gudas with 30% of Gudas’ cap hit retained)
- Brett Connolly (Signed with Panthers; four years, $13 million)
- Richard Panik (Signed four-year, $11 million deal)
- Brendan Leipsic (Signed one-year, 700K deal)
Like the Penguins, the Capitals badly needed to shed salary while also figuring out how to improve a suddenly aging roster to position Alexander Ovechkin for another run at the Stanley Cup. Good thing the Flyers and GM Chuck Fletcher were there to retain 30% of Radko Gudas’ salary to help out a division rival in a cap crunch!
Burakovsky has been on the trade block for years it seems, so not a real shock to see him finally moved. Brett Connolly worked out well as a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Caps a few seasons ago and they’re trying again with Panik, who quietly had a nice season in Arizona and could be the next 20-goal find in DC.
- Robin Lehner (Signed with Blackhawks; one-year, $5 million)
- Valtteri Filppula (Signed with Red Wings; two-years, $6 million)
- Semyon Varlamov (Signed four-year, $20 million deal)
- Anders Lee (Re-signed; seven years, $49 million)
Let’s point out that the Islanders —and famed GM Lou Lamoriello— lost out on Artemi Panarin to their big brothers. They also lost their stellar goaltender and feel-good reclamation project, replaced him with a lesser more expensive option, and ponied up to re-sign their captain a year after losing John Tavares to the Maple Leafs. The Islanders aren’t exactly much worse than they were before free agency started, but Varlamov is a downgrade in goal and that could be massive given how much the Islanders relied upon stellar goaltending in their run to the second round of the playoffs a year ago.
- Phil Kessel (Traded to Coyotes with Dane Birks and a 2021 fourth-round pick for Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre-Oilvier Joseph)
- Alex Galchenyuk (See above; carries an expiring $4.9 million cap hit)
- Brandon Tanev (Signed six-year, $21 million deal)
The Kessel for Galchenyuk swap is a win for the rest of the Metro, and the Tanev deal seems pretty steep but it sure doesn’t feel like the Penguins are close to done after creating some cap room by dealing the very obvious and terrible locker room cancer that is Phil the Thrill. Pittsburgh being done would be great news for the Flyers, but the Kessel deal and the Olli Maatta trade to Chicago earlier on should make the Penguins players for somebody here soon so stay tuned.
- Scott Darling (Traded to Panthers along with 2020 sixth-round pick for James Reimer)
- Micheal Ferland (UFA)
- Sebastian Aho (Matched Canadiens’ five-year, $42.27 million offer sheet)
- Petr Mrazek (Re-signed; two years, $6.25 million)
- James Reimer (See above; signed through 2021 with a $3.4 million cap hit)
- Erik Haula (Acquired from Vegas for Nicolas Roy and a 2021 conditional fifth-round pick)
Biggest order of business for the Canes was to quickly match the Canadiens’ offer sheet to Aho, though it was far from a difficult decision. Still not sure that Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin really thought that’d be enough to pry Aho away, but nevertheless. Gone is the failed Darling experiment and back is Mrazek on another prove-it type deal that’s perfect for the budget conscious franchise. The Haula trade prior to July 1 was a nice pickup that should fit their lineup perfectly, and a nice get with Ferland likely out and Justin Williams perhaps hanging up the skates.
- Artemi Panarin (Signed with Rangers)
- Matt Duchene (Signed with Predators; seven years, $56 million)
- Sergei Bobrovsky (Signed with Panthers; seven years, $70 million)
- Ryan Dzingel (UFA)
- Gustav Nyquist (Signed four-year, $22 million deal)
- Ryan Murray (Re-signed; two years, $9.2 million)
- Joonas Korpisalo (Re-signed; one year, $1.15 million)
Columbus went all-in to win their first playoff series in franchise history and paid the price for all those rentals on July 1. Gone are playoff heroes Panarin, Duchene, and Bobrovsky, leaving gaping holes in net and up front for the Blue Jackets. GM Jarmo Kekalainen knew he was perhaps going to lose all three players, but did well to fill some of the void left with Gustav Nyquist. He’ll have to figure out how to replace Bobrovsky, which won’t be easy, but the Blue Jackets still have a pretty nice roster now led by Seth Jones, Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Zach Werenski.
- Jimmy Vesey (Traded to Sabres for 2021 third-round pick)
- Artemi Panarin (Signed seven-year, $81.494 million deal)
Of course the Rangers added the biggest fish on the market in the Bread Man. After lucking into Kaapo Kakko in the draft lottery, the Rangers are looking to push their rebuild further along by adding a potential Hart candidate like Panarin to the mix. It’s a good investment given he’s still just 27 and should be firmly in his prime if/when the glut of prospects the Rangers have been hoarding pan out at the NHL level.
They also added Jacob Trouba via trade from Winnipeg to help solidify a suspect blue line. Trouba had a career season a year ago, but was surrounded by way more offensive talent than he will be in New York even with Panarin added to the fold.
While the Rangers are better with Panarin and Trouba, they didn’t add much else in free agency so far and will still be leaning on a 37-year-old netminder to perhaps drag an otherwise pedestrian roster back to the playoffs for the first time in three years.
- Wayne Simmonds (Signed one-year, $5 million deal)
The Devils’ big move came before July 1 as they snagged P.K. Subban from Nashville for a pair of second round picks and a couple AHL prospects. New Jersey did make a splash in free agency by inking the former Flyers great Simmonds to a one-year deal. That could prove to be a shrewd move as they were able to get a potent power play weapon to pair with some elite offensive talent like Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and Jack Hughes.
That said, the Devils still have a ton of holes in their lineup and should —despite the high-end firepower— still struggle to find their way to a playoff berth. Much work to do there for GM Ray Shero and his staff.