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NHL Free Agency: 2020 Division Review – Atlantic

2020 NHL Free Agency Recap

Wayne Simmonds Maple Leafs

It is still very early in an NHL offseason that extends into the unknown. So far, several teams have been busier than others out of sheer necessity but after nearly 10 days of official NHL free agency we will take a quick inventory of notable transactions thus far – by division.

One of the more interesting and active divisions (notwithstanding any future divisional re-alignment) has been in the NHL’s Atlantic Division. Today’s feature will supply a quick update on each team’s notable signings, current cap room, and possibilities moving forward. Without further adieu, and in alphabetical order, here is a recap of the Atlantic Division:

Boston Bruins

So far, the two significant signings by the Bruins have been hometown defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (4 years – $3.68M AAV), and former Nashville Predator forward Craig Smith (3 years – $3.1M AAV). The Bruins now have just over $6.5M in projected cap space but still need to address several players from last season’s roster including captain Zdeno Chara (UFA) and Jake Debrusk (RFA). With those considerations in mind, the Bruins may not have enough room to add a big free agent sniper like Mike Hoffman as previously expected.

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres have been active thus far and have made some significant additions at both ends of the ice including Taylor Hall (1 year – $8M AAV), extending defenseman Brandon Montour (1 year – $3.85M AAV), and signing middle six Manitoban gem Cody Eakin (2 years – $2.25M AAV).

Additionally, new GM Kevyn Adams made a great trade with the Minnesota Wild acquiring veteran Eric Staal who has a year remaining on his $3.25M contract. Despite these upgrades, the Sabres still have about $13.6M of cap room available. If the Sabres want to contend in the Atlantic, they will likely need to spend some of that cap space on a proven starting goaltender.

Detroit Red Wings

Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings have also been busy. Like the Sabres, the Wings still have over $18M in cap space to spend on further upgrades. So far, the Red Wings have provided former Ottawa Senator Bobby Ryan another chance (1 year – $1M AAV) and added forward Vladislav Namestnikov (2 year- $2M AAV). The ladder is a former 1st round selection of the Tampa Bay Lightning – meaning, Mr. Yzerman is familiar with the capabilities of this player.

The Wings also added former Vancouver Canuck defenseman Troy Stecher (2 years – $1.7M AAV) as well as goaltender Thomas Greiss (2 years – $3.6M AAV) to help solidify the defensive side of the ice. Expect the Red Wings to be selectively active moving forward.

Florida Panthers

So far, the Florida Panthers have waded into the free agency pool by adding rugged defender Radko Gudas (3 years – $2.5M AAV) who spent last season with the Washington Capitals. Additionally, the Panthers have signed forwards Alexander Wennberg (1 year – $2.25M) and Carter Verhaeghe (2 years – $1M AAV). With just over $11.5M in cap space, the Panthers may try to extend RFA MacKenzie Weegar or add some extra firepower up front.

Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has been aggressive so far, but with under $385k remaining cap space they are probably now ‘spent’. The Canadiens have shored up every position from the crease out, beginning with the addition of Jake Allen (2 years – $2.875M AAV). This should give Habs starter Carey Price more comfortable and needed nights off.

Prior to the 2020 NHL draft, the Canadiens also locked up defenseman Jeff Petry for 4 years with an AAV of $6.25M. The Canadiens also struck deals with defenders Victor Mete (1 year – $735k), Xavier Ouellet (2 years – $737.5k) and Noah Juulsen (2 way contract, 1 year – $700k/75k [AHL]). These three players should compete for a depth spot on the Canadien back end when the next NHL season begins.

However, the big Canadiens transactions have been up front. The Habs recently locked up the heartbeat of the team by re-signing Brendan Gallagher for 6 more years (AAV – $6.5M). Keeping Gallagher was huge considering the Canadiens went to market for Tyler Toffoli (4 years – $4.25 AAV), and then immediately gave a big extension to power forward Josh Anderson (7 years – $5.5M) after dealing Max Domi to the Columbus Blue Jackets. An interesting new look for the Canadiens that should make them more than competitive in this division.

Ottawa Senators

The Senators have been active, but they still have $20M in cap space to play with so they have more moves up their sleeve. So far, Ottawa traded for a starting goaltender in Matt Murray and then immediately signed him to a 4-year, $6.25M AAV contract. The Sens also dove into the free agent market inking big UFA forward Evgenii Dadonov for 3 years at $5M AAV. The Senators also locked up big man Josh Brown for 3 years ($750k AAV) to help out on the back end.

Will they continue to solidify the back end with the remaining cap room the Sens have available? If so, could the Sens be in on talks with available UFA’s Sami Vatanen or Travis Hamonic?

Tampa Bay Lightning

With a tight salary cup and some big contracts to navigate over the next few seasons, the 2020 Stanley Cup champions have only made a few minor adjustments thus far. The Lightning made deals with two veteran depth players from last years winning roster including defender Luke Schenn (1 year – $800k), and back to back Stanley Cup champion Patrick Maroon (2 years – $900k AAV). Would not expect a whole lot more from the Lightning in terms of signing activity, but they are going to have make some cap room to sign Brayden Point sooner rather than later.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs have made one significant investment and several other smaller deals so far. The Leafs were able to sign former Calgary Flame defender T.J. Brodie to a four-year deal worth an AAV of $5M. Additionally, the Leafs have also made some significant short-term deals with several interesting forwards. The headliner this last week, was a relatively cheap one-year deal for ‘Jumbo’ Joe Thornton at an AAV of $700k. Toronto was also able to add UFA’s Jimmy Vesey (1 year – $900k), and extend Jason Spezza (1 year – $700k).

In my own opinion, the most significant move for the Leafs may have been the inking of veteran power forward, Wayne Simmonds. The Leafs were able to sign Simmonds on a one year $1.5M contract. The Scarborough native, now 32, has recently bounced around, but he effectively replaces the bite of Kyle Clifton, but adds some touch around the net. Simmonds has twice reached the 30-goal mark and has also been close on three different occasions. The Wayne Train should be a very good fit for the Leafs. With under $1.5 million in cap space the Leafs could be set until the league settles into a more definitive schedule for the 2020/21 season.

Stay tuned for a Metropolitan Division free agency recap in the coming days.

Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price Montreal Canadiens

NEXT: Thornton on Leafs Chances, Jerseys and Advice From Surprising Source

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