It’s officially free agency season for the National Hockey League, which is coming off a pretty impressive entry draft class, and a set of very exciting 2017 Stanley Cup playoff series. Within one week of the free agency period opening on July 1, 2017, most of the top stars looking for new contracts have already been signed. Big name contracts include star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and veteran center and leader Patrick Marleau. Just like the entry draft, free agency is a time for winning teams to make moves to ensure they keep winning, and for losing teams to pull strings in order to get back into the winner’s circle. Below is a list of 5 early winners of NHL 2017 free agency.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Categorize the Penguins under the list of teams who use free agency to “keep on winning.” Coming off their second in a row Stanley Cup victory, the Penguins were able to free up a lot of salary cap room by getting rid of players like Nick Bonino and Chris Kunitz, but were able to sign veteran defenseman Matt Hunwick to a 3-year deal, and resigned defenseman Justin Schultz to a 3-year deal as well
Sam Gagner: At one point, Sam Gagner was making $4.8 million per season. Last year, Gagner was paid $650,000 for a one-year deal with the Blue Jackets. After a very productive season scoring 18 goals and 50 points total, Gagner was able to secure a 3-year contract with the Canucks that will pay him more than $3 million per year. This move is called “proving your worth before free agency.”
Dallas Stars: The Stars had a pretty disappointing 2016-2017 campaign that left them at home while other teams were playing for the Stanley Cup. The Stars made some moves to get back to the playoffs by adding star center Martin Hanzal, who has 326 points over 10 seasons, and will add much needed depth behind Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. The Stars also locked down goalie Ben Bishop for another six years.
New York Rangers: Although the Rangers may not have a blast of star power upfront on offense, they’ve secured their blue line by signing Kevin Shattenkirk to a 4-year deal. Arguably the best defenseman on the market, Shattenkirk is just 28 years old and has always dreamed of being a New York Ranger.
San Jose Sharks: Although the Sharks lost Patrick Marleau to the Maple Leafs, they were able to resign big Joe Thornton on a one-year contract for $8 million. The one-year deal will free up salary cap space for defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and goalie Martin Jones, who both signed large long-term extensions with the team.