For the last week, pending unrestricted free agents were able to talk to any of the 31 teams of the National Hockey League. The rumors of who was talking to who were all out there. Terms, deals in principle, and all kinds of chatter were all over the hockey world for the last seven days. Today, we will get the truth as this is the first day that unrestricted free agents can sign a new contract with a team.
The big name is John Tavares. The list of UFAs was going to be somewhat small in terms of star power. However, Tavares was the biggest star to hit free agency in years. He spoke with a handful of teams - not New Jersey - and we will find out whether he’s going elsewhere or returning to the City. We will find out on July 1 - assuming he did not sign an extension on June 30. While there were a few interesting restricted free agent players that were not qualified at last Monday’s deadline, none of them really move the needle beyond being a useful depth player. There are not a lot of big-time, significant players that will hit the market this year. This means that the forwards who are somewhat on that level - James van Reimsdyk, Paul Stastny, David Perron, and James Neal come to mind - stand to make a whole lot of money out of necessity. One such name is already out. According to this Boston Globe article by Kevin Paul Dumont from this past Thursday, Rick Nash has taken himself out of July 1. He could sign later, or he could retire entirely. Say what you want about Nash, but the 2018 forward class of free agents is weaker for it.
It could be worse. You could be a team that needs a defenseman. Defenseman John Carlson was expected to make a metric ton of cash this Summer between having a career year (that he will likely never match) and being fairly young (under 30). But the Capitals locked him up by throwing a metric ton of cash at him as first revealed by Bob McKenzie on Twitter. After Carlson, there’s, well, not much. The best remaining defenseman UFA may actually be John Moore. Seriously. America’s less-talented but more disciplined version of Marek Zidlicky could benefit from being the best available option. (Aside to newer readers of All About the Jersey: John Moore is not good. Especially at that whole defense thing.)
As for the New Jersey Devils, another top-six caliber winger would really help diversify the offense. Taylor Hall had a MVP season - which I love typing because he was the NHL MVP last season - but the Devils cannot solely rely on him and his line again. If Moore is really gone, then the Devils will need another left-sided defenseman. Whether they move up Will Butcher into Moore’s role at even strength or not, they need another body to play that side. With Ken Appleby about to be gone free - he was not qualified by the Devils - a solid #3 option would be useful too. Cory Schneider is expected to miss the first few games of the season as he recovers from hip surgery. Someone will have to back up Kinkaid and nothing MacKenzie Blackwood has done in the AHL suggests it should be him. If either Schneider or Keith Kinkaid get hurt again, someone needs to step up again. So that is a need. More skater depth is always a plus, especially if Drew Stafford and Jimmy Hayes both move on as expected. More so if Patrick Maroon does not come back.
Even with the NHL allowing players to talk early - which I suspect always happened and they could not enforce silence - this day is always a frantic day. Teams will make decisions that will impact their franchises for years to come. A lot of players will get paid for what they’ve done - and not what they can do. A lot of players will get term with some getting clauses to keep them around - and possibly more than what a team is capable of. But why do teams overpay on both fronts then? Because that is what it will take to get their signature on the contract. Players and agents are also aware of the market being thin at parts. Scarcity and competition are great ways to drive up the cost of doing business. That’s why the theme song Free Agency Frenzy should always the Million Dollar Man’s Theme (or Shane McMahon’s theme, Here Comes the Money):
As is annual tradition, this is your open post for all activity today. Expect posts about what the Devils do and a summary post in the evening. Minor deals will probably be lumped together, but the bigger names will be covered separately. In the meantime, please use the comments in this post to discuss everything that’s happening in free agency (signings! trades!) throughout the league as well as the New Jersey Devils.
Usual rules apply. Comments will be clean, on topic, and respectful of each other. Please, please, please do not share unconfirmed rumors and “news” from false sources like fake Twitter accounts, “insiderrs,” a “rumor breaker,” an incarcerated Robert, etc. Stick to people who know things. Think Bob McKenzie, Elliotte Friedman, David Pagnotta, etc. There’s going to be a lot going on, especially after noon. So there’s no need to muddy the waters of actual news by getting people riled up about something that isn’t likely to happen from someone who claimed they heard somebody. I can’t go for that. No can do. And neither will you. So for the benefit of everyone, link to legit sources and don’t make things up. Being right is more important than being first.
That all said. Enjoy the Free Agency Frenzy and hope that Ray Shero uses his $24 million or so cap space wisely. After all, there are some big raises due in 2019.