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Jun 20, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18) against the Colorado Avalanche during game three of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The lights are shining bright on the headliner of the NHL’s offseason stage — the free agency window — and there is inevitably going to be plenty of moving and shaking as we move through July and toward a new season in the fall.

All the buzz and action that comes with free agency can sometimes be chaotic and hard to follow, so let this offseason tracker serve as a handy little cheat sheet to gain insight on some of the most important developments. As we know, free agency helps provoke big trades and other splashes across the league. Those moves (and latest rumors) will be covered here as well.

This page will continue to be updated with news and analysis throughout the first several days of free agency.

Top available free agents
Player Position
Nazem Kadri Forward
John Klingberg Defenseman

EXTENSION: Josh Norris for eight years and $63.6 million

ANALYSIS: Norris got a big extension from the Senators, who continue to be very active this offseason. He still has some room to grow to establish himself as being worth that $8 million annual price tag, but at 23, he’s young and has already shown that he has a great shot and plays hard in all three zones. It’s a gamble, but Ottawa obviously sees it as a bet worth making as it transitions into a new era.

FREE AGENCY: Dylan Strome to Washington Capitals

Analysis: After failing to be qualified by the Blackhawks, Strome has found a home with the Capitals. The one-year, $3.5 million deal is a pretty good get for both sides. It gives the Caps an insurance policy at 2C while Nicklas Backstrom recovers from hip surgery, and it provides Strome with a solid opportunity to up his value and earn a longer-term deal next summer. He’s an offensively gifted center who passes well, especially off the rush, and he should be in a good spot to thrive in Washington.

FREE AGENCY: Ondrej Palat to New Jersey Devils

ANALYSIS: The Devils may have missed out on Johnny Gaudreau, but they improved up front with the signing of Ondrej Palat, who has been a big part of the Lightning’s recent run of success. He’s a talented, versatile winger who is well-rounded but is more of a complementary piece than a star. The Devils need more players like him, so this is a good pickup. But the contract could end up looking a little dicey down the road. Palat is 31 years old and will be making $6 million on the cap through his age-36 season. That’s a gamble for a complementary player with miles on him.

FREE AGENCY: Ryan Strome to Anaheim Ducks

ANALYSIS: Strome is heading to the Ducks as they look to set themselves up for long-term sustainability. He is a solid playmaker with top-six ability, but his spotty finishing can be frustrating at times. He should have an opportunity to play with some decent wingers in Anaheim, including a possible reunion with Frank Vatrano, who finished last season alongside Strome in New York.

FREE AGENCY: Johnny Gaudreau to Blue Jackets

ANALYSIS: Gaudreau was the prize of this year’s free agency class and most of the rumors had him ending up with the Flames – the only team he’s played for in his career — or going closer to home to play with the Devils, Flyers or Islanders. Ultimately, though, he made a stunning decision to sign with the Blue Jackets — a move that almost NO ONE saw coming. While that’s a very handsome new contract that will set Gaudreau up well, he turned down more money and term elsewhere to sign with Columbus, a team that is currently in the process of rebuilding and probably not very close to being a true contender at the moment. It will be interesting to hear what sold Gaudreau on the Blue Jackets because, frankly, it’s hard to comprehend where they may have separated themselves from the other clubs in the mix, especially without offering more money. In any case, the Jackets get themselves an elite veteran winger who is one of the league’s best offensive playmakers. He’s coming off the best season of his career, one in which he was top five in MVP voting. An incredible, stunning get for Columbus.

TRADE: Max Pacioretty and Dylan Coghlan to Carolina Hurricanes

ANALYSIS: The Hurricanes made a second big splash on the trade market when they acquired Pacioretty and Coghlan from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for ... future considerations. It’s essentially a cap dump by the Golden Knights, who get to add Pacioretty to the growing list of players they’ve needed to unload for minimal return in order to be cap compliant. (Marc-Andre Fleury became a cap casualty just after winning the Vezina last summer.) Meanwhile, Carolina gets a very good veteran playmaker in Pacioretty, who comes in to provide some needed help on the wing. Like Brent Burns, also acquired by Carolina on Wednesday, Pacioretty is a volume shooter who can produce offense at a solid rate. Pretty nice work by the 'Canes on Day 1.

FREE AGENCY: David Perron to Detroit Red Wings

ANALYSIS: Before Wednesday, Perron had never signed a contract with a team other than the Blues — a pretty wild fun fact considering he’s 34 and has played with five different teams — but he decided to join the Red Wings on a two-year deal. Steve Yzerman is hoping Perron will be able to replicate the surprising level of success that the veteran winger found in St. Louis last season.

FREE AGENCY: Andre Burakovsky to Seattle Kraken

ANALYSIS: Burakovsky gets his big payout in Seattle, where, hopefully for the Kraken, he will add some offensive ability and finishing touch to a group that needs just that. Seattle also inked first-round draft pick Shane Wright to an entry-level deal on Wednesday, so some big forward pieces are coming into the fold for the second-year franchise.

FREE AGENCY: Ben Chiarot to Detroit Red Wings

FREE AGENCY: Erik Gudbranson to Columbus Blue Jackets

ANALYSIS: Chiarot to the Red Wings and Gudbranson to the Blue Jackets are two surprising defensive signings. Chiarot struggled defensively last season in a role that was probably too big for him, so it’ll be interesting to see what Detroit has in mind for him. He’s a good skater and brings some nastiness to the back end, but that contract is probably an overpay for him at this stage. As for Gudbranson, there’s no question he’s not worth that deal — or really even close to it. He’s a replacement-level defenseman who is big and can put pucks on net but doesn’t bring a whole lot outside of that.

FREE AGENCY: Artturi Lehkonen returns to Colorado Avalanche

ANALYSIS: It was a pretty good bet that Lehkonen would stick around in Colorado, and it became official with a very palatable five-year deal for both sides on Day 1. Lehkonen is a menacing forechecker who can be an intimidating presence in the middle six, and he can also produce offensively, especially when it matters most. One of the hardest working players in the NHL just worked himself into a pretty nice contract on a great team.

FREE AGENCY: Mason Marchment to Dallas Stars

ANALYSIS: Marchment is an interesting player who had an interesting Day 1 of free agency. He was reportedly very close to signing with the Hurricanes, but that deal fell apart, allowing him to land in the lap of the Stars. I’ll be very interested to see how he fits and produces in Dallas after he delivered insane production (70-point pace with limited minutes) in a breakout season with Florida. He put together very good underlying possession numbers, so the Stars are banking on that translating with a bigger role.

FREE AGENCY: Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren to Washington Capitals

ANALYSIS: The Capitals found their answers in net in Kuemper, the Stanley Cup-winning netminder, with Lindgren behind him. The Kuemper situation is interesting because he has really solid numbers over the past four seasons, but I wouldn’t call him “elite,” especially after his performance during this past postseason. The contract isn’t outright bad, but the term seems like a bit of a gamble. And I can understand why the Avalanche elected to pass on re-upping with Kuemper and instead took a shorter-term, lower-cost shot with Alexandar Georgiev.

EXTENSION: Mikhail Sergachev for eight years and $68 million

EXTENSION: Anthony Cirelli for eight years and $50 million

EXTENSION: Erik Cernak for eight years and $41.6 million

ANALYSIS: The Lightning clearly like what they’ve got for a roster (wonder why?) and are trying to preserve it as long as they can. They reached eight-year extensions with Sergachev ($8.5 million AAV), Cirelli ($6.25 million AAV) and Cernak ($5.2 million AAV). Those are three key players for this team moving forward. Sergachev just turned 24 and has been a strong two-way piece for Tampa Bay for years; the question is whether he’ll be able to develop into a true No. 1 defenseman during the span of that deal to justify the price tag. Cirelli is a difference maker as a shutdown center in the top six, and Cernak is one of the league’s better defensive defensemen. Not bad work by Julien BriseBois.

FREE AGENCY: Frank Vatrano to Anaheim Ducks

ANALYSIS: Vatrano finished the season strong with the Rangers, and now he has a pretty nice deal to show for it. I like the add by the Ducks, who get a player who can make a difference at both ends of the ice. Vatrano, 28, is reliable defensively and has an awesome shot, so he’ll be a nice wing piece at a decent cost for an up-and-coming Anaheim team.

TRADE: Brent Burns to Carolina Panthers

ANALYSIS: The Hurricanes acquired veteran defenseman Brent Burns from San Jose. The Sharks unloading the remaining contract (three years, $8 million AAV) of a 37-year-old Burns is a win for a rebuilding team, even if they have to eat a third of the deal. But I also like the fit in Carolina. Burns logs big minutes and is a volume shooter from the point. Now he goes to a team that loves generating shots and sparking from the top of the zone. He’s going to be fun to watch in that 'Canes red.

EXTENSION: Nick Leddy for four years and $16 million

ANALYSIS: I’m really surprised Leddy was able to get this kind of deal at this stage of his career. It’s the rare case of BOTH the term and AAV being too high, and for a team that desperately needs to improve defensively, well, I’m not sure how much this is going to help the Blues. At 31, Leddy is still a great skater, but his two-way skills have taken a dip. He’s just not very reliable on the back end.

FREE AGENCY: Andrew Copp to Detroit Red Wings

ANALYSIS: I’m a big fan of Copp going to the Red Wings. Not only is it a nice story for a Michigan native, but Copp also is a very valuable and versatile forward who can slot in wherever he’s asked and be productive. He should be a pretty important middle-six piece on a team that is looking to being taken seriously over the next handful of years.

FREE AGENCY: Vincent Trocheck to New York Rangers

ANALYSIS: This could end up being one of the bigger surprises of Day 1. Trocheck is a good player who fills an area of need and presents an upgrade for the Rangers down the middle, but, while the AAV is about where you’d expect it to be, the seven-year term is a bit eyebrow-raising. The contract will carry through his age-36 season, and it has potential to look pretty bad in the last few years. That being said, Trocheck’s playmaking ability and aggressiveness on the forecheck should help New York’s top six immediately, two things that the Rangers were desperate to improve this summer as they look to contend.

FREE AGENCY: Claude Giroux to Ottawa Senators

ANALYSIS: Giroux is going home to Ontario to play for Ottawa. Giroux and the Senators agreed to a three-year contract worth $19.5 million ($6.5 million AAV), and it’s another big splash for the emerging Sens, who’ve already added Alex DeBrincat and Cam Talbot as Pierre Dorian is clearly being aggressive in trying to compete and get this rebuild on the move. Giroux is 34, but he’s still productive and should give Ottawa some real star power and veteran presence up front.

FREE AGENCY: Ilya Samsonov to Toronto Maple Leafs

ANALYSIS: Taking a flyer on Samsonov makes a good amount of sense for the Maple Leafs. He’s a young goalie who has really struggled with consistency and is coming off a bad season, but he could still approach his fairly high ceiling. It’s a cheap, short-term gamble for Toronto that could pay dividends, and there are certainly worse backup options to have. The bigger issue is that the Maple Leafs have “addressed” their unstable goaltending problem by adding two guys that have been very shaky in recent years.

FREE AGENCY: Josh Manson returns to Colorado Avalanche

ANALYSIS: Manson will be staying with the Avalanche on a four-year, $18 million ($4.5 million AAV) deal. After acquiring him midseason from Anaheim, he proved to be a strong presence on the Colorado blue line en route to a Stanley Cup win. The Avs may have had to pay that “Cup Tax” a bit with this contract. However, they clearly liked the player and he clearly helped them get where they wanted to go.

TRADE: Pavel Zacha to Boston Bruins, Erik Haula to New Jersey Devils

ANALYSIS: Boston traded Haula to New Jersey for Zacha in a one-for-one swap. It seems the Bruins could be trying to get good value for Haula, who had a strong debut season in Boston, while also opening that 2C spot for the potential return of David Krejci. The Devils add some versatile depth in Haula while parting ways with Zacha, who is a pending RFA that hasn’t lived up to his potential in New Jersey. Zacha is still young (25) and had a pretty solid season in 2021-22, but he has struggled with consistency over his career.

EXTENSION: Robert Thomas for eight years and $64 million

ANALYSIS: After a big breakout season, Thomas has agreed to an eight-year, $64 million extension ($8 million AAV) with St. Louis. The 23-year-old forward is emerging as a top-tier playmaker with a 200-foot game down the middle, so locking him up long-term should come as great news for Blues fans, especially at that price point.

FREE AGENCY: Reilly Smith returns to Vegas Golden Knights

ANALYSIS: Smith, who has been the subject of trade talks in Vegas for a few years, will be sticking around with the Golden Knights. He’s a well-rounded winger who should continue to provide the Knights with solid contributions as they look to push for a Cup.

FREE AGENCY: Jack Campbell to Edmonton Oilers

ANALYSIS: The Oilers got their goalie. Goaltending stability has been an issue for the Oilers recently, and they were looking for a significant upgrade this offseason. Though Campbell struggled with a bit of inconsistency in Toronto, he should still be that much-needed upgrade from Mike Smith in net. It was hard to take Edmonton seriously as a true contender without a reliable goaltender. Now, that box may be checked.

FREE AGENCY: Evander Kane returns to Edmonton Oilers

ANALYSIS: Kane looked to be heading to market but instead agreed to a four-year, $20.5 million ($5.125 million AAV) extension with the Edmonton Oilers. Despite all his off-ice trouble, the Oilers took a chance on Kane halfway through last season and gave him an opportunity to prove himself. He made the most of it, scoring 22 goals and 39 points in 43 games. He also led the playoffs in goals with 13 (in 15 games!). So as Edmonton looks to get over the hump and make a run at a Stanley Cup, keeping talented (and tough) secondary pieces like Kane will be crucial.

FREE AGENCY: Evgeni Malkin returns to Pittsburgh Penguins

ANALYSIS: Add Malkin to the list of impending Penguins free agents that chose to stick in Pittsburgh. It seemed as though Malkin was destined to hit the market as the two sides struggled to come to terms, but ultimately they struck a deal at the 11th hour before free agency opened. He’s been slowed down by injuries in recent years but is still capable of being a difference maker in the top six when healthy. And if the Penguins are truly going to make another run or two at a Cup with this core group, Malkin is an important piece to retain. However, it does seem like a bit of a gamble considering his injuries and the direction of the club.

TRADE: Cam Talbot to Ottawa Senators, Filip Gustavsson to Minnesota Wild

ANALYSIS: The one-for-one trade removes a disgruntled Talbot from the Wild, where he grew frustrated with having to share the net. (Minnesota recently re-signed Marc-Andre Fleury for two years.) The deal comes just a few days after Wild GM Bill Guerin said, “I don’t have (expletive) to do” regarding Talbot and the goaltending situation.

MORE FREE AGENCY

  • Instead of hitting the market, Marc-Andre Fleury elected to stay with the Wild for two years, $7 million ($3.5 AAV).
  • Filip Forsberg will be staying with the Predators thanks to an eight-year, $68 million contract ($8.5 million AAV).
  • Kris Letang ($6.1 million AAV), Bryan Rust ($5.125 million AAV) and Rickard Rakell ($5 million AAV) have all chosen to re-sign with the Penguins for six years instead of hitting free agency.
  • Valeri Nichushkin has parlayed his strong season into an eight-year, $49 million ($6.125 million AAV) contract to stay with the Avalanche.

MORE TRADES

  • Ville Husso was traded to the Red Wings and promptly signed a three-year, $14.25 million extension ($4.75 million AAV). The Blues received a third-round pick for Husso, who was set to become a free agent.

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