The Detroit Red Wings are taking a one-year gamble on Thomas Vanek. They’ll pay the 32-year-old winger $2.6 million next season, in hopes that he’ll be able to regain the form that once made him an elite NHL sniper.
Vanek was recently bought out of the final year of his contract with Minnesota. He had 18 goals in 74 games last season. The Wild opted for “salary cap flexibility” over keeping him.
“He’s definitely going to bring some offense,” said the Wings’ other new forward, Frans Nielsen, per NHL.com’s Nick Costsonika. “He could be the steal of this free agency.”
Nielsen was the Wings’ biggest signing of the day, and he was no one-year gamble. The 32-year-old center left the Islanders for a six-year, $31.5 million contract in Detroit.
GM Ken Holland is banking on Nielsen to help fill the void left by the departure of Pavel Datsyuk.
Granted, it might be a bluff. But according to St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong, the Blues are leaning towards keeping defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
“I think the Kevin Shattenkirk thing grew on a life of its own at the draft. What I’ve said internally here is that we’re excited to have Kevin Shattenkirk as a part of our team,” Armstrong told the NHL Network today, per CSN New England.
Shattenkirk has just one year left on his contract, and with Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko on the right side of the defense in St. Louis, many felt that the 27-year-old, right-shooting puck mover would be traded for a solid return.
That wasn’t just speculation either. In fact, Shattenkirk’s agent recently called a trade “inevitable.”
But Armstrong isn’t saying that now. Even if he can’t get Shattenkirk re-signed, it may be that the next pressure point is the trade deadline.
“If you get to a part of the year and you have guys that are unrestricted and your team is no good, then you make those decisions,” he said. “But if you have a good team and you have guys that are unrestricted, you just play it out.”
Again, he might be bluffing.
The Boston Bruins were one of the favorites to land Shattenkirk. Currently, their defense looks pretty much the same as it did at the end of the regular season, save for the subtraction of Dennis Seidenberg who’s been bought out.
Related: Neely says fixing the defense is “at the top of the list” for Bruins this offseason
Another big signing in Tampa Bay, and this one could have consequences.
The Lightning have locked up 21-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy to a three-year contract extension worth $3.5-million per season. The deal doesn’t start until 2017-18, so he’s Tampa Bay property through 2019-20.
Vasilevskiy went 11-10-0 with a .910 save percentage last season. Not the greatest numbers, but he’s been touted as the Lightning’s goalie of the future since they drafted him 19th overall in 2012. And for the record, he was solid in this year’s playoffs (.925 SV% in eight appearances) when Ben Bishop got hurt.
Speaking of Bishop, the Lightning can officially explore trading the 29-year-old. Not because they want to, but because Bishop can become an unrestricted free agent next summer and cap space is going to be an issue for GM Steve Yzerman.
This week alone the Lightning have signed both Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman to giant extensions.
Still unsigned for next season: restricted free agents Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn and Vladislav Namestnikov.
Those that will need a new contract before 2017-18: Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin, and Bishop.
They aren’t the biggest signings of the day, but they’re still…signings.
Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe, and Adam Clendening have all signed with the New York Rangers.
Grabner, 28, gets a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.6 million. He’s fast and a good penalty killer, though he had just nine goals in 80 games last season for the Maple Leafs.
The other forward, Gerbe, gets a one-year deal for $600,000. The diminutive 28-year-old was absolutely snakebitten last season in Carolina. In 47 games, he had just three goals on 73 shots.
Clendening — a 23-year-old defenseman who’s already played for the Blackhawks, Canucks, Penguins and Oilers — received a one-year, two-way contract worth $600,000 at the NHL level. Known as a puck-mover, he should get a reasonable chance to play in New York. The Rangers had trouble moving the puck last season, and they don’t have Keith Yandle or Dan Boyle anymore.
The Dallas Stars tried to get Dan Hamhuis at the trade deadline, but they made Kris Russell the priority and the Vancouver Canucks weren’t interested in their lowball offer.
Well, the Stars got Hamhuis today. They’ve signed the 33-year-old defenseman to a two-year deal with a cap hit of $3.75 million.
It could be a good bargain for Dallas, which has already lost Alex Goligoski to free agency and is expected to lose Jason Demers and Russell the same way.
“I believe I have many good years of hockey left,” Hamhuis told Sportsnet recently. “I played in the Olympics two years ago. Last year, there were two major injuries and in the last 10 weeks I played my best hockey in a long time. I’ve got lots of ‘top-4 D’ hockey left in me, and my goal in summer training is to be the best defenseman on my new team. I will find a team that values what I do.”
The Canucks will miss Hamhuis. He was a big part of their run to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, until he was injured trying to hipcheck Milan Lucic.
But Vancouver decided to spend its cap space on Loui Eriksson, giving the 30-year-old winger a six-year, $36 million deal. The Canucks are expected to go with Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton and newly acquired Erik Gudbranson as their top-four defenders next season. Luca Sbisa, Nikita Tryamkin, Alex Biega, Andrey Pedan and newly signed Philip Larsen should also compete for playing time.