Jason Brough

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 03:  Jason Demers #4 of the Dallas Stars skates against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on November 3, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Florida’s blueline makeover continues with reported signing of Jason Demers


The Florida Panthers added yet another new body to their blueline today. They’ve signed Jason Demers to a five-year, $22.5 million deal, as first reported by Sportsnet.

Demers, 28, comes to Florida from Dallas. He had seven goals and 16 assists in 62 games last season for the Stars. While he’s never put up a ton of points, the statistics show he’s a solid possession player, and we all know the Panthers’ new management group is big on analytics.

A right shot, Demers essentially replaces Erik Gudbranson, who was traded to Vancouver in May. Left-shooting puck-mover Keith Yandle, meanwhile, replaces Brian Campbell, who signed yesterday back in Chicago.

Suffice to say, it is not often that one area of a team’s roster is so dramatically altered in a single offseason. The Panthers also traded Dmitry Kulikov to Buffalo for Mark Pysyk, then yesterday officially announced the signing of 20-year-old Ian McCoshen.

“Ian is a big, physical defenseman who plays a solid two-way game,” said GM Tom Rowe. “After an impressive college career at Boston College we are excited for him to further his development as an important part of our team’s future on the blueline.”

Next year’s top four in Florida could be Aaron Ekblad, Yandle, Demers, and possibly youngster Michael Matheson.

The Wild need Eric Staal to be ‘the Eric Staal that he was in the past’

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 29:  Eric Staal #12 of the New York Rangers skates against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Madison Square Garden on February 29, 2016 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

On a day when hundreds of millions of dollars were committed to unrestricted free agents, the Eric Staal signing barely made a ripple in NHL waters.

The Minnesota Wild committed just $10.5 million over three years to Staal — an entirely reasonable sum considering it was July 1, a day when reason often goes flying out the window.

Just don’t take that to mean the Staal signing isn’t an important one for the Wild. Because, in fact, it’s a vitally important signing. The 31-year-old’s contract may not reflect it, but he was brought on to play a top-six role next season, possibly one that will see him centering Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle.

“He wanted the opportunity to be the Eric Staal that he was in the past,” head coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters. “And I told him he would definitely get that chance here.”

And he’ll get that chance because the Wild are thin at the center position. (Remember what Thomas Vanek said last year? “We don’t have maybe the strongest depth in the middle.”)

Signing Staal was a calculated risk by GM Chuck Fletcher. He could’ve gone harder after free agents Frans Nielsen or David Backes, but that would’ve been considerably more expensive, and those two are even older than Staal.

Another option would’ve been to trade for a center — perhaps somebody like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — but that would’ve cost the Wild a good, young defenseman like Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba.

And so he rolled the dice on Staal, hoping that the once-elite center can be elite, or at least in that neighborhood, again.

Certainly, Staal has to be better than he was for the Rangers, after New York got him at the trade deadline. He had just six points in 20 games, then no points in five playoff games.

“I still feel I can be a contributor in a very good team’s top six,” said Staal. “I’m going to get an opportunity on a team that’s hungry to win and hungry to be a top team. I’ve got to prove it.”

Related: With an aging core, the Wild could be Boudreau’s biggest challenge yet

Sharks sign Boedker, who brings ‘tremendous speed’ to San Jose

DENVER, CO - MARCH 09:  Mikkel Boedker #89 of the Colorado Avalanche controls the puck against the Anaheim Ducks at Pepsi Center on March 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Ducks 3-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The San Jose Sharks added some speed, skill and goal-scoring ability on Friday, signing 26-year-old winger Mikkel Boedker to a four-year, $16 million deal.

“Mikkel’s tremendous speed is his best attribute and he has the ability to back off defenders with his combination of quickness and soft hands,” said Sharks GM Doug Wilson in a release. “His creativity and puck-handling abilities make him a threat in the transition game and he is a positive contributor in all three zones. We think he will thrive with our group and look forward to him joining our team.”

“I’m very familiar with Mikkel having coached him in juniors with Kitchener,” added head coach Peter DeBoer. “He has world class speed but is also a world class person and teammate.”

Boedker split last season between Arizona and Colorado. He had four goals and eight assists in 18 games for the Avs, but in the end chose not to re-sign in Denver. (The Avs also lost their other rental, Shawn Matthias, today. He signed with the Jets.)

In San Jose, Boedker could be a fit on a line with Logan Couture, who seemed to be a fan of the acquisition:

It’s worth noting that Patrick Marleau only has one year left on his contract. In November, he was the subject of intense trade speculation, though that was pretty much forgotten when the Sharks made a run to the Stanley Cup Final.

With Boedker signed, that speculation could pick up again.

Related: The Sharks couldn’t handle the Penguins’ speed

Wings take one-year gamble on Vanek

Minnesota Wild left wing Thomas Vanek controls the puck during NHL hockey training camp in St. Paul, Minn., Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

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.

Blues GM says he might just keep Shattenkirk

DENVER, CO - APRIL 03:  Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the St. Louis Blues controls the puck against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on April 3, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Blues defeated the Avalanche 5-1. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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