Big Red Wings free agent splashes: Chiarot, Copp, Perron

Big Red Wings free agent splashes: Chiarot, Copp, Perron
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It’s early in 2022 NHL Free Agency, but the Detroit Red Wings already rank among the most aggressive spenders in the league. Much like their Atlantic Division-mates in Ottawa, the Red Wings are pushing hard to exit their rebuild. The multi-million dollar question is: how far along are the Red Wings after free agent signings of Ben Chiarot, Andrew Copp, and David Perron.

You can definitely throw Ville Husso in the mix, too, even though they snatched him up before he could become a UFA.

Red Wings splurge on free agents: Chiarot, Copp, Perron (and Husso, basically)

Let’s run down each move, then round back to the larger question of how far Detroit really traveled.

Ben Chiarot part of a set of questionable free agent defensemen signings

If you want a theme to go with the normal “that doesn’t seem like a good idea” vibes of most free agent years, it was that bad defensemen contracts often came in at four years. Personally, Brett Kulak resonates as the exception. His four-year deal with a $2.75M cap hit feels like the type of deal the Oilers should have focused solely on, instead of bigger gambles on Evander Kane and Jack Campbell.

The Blue Jackets’ investment in Erik Gudbranson is troubling. The Blues are banking on Nick Leddy being better than the charts say. Like those teams, the Red Wings are betting big (four years, $4.75 million cap hit) that Ben Chiarot is better than projections indicate.

Even if the truth is somewhere in between the fawning “eye tests” and the dicey analytics, it seems like a dangerous move. Especially for a team that still has an awful lot of work to do in adding useful defensemen beyond Moritz Seider and a select few other possible solutions.

If nothing else, other Red Wings free agent signings are easier to defend.

Nice bargain on Perron

With certain moves, the main criticism revolves around wondering if Detroit is “there” yet. David Perron headlines such a concern.

Perron is somehow 34 already. That would make a long-term contract really dicey. Wisely, the Red Wings limited the term to two years, and got a nifty bargain at just $4.75M. He checks boxes both from analytics and simple counting stats standpoints. Heck, Perron’s even done some great work in the playoffs.

I just wonder if the Red Wings will be anything more than respectable during his two years under contract. It’s a bit surprising a more established contender didn’t knock harder on Perron’s door if the price was that reasonable.

Maybe the Red Wings can make a jump in time?

Digestible deal for Copp

Heading into 2022 NHL Free Agency, Andrew Copp carried the potential to be one of those players whose value inflated too high.

All things considered, the Red Wings made a respectable free agent investment in Copp. The 28-year-old can thrive in a number of different roles, and five-year deal ($5.625M cap hit) isn’t explosively risky.

It’s fair to wonder how that contract will age, though. While Chiarot’s contract personally weighs in at “bad” and Perron’s leans toward quite good, Copp trends more toward the middle. Maybe it would’ve been wiser to go younger, and cheaper, like Dylan Strome or Sonny Milano?

Ville Husso investment looks better by comparison to other moves

In 2021-22, Ville Husso often looked outstanding. That said, 57 career regular-season games (and seven bumpy playoff contests) only give you so much “data” on Husso. His numbers at other levels tailed off a bit in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

It’s possible that the Red Wings’ consecutive offseason swings at younger goalies (Alex Nedeljkovic in 2021, now Husso) may both end up being whiffs.

Sure, some of that is “the price of doing business.” But they enter 2022-23 paying that duo a combined $7.75M in salary cap terms. Spending that money isn’t really “shrug, and see what happens” material. It’s a lot closer to throwing down the gauntlet.

It’s easier to feel OK-to-good about the Red Wings’ goalie changes after seeing the Maple Leafs’ strange investment in Matt Murray and other shakier bets. Even so, these moves keep stacking the stakes higher for a Red Wings team that might not be ready for such gambles.

Will spending almost $25M pay off?

The Red Wings also added Dominik Kubalik (two years, $2.5M cap hit) and Olli Määttä (one year, $2.25M). Those aren’t moves that will radically change things either way (though Kubalik could be a nice value).

They do add to the overall costs, though.

Between Husso, Chiarot, Copp, Perron, Kubalik, and Määttä, the Red Wings added nearly $25M in salary cap/free agent commitments during this offseason. Remarkably, they still have room to add more if they’d like.

Of course, the Red Wings can’t just look at this offseason. Some cheap contracts are coming off the books soon.

Now, the Red Wings aren’t poorly positioned to handle those situations. Only some of the contracts they signed could make things a little tougher down the line.

But it’s unclear if this aggressive push will be worth it. In the end, the Red Wings may wish they waited just a little longer to truly try to rise from their rebuild.

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    Matthew Tkachuk returns from big hit in Stanley Cup Final, adds more playoff heroics

    James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    Matthew Tkachuk was down, out briefly and then back with plenty of time to make a difference.

    The Florida Panthers star left early in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final after a big hit from Vegas Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar, and he missed most of the first period and didn’t return immediately following intermission while being evaluated for a concussion. After looking as if he might be lost for the night, Tkachuk returned in the second and then came through with more of his now trademark playoff heroics.

    Tkachuk scored the tying goal with 2:13 left in regulation, forcing overtime and giving the Panthers new life. He then provided the screen on Carter Verhaeghe‘s OT goal for a 3-2 victory that cut Florida’s series deficit to 2-1.

    The 25-year-old said he knew he was coming back when he left the game, pulled by concussion spotters. That absence felt like a long time ago in the aftermath of another big win he was largely responsible for.

    “I felt great – I feel great,” Tkachuk said. “I’m ready to go. Everybody’s excited that we’re in this position right now.”

    Florida is in this position rather than facing elimination in Game 4 on Saturday thanks in large part to Tkachuk, who also set up Brandon Montour‘s goal that opened the scoring less than five minutes in.

    Not long after, Tkachuk stumbled getting up after the hit from Kolesar and skated to the bench. He took a shift on Florida’s power play before going down the tunnel at the demand of concussion spotters mandated by NHL protocol.

    At that point, there was zero clarity, even on the Florida bench.

    “You’re not informed at all: It’s a complete shutdown,” coach Paul Maurice said. “You are completely in the dark on those. You don’t know when the player’s coming back. There’s not an update.”

    Players insist they were not worried. Montour called it a no-brainer.

    “He’s going to come back no matter what,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “He’s really tough guy, and he’s going to battle through everything.”

    Tkachuk rejoined his teammates on the bench a few minutes into the second. When he stepped back onto the ice for his first shift since leaving, fans cheered and chanted, “Chucky! Chucky!”

    The crowd was even louder and threw rats when Tkachuk scored his biggest goal of many during this run to tie it. He didn’t get an assist on Verhaeghe’s goal but made it happen with a tape-to-tape pass in the neutral zone and was in front of Adin Hill when it happened.

    Asked if he was happy Tkachuk returned, Maurice joked that it was after midnight.

    “It was fine,” he quipped.

    Panthers rally, top Golden Knights 3-2 in OT of Game 3 of Stanley Cup final

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    Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports

    SUNRISE, Fla. — Carter Verhaeghe scored 4:27 into overtime and the Florida Panthers pulled off some more postseason dramatics to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.

    Matthew Tkachuk tied it with 2:13 left in the third period for the Panthers, who got the franchise’s first title-series game win in seven tries. Florida had to fend off a power play to start overtime, and Verhaeghe got the winner from the slot to get the Panthers within 2-1 in the series.

    Game 4 is Saturday night.

    Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots for Florida. Adin Hill made 20 saves for Vegas, but got beat on the only shot that came his way in overtime.

    Brandon Montour also scored for Florida, which pulled Bobrovsky down 2-1 late in the third for the extra attacker and Tkachuk — who left for parts of the first and second periods after taking a big hit — made that move pay off when he tied the game.

    His goal breathed life into a very nervous building. But the Panthers were furious — and replays showed they had a case — when Gustav Forsling was sent to the box with 11.2 seconds remaining for tripping. Florida survived that scare, and a few minutes later, had life in the series again.

    The odds are still long, but the Panthers at least have a bit more statistical hope now. Of the previous 55 teams to trail 2-1 at this point of the Stanley Cup Final, 11 have actually rallied to hoist the trophy.

    It’s improbable, sure. So are the Panthers, who were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, were down 3-1 to Boston in Round 1, were 133 seconds away from trailing this series 3-0 — and now have tons of reasons for optimism.

    Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone each had power-play goals for Vegas.

    Marchessault’s goal was his 13th in his last 13 playoff games, his fourth of this series and his third with the man advantage.

    As if all that wasn’t enough, there was a little history in there as well. Vegas joined the 1980 New York Islanders as the only team with at least two power-play goals in three consecutive games in the Cup final. And Marchessault became the third player in the last 35 years to score in each of the first three games of a title series — joining Steve Yzerman in 1997 with Detroit and Jake Guentzel with Pittsburgh in 2017.

    But it wasn’t enough to give Vegas a 3-0 lead in the series.


    Before Thursday, Florida’s last home game in the title series was June 10, 1996, when Uwe Krupp scored in the third overtime for a 1-0 win as Colorado finished off a four-game sweep of the Panthers for the Cup. … Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was in the crowd, as was NBA great Charles Barkley, and former Dolphins star Dan Marino was the celebrity drummer to welcome the Panthers onto the ice.

    Blackhawks, Athanasiou agree to 2-year, $8.5 million contract

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    Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports
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    CHICAGO — The rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks locked in one of their top scorers, agreeing to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with forward Andreas Athanasiou on Thursday.

    The 28-year-old Athanasiou tied for the team lead with 20 goals and ranked third with 40 points in his first season with Chicago. He matched career highs with four game-winning goals and three power-play goals.

    The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Athanasiou has 125 goals and 111 assists in 459 games with the Detroit Red Wings (2015-20), Edmonton Oilers (2020), Los Angeles Kings (2020-22) and Blackhawks.

    Chicago went 26-49-7 and finished last in the Central Division. The Blackhawks dealt Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers prior to the trade deadline and announced in April they would not re-sign Jonathan Toews, parting with two players who led them to Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

    Florida Panthers in familiar territory, backs to the wall once again down 0-2 in Stanley Cup Final

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    Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sport

    SUNRISE, Fla. — The Panthers need a miracle. Again.

    Such is the story of Florida’s season, and it makes all the sense in the world that the plot has reappeared in the Stanley Cup Final. The Panthers needed a furious late-season push just to get into the playoffs as the lowest seed, then needed to win three consecutive elimination games to oust a record-setting Boston team in Round 1.

    And now, another huge challenge awaits. Down 2-0 in the title series to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Panthers return to home ice on Thursday night looking to spark one more epic turnaround and get right back in the hunt for hockey’s biggest prize.

    “Desperation and winning a game,” Florida veteran Marc Staal said. “We’ve approached every game in the playoffs the same way. We just try to take it – like everyone says – one at a time. But our backs are against the wall, obviously. We’re down by two. But we’re coming home. Love our team, love our resiliency. We’re going to go out and give our best effort and play our best game tomorrow and go from there.”

    To say the odds are stacked high against the Panthers is a bit of an understatement.

    – They’ve beaten Vegas in four of 12 all-time meetings between the franchises. And now they’ve got to beat them in four of the next five games to win the Cup.

    – They’ve been outscored 10-2 in the last four periods against Vegas.

    Matthew Tkachuk has two more misconduct penalties (three) than he has points (one, a goal) in the series.

    – Former Panthers Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith have as many goals so far in the series (four) as all the current Panthers do in the series, combined.

    – Vegas hasn’t dropped four out of five games since going 1-2-2 to start a six-game road swing that began in late January.

    – Teams that start a Stanley Cup Final with two home wins have won the Cup 38 times in 41 past instances.

    But by now, Florida’s penchant for pulling off the improbable is well-known. Almost expected, really.

    “Of course, we’ve had three really tough series,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. “Boston is a good example. We were down, we found a way, we started playing a little better, we found a way to come back and get out of there. Same thing here – we’ve just got to work a little harder, work a little smarter and find a way to win games.”

    They’ve done it before.

    There was the 6-0-1 stretch late in the season to hold off Pittsburgh for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The winning three elimination games against a Boston team that had the best regular season in NHL history in Round 1; Game 5 there was on the road in overtime, Game 6 required a rally late in the third period to erase a 5-4 deficit and Game 7 was another road OT victory. There was a four-overtime win at Carolina in the East final, setting the table for a sweep where the Panthers got four one-goal wins and allowed only six goals.

    They’ve given up 12 goals in two games against Vegas. And it’s not all on Sergei Bobrovsky, either. Panthers coach Paul Maurice found it funny that it was considered a surprise to some that Bobrovsky – who carried Florida to the final round – will remain the starter for Game 3.

    “He was outstanding in Game 1,” Maurice said. “And he was as good as our team was in Game 2.”

    The message was simple: Everyone has to be better. The Panthers have a history of rising to those moments.

    “We never lose doubt in this room,” Florida forward Ryan Lomberg said. “Obviously, they’re a good team. They got here for a reason. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It’s kind of the theme of our whole year is we make it tough. Whether we wanted it this way or not, it’s this way, so we’ve got to play the hand we’re dealt now.”

    NOTES: Maurice said he expects D Radko Gudas, who left Game 2 injured, to play in Game 3. Forward Eetu Luostarinen will remain out. Maurice declined to offer specifics on Luostarinen’s injury, but quipped “he’s a good human.” … Thursday will be Florida’s first Stanley Cup Final game on home ice in FLA Live Arena. The Panthers’ 1996 final appearance was at a long-demolished arena in Miami.