NHL free agency winners, losers: Canadiens, Rangers go big; Oilers still lack depth

Ah yes, July 1. Canada Day. The day the New York Mets pay Bobby Bonilla an exorbitant amount of money for not playing. And the start of the NHL’s free agency frenzy.

Not long after the clock struck 12 p.m. ET deals were announced at a rapid pace. Some teams went big, like the Montreal Canadiens – hello, first offer sheet since 2013! Other teams, such as the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes, made moves that have been analyzed to death since the NHL draft ended.

How this will all play out is anyone’s guess. Will the signings be worthwhile? No one knows.

Here’s the biggest winners, losers and a few that are still to be decided after day one of free agency.

NHL free agency winners, losers

Winner: Sebastian Aho

Whether the Carolina Hurricanes match the Montreal Canadiens offer sheet – which, for the record they will – Sebastian Aho is going to get paid, and paid well, especially in his first year.

With the ink dried on the deal, the young superstar will reportedly earn $21 million in the first year. Considering there may be a labor dispute in 2020, this was set-up perfectly for the 21-year-old forward.

Winner: Twitter

Thank goodness for Twitter. Aside from all the signings being announced, the social media platform became a hotbed for insight, teammate reaction and, of course, snark.

As soon as the offer sheet to Aho was announced, the Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens began to throw shade at each other.

Then Paul Bissonnette tweeted a video. The ex-NHLer appears to have been spending Canada Day with Tyson Barrie (warning: expletive language), who was traded in the afternoon from the Colorado Avalanche to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It wasn’t necessarily a Twitter thing but the Minnesota Wild promoted this reptilian quote that just made everyone stop for a moment.

And to cap off the night, Brian Boyle gave us all the feels.

Winner: Rebuilds

Already housing the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, a perennial Vezina Trophy contender, a No. 1 center, a future star and the rights to a top defenseman, the New York Rangers went big and signed Artemi Panarin to a seven-year contract. Well, that rebuild went by real quick.

Winner: Kyle Dubas

Never doubt Kyle Dubas – ever. The 33-year-old Maple Leafs GM pulled off two masterful trades on Monday as he shed a disgruntled defenseman in Nikita Zaitsev, created cap space of more than $11 million to sign the Leafs restricted free agents – although let’s be realistic, that should all go to Mitch Marner – and upgrade his teams defense in a blockbuster move. This comes after trading Patrick Marleau at the draft and essentially swapping him with hometown kid, and unrestricted free agent, Jason Spezza.

TBD: Maple Leafs defense

The moves are great on paper but as always with Toronto ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

TBD: Senators

It looks like players like to play for D.J. Smith.

The new Ottawa Senators coach added unrestricted free agents Ron Hainsey and Tyler Ennis from his old team in Toronto. He also gained former Maple Leafs defenseman Zaitsev. Now the big question is whether or not Smith can meld this group of vets and youngsters to finally take Ottawa out of the doldrums of the Eastern Conference basement.

Loser: Connor McDavid

You have to feel for the guy. Coming off a brutal-looking knee injury, and while yes, it’s only day two of free agency, but the Edmonton Oilers have done nothing to bolster their offense around the superstar. They did sign Markus Granlund, although his 22 points last season is not really the offensive spark McDavid needs.

New general manager Ken Holland may not have a ton of cap space to work with but that hasn’t stopped other GM’s from making moves – and let’s be realistic, he has the biggest selling point to entice someone to Edmonton – two words, Connor McDavid.


Loser: Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens get credit for going big and pulling the trigger on the first offer sheet in six years with Aho. It was a doozy that sent the NHL on its head. However, they’re not getting the young Finnish superstar and Marc Bergevin could not sway Matt Duchene to play for his childhood team. So after two days, the Canadiens GM is empty-handed.

Montreal needs offense as they finished 2018-19 in the middle of the pack in GF/G (3.00) and a paltry, disappointing 13.2% on the power play. Carey Price and Shea Weber are not getting any younger and it’s time they got some help up front to get that much deserved Stanley Cup.

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