NHL Free Agency Frenzy 2020: Signing Tracker and Analysis – Sports Illustrated


It’s not July 1, but with plenty of stars available and lots of teams looking for help, it will be madness. Welcome to NHL free agency day 2020. Stay tuned to this page throughout the day for minute-by-minute updates and analysis of every UFA deal. (Salary data via capfriendly.com.)

3:21 p.m.
NASHVILLE PREDATORS: D Matt Benning signs a two-year, $2-million deal ($1-million AAV)

THN’S TAKE: Shortly after adding Mark Borowiecki, the Predators further fortified their defensive depth with Benning. Borowiecki plays the left side and Benning plays the right, so it’s probable the two will form Nashville’s bottom pair for the 2020-21 season behind Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Dante Fabbro. Benning, 26, averaged a career-low 13:14 of ice time in Edmonton this past season but graded out as a quality third-pair defensive defenseman. With him on the ice at 5-on-5, Edmonton outscored opponents 23-16 and had a positive shot differential. He’s a shrewd addition for the Preds. Matt Larkin

3:10 p.m.
ANAHEIM DUCKS: D Kevin Shattenkirk signs a three-year, $11.7-million deal ($3.9-million AAV)

THN’S TAKE: It’s not a surprise to see Shattenkirk secure a $3.9-million AAV over three years. He enjoyed a resurgent season as a puck-mover on a Stanley Cup-winning team, flourishing with less responsibility in Tampa. He’s also a right-shot defenseman, so it’s natural that he’d be coveted on the open market. The fit with Anaheim, however, feels a bit awkward. The Ducks are a clear rebuilder, and it’s not like they’ve inked Shattenkirk to a flippable one-year pact. That said, he makes them better. The Ducks had the NHL’s 30-best power play in 2019-20, so he can be especially helpful in that area. Matt Larkin

3:05 p.m.
NEW YORK RANGERS: D Jack Johnson signs a one-year, $1.15-million deal 

THN’S TAKE: It seems strange that a team that was so eager to rid itself of Marc Staal would turn around and sign Jack Johnson, but maybe the New York Rangers are not so much into analytics. Or the eye test. Harsh? You bet. But there’s almost no scenario in which Johnson proves he can consistently play and defend at the NHL level. The Rangers are getting him for a bargain-basement rate on a one-year term and a deal that can basically be buried in the minors without much negative effect on the team’s salary cap. Ken Campbell

3:04 p.m.
NASHVILLE PREDATORS: D Mark Borowiecki signs a two-year, $4-million deal ($2-million AAV)

THN’S TAKE: He was a heart-and-soul player in Ottawa; now Borowiecki gets the chance to contribute to one of the best defense corps in the league in Nashville. Make no mistake; the veteran isn’t going to add to Nashville’s copious amount of skill on the back end, but he will provide physicality, character and depth minutes. Amazingly, the $2 million per year Borowiecki is getting the next two seasons in Nashville will be his highest career salary yet. There isn’t much risk in this deal, even though the veteran has a lot of miles on his hardened frame. Ryan Kennedy

2:58 p.m.
ANAHEIM DUCKS: C Derek Grant signs a three-year, $4.5-million deal ($1.5-million AAV)

THN’S TAKE: Grant, 30, loved being a Duck so much, he had to come back. Again. They traded him to the Philadelphia Flyers as a deadline-day rental in February, but he joins the Ducks for the third time in his career on a three-year pact. He’s a defensive specialist. Per naturalstattrick.com, Grant ranked in the 98 percentile in defensive zone starts per 60 among all NHL forwards this past season. But he flashed the best offense of his career, too, potting 15 goals, including three shorthanded tallies. He’ll be a veteran voice in the room for a rebuilding Ducks squad going forward since he’s already so familiar with the team. Matt Larkin

2:49 p.m.
NEW YORK RANGERS: G Keith Kinkaid signs a two-year, $1.75-million deal ($875,000 AAV)

THN’S TAKE: Well, now we know which goaltender the New York Rangers will be exposing in the expansion draft next summer. Ladies and gentlemen: Keith Kinkaid. Signed on a two-year deal, Kinkaid will likely give the Rangers some depth and mentorship in the minors while they go with Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev on the varsity roster. If one of them gets injured, Kinkaid can come in as a reliable backup who can take the net on a short-term basis if needed. But most of all, Kinkaid is expansion draft fodder. Ken Campbell

2:46 p.m.
EDMONTON OILERS: C Tyler Ennis signs a one-year, $1-million deal 

THN’S TAKE: Ennis gets another chance with the Oilers, who acquired him from the Ottawa Senators at the 2020 trade deadline. Playing primarily with Connor McDavid, Ennis picked up two goals and four points in nine regular-season games as an Oiler. His speedy, slick game meshed well with No. 97. Ennis added a goal and two points in three play-in games before breaking his leg. He should be fully healthy by the start of next season, which is projected for Jan. 1, 2021, and can play up and down the top nine in a scoring role. Matt Larkin

2:32 p.m.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: C Evan Rodrigues signs a one-year, $700,000 deal 

THN’S TAKE: The Pittsburgh Penguins fill out some forward depth with Rodrigues. He joined them along with Conor Sheary in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres on deadline day in February, then went to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the August Kasperi Kapanen trade. The Leafs didn’t qualify him as an RFA, and the Pens liked Rodrigues enough to bring him back. He scored one goal in seven games and won 52 percent of his faceoffs. He has good speed, so he fits in well with coach Mike Sullivan’s schemes. Rodrigues didn’t dress for a game during the play-ins, though. On a one-way deal, he’ll stick with the big club but may bounce back and forth between the press box and the starting lineup. Matt Larkin

2:25 p.m.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: LW Mark Jankowski signs a one-year, $700,000 deal

THN’S TAKE: In Jankowski, Pittsburgh gets a defensive forward with penalty-killing expertise who otherwise won’t provide much by the way of offense. A first-round draft pick of the Flames, Jankowski was not qualified as an RFA by Calgary, thus putting him on the open market. For one year and just $700,000, Jankowski is certainly worth a try on one of Pittsburgh’s bottom lines and he can play either left wing or center. Ryan Kennedy

2:20 p.m.
ARIZONA COYOTES: RW Tyler Pitlick signs a two-year, $3.5-million deal ($1.75-million AAV)

THN’S TAKE: In nine seasons as a pro, Tyler Pitlick has scored more than 10 goals in a season only once. And it should come as no surprise that 14-goal performance came the only time he played a full season. Pitlick will be 29 years old by the time the NHL reconvenes and, on a two-year deal at $1.75 million a year, he gives the Coyotes a bottom-six forward who can move up in the lineup in a pinch and provide a modicum of offense and tenacious play. Ken Campbell

2:02 p.m.
FLORIDA PANTHERS: C Alexander Wennberg signs a one-year, $2.25-million deal

THN’S TAKE: New Panthers GM Bill Zito swiped a castoff from his former team in Wennberg, who was bought out by the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this week. At just 26, Wennberg, the 2013 draft’s 14 overall pick, could be a bargain in a fresh environment. The Panthers need depth at center after trading Vincent Trochek during the winter and with the center they got back in that deal, Erik Haula, a UFA. Wennberg isn’t a guy who wins you trench wars in the playoffs, but he’s a skilled puck distributor who once tallied 46 assists in a season. Adding him to the lineup will force a youngster like Henrik Borgstrom to earn his way up the depth chart. That’s a good thing. Matt Larkin

1:50 p.m.
DALLAS STARS: G Anton Khudobin signs a three-year, $10.5-million deal ($3.5-million AAV)

THN’S TAKE: When Anton Khudobin was a 21-year-old rookie, he got a three-year entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild. He had to wait 13 years and five stints with four different teams to get another three-year deal. For the next three seasons, the Dallas Stars will be using $8.4 million in cap space on goaltending, with $3.5 million of it going to Khudobin. A lot of teams spend that much money on a No. 1 goalie, but with Khudobin and Ben Bishop, the Stars are banking having a platoon that gives them solid enough goaltending to keep them a contender. And from Khudobin, they’ll be looking for exactly what they got from him in 2019-20 – someone who can play 30-35 regular season games and fill in as the No. 1 in case of an injury. And we all know how that turned out when that precise scenario unfolded during the playoffs. Ken Campbell

1:24 p.m.
VANCOUVER CANUCKS: G Braden Holtby signs a two-year, $8.6-million deal ($4.3-million AAV)

THN’S TAKE: With Thatcher Demko the clear starter-in-the-making, Vancouver adds a Vezina Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion in Holtby, who struggled his final years in Washington. Holtby can take the pressure off the ascending Demko, but it will be important for everyone to be on the same page here – the Canucks don’t need a goalie controversy. The term is good (and perhaps foreshadows Holtby going to Seattle in the expansion draft) and the dollar amount is OK, though the Canucks do still have some work to do and not a lot of cash to throw around. Ryan Kennedy (FULL ANALYSIS)

1:05 p.m.
MINNESOTA WILD: G Cam Talbot signs a three-year, $11-million deal ($3.67-million AAV)

THN’S TAKE: It was obvious the Wild were going to pursue a starting goaltender after they traded Devan Dubnyk to the San Jose Sharks earlier this week. They found their man in Talbot, 33. Did GM Bill Guerin aim high enough, though? Talbot was great this past season for the Calgary Flames, yes. Per naturalstattrick.com, he ranked in the upper third of the league in goals saved above average per 60 at 5-on-5, and only six goalies faced more shots per 60. He outduelled Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck to help Calgary defeat the Winnipeg Jets during the play-in round. But Talbot has not been a consistent goaltender year to year. He’s not a slam-dunk upgrade in goal. At least the Wild have good depth behind in with Alex Stalock and Kaapo Kahkonen. Matt Larkin

1:04 p.m.
EDMONTON OILERS: C Kyle Turris signs a two-year, $3.3-million deal ($1.65-million AAV)

THN’S TAKE: Oilers GM Ken Holland takes advantage of an opportunity by signing Turris to a two-year deal for very little pain. Turris was recently bought out by the Nashville Predators, so his albatross contract is no longer a factor (at least for him – the Preds are still on the hook for some of it). Looking at this purely from an Edmonton perspective, the Oilers get a middle-six center for just $1.6 million a year for the next two seasons. That’s great value for a player looking to get back on track after a disastrous tenure in Nashville. Perhaps Turris is only a 45-point guy at this point in his career, but the move gives Edmonton some nice flexibility down the middle. Ryan Kennedy

12:45 p.m.
FLORIDA PANTHERS: C Carter Verhaeghe signs a two-year, $2-million deal ($1-million AAV)

THN’S TAKE: This past season, Carter Verhaeghe proved to the hockey world that he was a full-time NHL player. But that was not enough for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who allowed him to walk away as an unrestricted free agent after the team did not qualify him. The Lightning were clearly wary of going to arbitration with the 25-year-old and felt they could not afford to keep him in the midst of their cap crunch. So their cross-state rivals were happy to pick him up on a two-year deal that will either give them good value at $1 million per season or can be buried in the minors without the Panthers being penalized. Verhaeghe has been a very good secondary scorer in junior hockey and the minors, but has yet to establish himself in that role as an NHLer. He’ll have that opportunity as a potential bottom-six forward for the Panthers. Ken Campbell

12:41 p.m.
DETROIT RED WINGS: D Jon Merrill signs a one-year, $925,000 deal 

THN’S TAKE: Steve Yzerman continues to fill out Detroit’s depth with another one-year deal for a veteran who can be flipped later. Adding Merrill, 28, who plays a stay-at-home game, will force Detroit’s younger blueliners to earn roster spots rather than have them awarded by default. That bodes well for the Wings’ development plan. Matt Larkin

12:34 p.m.
FLORIDA PANTHERS: D Radko Gudas signs a three-year, $7.5-million deal ($2.5-million AAV)

THN’S TAKE: New GM Bill Zito continues his remaking of the Panthers roster by adding a physical stopper in defenseman Radko Gudas. The veteran won’t add much offense in Florida, but that’s for others: Gudas will get the puck out of the zone and make the opponent think twice about going into the corners. Penalties and suspensions have dogged the defenseman over the years, but that’s the biggest risk with him. This past season with Washington, he had some of the best possession numbers among Capitals defensemen, despite playing some decently tough minutes. Ryan Kennedy

12:27 p.m.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: D Luke Schenn signs a one-year, $800,000 deal

THN’S TAKE: Schenn doesn’t bring anything flashy at this stage of his career, but he’s a reliable enough depth defenseman who can be a swingman in the No. 6 or 7 spot and bring physicality. Because he started his NHL career as a teenager, it feels like he’s been around forever, but he’s quietly just 30. He appeared in 11 post-season games during Tampa’s run to the 2020 Stanley Cup. Logging just 10:52 per night over that span, Schenn quietly led all NHLers in 5-on-5 hits per 60 minutes during the bubble tournament, per naturalstattrick.com (min. 50 minutes). You know what you’re getting with him: a meat-and-potatoes game. Matt Larkin

12:26 p.m.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: LW Patrick Maroon signs a two-year, $1.8-million deal ($900,000 AAV)

THN’S TAKE: It worked so well the first time, why not try again? Maroon re-ups with Tampa Bay after the power forward and the Lightning combined for the Stanley Cup this season. Maroon’s relationship with coach Jon Cooper goes all the way back to Maroon’s junior days, so there was certainly a level of comfort when the St. Louis native originally signed with the team last year. Maroon brings size, toughness and some scoring back to a lineup that will have an even bigger target on its back next year as the defending champs. For $900,000 a year, Maroon is a good fit and he should still have enough in the tank to bring value in both years of the contract. Ryan Kennedy

12:16 p.m.
DETROIT RED WINGS: RW Bobby Ryan signs a one-year, $1-million deal

THN’S TAKE: Ryan gets a fresh start on a rebuilding team. He spent the past season getting his life together and addressing his alcohol abuse issues, returned to the Ottawa Senators lineup with flair late in the season and won the Masterton Trophy for his perseverance and dedication to hockey. Ryan, 33, is far removed from his best years as a regular 30-goal scorer with the Anaheim Ducks, but he was still effective in spurts during his tenure with Ottawa and can be counted on for a double-digit goal total in a Detroit lineup that needs viable NHL players and revived Robby Fabbri’s career last season. Since Ryan’s contract is just for one year, he should be a flippable asset at the 2021 trade deadline for a Red Wings team still far away from contention. It’s a “prove it” season, and with Ryan’s personal life in its best place in a long time, he could have a nice comeback year. Matt Larkin

12:10 p.m.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: G Malcolm Subban signs a two-year, $1.5-million deal ($750,000 AAV)

THN’S TAKE: The Blackhawks are giving Malcolm Subban the best opportunity of his career. Since they won’t be re-signing Corey Crawford, they plan to roll with a trio of Subban, Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen in what should be an open competition to win the role of starting goaltender going forward. Subban, 26, has about one full season’s worth of NHL experience in his career: 66 games, 60 starts, a disappointing 2.97 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. But he’s never started more than 20 games in a season. Goalies bloom later than skaters and defensemen, so the Hawks are hoping Subban shows his best self with a chance at a bigger role. Matt Larkin

12:04 p.m.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: LW Wayne Simmonds signs a one-year, $1.5-million deal

THN’S TAKE: Toronto takes advantage of its geography by inking local product Simmonds to a one-year deal for a very reasonable cap hit. While Simmonds may no longer be the weapon he was in his prime, the veteran still gives the Maple Leafs exactly what they need: toughness. With Josh Anderson in Montreal and the Bruins always nasty, Toronto now has someone who can stick up for his teammates and maybe pop in some tertiary offense thanks to his netfront play. And for just $1.5 million, there is basically no risk in the deal for the Leafs. – Ryan Kennedy

11:35 a.m.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS: G Henrik Lundqvist signs a one-year, $1.5-million deal

THN’S TAKE: In New York, Henrik Lundqvist is known as The King. In Washington, he’s known as The Tormentor. As much as the Pittsburgh Penguins have been the Capitals’ post-season kryptonite over the years, Lundqvist was in the nets for the Rangers when they vanquished the Capitals in the second round in 2012 and 2015 and in the first round in 2013. Now Lundqvist is a Capital on a one-year deal at $1.5 million, which gives Washington a low-risk, low-price mentor and backup for Ilya Samsonov. And if you believe the Capitals are still a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, it gives Lundqvist an opportunity to chase that elusive championship at the age of 38. Lundqvist is not the same goalie who chased the Capitals from the playoffs three times in a four-year span and backstopped the Rangers to the Stanley Cup final in 2014 and the Eastern Conference final a year later, but he doesn’t have to be. – Ken Campbell (FULL ANALYSIS)